2012 NFL Mock Draft: Luck Is No. 1, But Who Can Houston Grab?

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Who Will Get Lucky?

With the 2011 NFL Draft now buried for good, we can focus our attention on other sports for awhile. Just kidding, now we have to have a 2012 Mock Draft!

As you might expect, Andrew Luck is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the land right now. Some other names to keep an eye out for next season include USC QB Matt Barkley, North Carolina DE Quinton Coples, WR Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State, and WR Jeff Fuller of Texas A&M. The Texans are projected to pick 15th next year, in what I can only guess was a well-reasoned and fully-calculated decision. Here's what SB Nation has them doing with the No. 15 overall pick next year:

15. Houston Texans: Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina. This is a bit of a projection pick, but Paige-Moss profiles as a lethal 3-4 outside linebacker.

I'm sure they won't need this pick though, as Brooks Reed is a dead-cinch to become a dominant pass rusher. Right? Right. So keep your eye on Donte Paige-Moss over the offseason and see how he does. 

Paige-Moss is also 15th on Mocking The Draft's big board, which also includes Texas A&M back Cyrus Gray.

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Round Two NFL Mock Draft: McShay And Kiper Weigh In On Texans

Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN have weighed in on what the Texans might be looking to do at No. 42 as well this afternoon, and it looks like there are going to be a number of potential ways the Texans can approach the next two rounds.

Kiper has the Texans taking UCLA safety Rahim Moore, who would immediately fill the biggest need they had coming into the draft. With Eugene Wilson thankfully put out to pasture and Troy Nolan having proved nothing, actually addressing safety after ignoring it for the first nine year’s of the teams existence could be a smart move:

Houston’s secondary was a disaster in 2010. Moore is the best safety in this class.

McShay, on the other hand, gives them Pittsburgh DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard, who is a decent prospect in his own right, but comes up way short according to Football Outsiders’ SackSEER’s projection system. SackSEER looks at Sheard’s lack of short area burst in the combine workouts and projects that he won’t do much at the next level.

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Round Two NFL Mock Draft: Texans Given Brooks Reed In SB Nation's Mock

Well, the Texans have assured themselves of some more solid play on the defensive line after J.J. Watt was selected by them with the eleventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Who can they pair him with in Round Two? SB Nation ran their mock draft and decided that the answer is Arizona defensive end/outside linebacker Brooks Reed:

42. Houston Texans: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona. Reed strikes me as more than slightly overrated, but in Wade Phillips' one-gap system, he'd make for a highly intriguing rush linebacker.

Personally I'm more comfortable with the team addressing the secondary in this round following the Watt pick. Miami cornerback Brandon Harris and UCLA safety Rahim Moore are likely the top two players on the list. Not that Reed would necessarily be a bad pick, I just don't think he's a home run pass rusher in the NFL. 

The Texans will also have the 73rd overall pick in the third round today. 

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: McShay's Final Mock Has Texans Landing Patrick Peterson

Todd McShay’s final mock has just hit the internet, and he has the Texans taking LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

No, not trading up for, taking. As in he’s there at 11. As in wait, what? Yes, that happened. The best player in the draft ,in the eyes of many, is there at the eleventh overall pick for the Houston Texans. Here’s what McShay has to say for himself:

There has been talk about the Texans possibly trading up to get Peterson and significantly upgrade their secondary, but in this dream scenario they stay put and get one of the four elite players in this class.

The scenario it takes for this to happen involves the Cardinals tabbing Aldon Smith at No. 5 overall, the Cowboys taking J.J. Watt at No. 9 overall, and the 49ers passing on Peterson for Blaine Gabbert at No. 7. That’s a, um, highly unlikely scenario based on reality. But hey, I’m a fan of dreaming. Dream big, Mr. McShay. And if you could make sure this actually happens, that would be great too.

