Even as Houston Texans officials continued to insist they have made no decision about the first selection in the draft, there were strong indications Friday afternoon that the team has redirected its focus to North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.
Texans executives were in substantive negotiations with Ben Dogra, the representative for Williams, throughout the day. Conversely, ESPN.com learned that the agent for Southern California tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush had not heard from the Texans, as of late Friday afternoon, in more than 24 hours.
The two sides spoke twice Thursday, but only briefly and made no progress toward an accord. During the week, progress was incremental and one person close to the discussions termed them "a little bit like being in quicksand."
In addition, league sources told ESPN.com that, in terms of guaranteed money, the latest offer made to Williams exceeds the best proposal made to Bush.
Minus any conversations with the Bush camp since Thursday, there seemed little chance the Texans could strike a pre-draft accord with the draft's highest-profile performer even if they were to jump-start the negotiations on Friday evening.
Texans general manager Charley Casserly had cautioned earlier in the week that anyone concluding the team had decided on Bush and was only using Williams as leverage was mistaken. He reiterated that the Texans were serious about both players, negotiating with both agents, and that one of the two would be the top pick.
Dogra, however, was originally reluctant to enter into negotiations because he felt that his client might be used to force Bush into a deal. Clearly, the Texans convinced him that was not the case.
Were the Texans to choose Williams, it would mark the first time since 2000 that a defensive player was the first prospect off the board. The Cleveland Browns chose defensive Courtney Brown with the first pick that year.
The choice of Williams by the Texans could also dramatically alter the landscape of the early segment of the first round. The New Orleans Saints, with the second choice, have indicated they would snap up Bush if he fell to their slot. But the Saints had hinted, in general, that they might entertain trade offers for their pick.
The availability of Bush at the No. 2 spot would almost certainly elicit trade offers.