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28, and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare: NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft schedule and more. Check it out at SB Nation’s NFL Draft page and our NFL Draft blog, Mocking the Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: One Last Romp Through The First Round Texans Picks

Did I mention that Aldon Smith has a pretty good chance of becoming a Houston Texan if they stay put at No. 11 overall? Well, he does. A roundup through this morning's mock drafts has Smith as the odds-on favorite to be a Texan by the end of the night if a trade up for Patrick Peterson doesn't occur. Whether it's local or national, it seems like Smith is a dead lock to be a Texan if they use their pick at No. 11:

Lance Zierlein: Aldon Smih
John McClain: Aldon Smith
SB Nation: Aldon Smith
Mocking The Draft: Aldon Smith
Draft Countdown: Aldon Smith
Shutdown Corner: Prince Amukamara

So at this point, if you're a Texans fan and you believe all the rumors, which of course you would because it's not like the Texans made a pick that was totally out of left field last year with Kareem Jackson, it seems entirely likely that the team will wind up with Aldon Smith if they stick at 11. Good times? I'm going with no. But the Texans just might sneak in someone completely under the radar. You can't ever count them out.

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28, and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare: NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft schedule and more. Check it out at SB Nation's NFL Draft page and our NFL Draft blog, Mocking the Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper's Final Mock Has Aldon Smith As A Texan

Mel Kiper Jr. has released his final 2011 NFL Mock Draft, and for Texans fans it will yield a name we're pretty used to at this point: Missouri linebacker Aldon Smith. There isn't much drama left with the Texans if they are stuck at No. 11 overall, as Robert Quinn seems to routinely leave the board before then and Prince Amukamara seems to have fallen out of favor as an actual option for the Texans at this point.

The Texans have needs all over the defensive side of the ball and I also think they're looking to move off this pick for the right package of picks. But if they can't get a deal done and stick at No. 11, Smith represents a ton of upside for a defense that really needs to add some pass-rushing help opposite the great Mario Williams. Again, a lot of the problems in the Houston secondary started up front. I think they should find the tools Wade Phillips needs to get to opposing quarterbacks in his scheme, and Smith will remind him of Ware, a real matchup headache to be used on the edge of that 3-4.

That's a great point. It's just too bad that Aldon Smith has no actual experience rushing from the outside of a 3-4 and will need to transition into the role, thus not helping the Texans out right away in the first place.

Very interesting that Kiper thinks the Texans may trade down though--I have long thought that this would make the most sense for Houston. But I'm still not sure they'll find a willing trade partner at 11, because to me it seems like the elite talent dries up there. If they can deal the pick for someone trying to draft a QB over Minnesota, that would be ideal.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: One Last Houston Texans Mock Draft

With the 2011 NFL Draft taking place this Thursday tomorrow through Saturday, it's time for my last Houston Texans-centric mock draft. As with the other mocks I have done, I use a combination of sites to, more or less, give me an idea of who will be available and when. This time, I'm saying who I would draft if I ran the Texans with who I think will be drafted by Rick Smith.

If you've been following this thread then you know that I'm more "best talent available" with an eye on need while the Texans tend to think in terms of need and schematic fit. This is why only one name is the same between the two lists. I also am eschewing any rumors about trading up. The roster has too many holes and question marks to warrant sending too many picks away. I think giving up the rumored three-five picks in this year's draft is a move for a team who truly is one or two players away. That team isn't Houston. With that said, let's go to the mock draft. 


Round 1, pick 11 - WANT: Alabama WR Julio Jones; THINK: California DE Cameron Jordan
I assume the best talent available at 11 would be Jones. With the loss of Leach and the potential hit to the running game, I'd really go out of my way to ensure that the receiving corps had that second viable threat to keep it chugging along.

I think Houston will go Jordan though. I have a feeling Robert Quinn (thankfully) and Prince Amukamara will both be off the draft boards. Aldon Smith may be as well, but I don't think Rick Smith is really interested in him - especially as more mockers try to link Smith to Houston. I’ve been saying J.J Watt would be the pick over the last week, but Jordan beats Watt in one area Houston loves – schematic fit. The Texans love to find players who have scheme experience and Cal plays in the 3-4. Do not be surprised if the Texans nab a player or two from schools who run the 3-4. Those schools would be Alabama, BYU, California, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Notre Dame, SMU, Stanford, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Round 2, pick 42 - WANT: Miami (FL) CB Brandon Harris; THINK: Arizona OLB Brooks Reed
In my draft, I hope to land Harris. Brandon's got decent size and speed, but, above all, he brings experience of taking on some of the country's best receivers. He led a superb Miami secondary and this move would push Glover Quin to free safety. Need further proof that Harris is good? Charley Casserly doesn’t want to draft him thus, since Casserly only grabs busts, Harris should have a nice pro career.

I think Houston wants to walk out of the first two rounds with an outside linebacker and Reed fills that hole. Reed’s 1.54 10-yard split at the Combine was the fastest of any pass rusher and was outstanding at the Senior Bowl. I really think he offers much better value here than Quinn/Smith would at 11.

Round 3, pick 73 - WANT: Oklahoma S Quinton Carter; THINK: Carter
There's a time where value, need, and schematic fit match up. This is one of those times. Quinton Carter would be a perfect safety in Wade's scheme since he’s good in coverage, competent in dropping into the slot, and an able and willing tackle. Placing him back there with Quin would turn safety from a glaring weakness into a total strength.

Round 4, pick 105 - WANT: Fresno State OLB Chris Carter; THINK: Colorado CB Jalil Brown
I take my OLB in round four with Carter who had one of the Combine's top 10-yard dash times (an indicator of initial burst) and had an impressive season of harassing the quarterback for the Bulldogs.

The Texans want to grab a cornerback and Brown would be nice value here. Jimmy Smith gets all of the attention, but Brown has gone nearly unnoticed. He’s a big kid (6’1’’, 210 pounds) who can make plays on the ball (averaged two interceptions and 7 passes defensed per season at Colorado) and offers support on the run. I nearly put DeMarcus Van Dyke here since the Texans like their players from The U, but his run support isn’t what the Texans traditionally like. Brown could man the nickel behind the presumed free agent cornerback and Kareem Jackson.

Round 5, pick 138 - WANT: Stanford DT Sione Fua; THINK: Stanford FB Owen Marecic
I don't think Houston will take a nose tackle early, but there will be some nice late-round guys who provide nice value and upside like Fua. Fua comes from a 3-4 defense and is a stout run-stuffer.

With the signs that Vonta Leach won't be resigned, the Texans should be thinking about grabbing the draft's best fullback. Marecic has been described as a bulldozer. He also provides significant special teams value as he also started at linebacker for the Cardinal. The guy is a physical football player who would be providing tremendous value for a fifth round talent. I love Leach, but this would be a very nice replacement.

Round 6, pick 178 - WANT: Nebraska P/K Alex Henery; THINK: Notre Dame NT Ian Williams
Matt Turk is a 43-year old free agent coming off a terrible season. Henery possesses the best leg in the draft. Henery could handle punts and long-range field goals, at the minimum. At maximum, Henery’s booming leg could handle both roles of kicker and punter and be a weapon for the Texans.

I believe the Texans will take a nose tackle late to add a body to the position. Williams in round six would do just that. He can hold the point of attack and clog the middle, but that’s about it.

Round 7, pick 214 - WANT: Boise State S: Jeron Johnson; THINK: California OLB Michael Mohamed
I’m not enamored with either Dominique Barber or Troy Nolan. Also, Johnson provides too much value here. He’s a smart football player with solid fundamentals. At worst, he’s a great special teams contributor and able to fill in at SS from time to time.

Mohamed’s the second OLB drafted and really just done to add depth to the position. He played in the 3-4 at Cal, so he has that experience going for him.

Round 7, pick 254 - WANT: Virginia DE Zane Parr; THINK: Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson
I just needed a DE for my draft and Parr projected to be the best available 3-4 DE with this pick. He’s got decent size and speed.

We all know Gary Kubiak needs a quarterback project and Johnson would be that while Dan Orlovsky thinks about his next job.

With my draft, I’m happy with the talent and think I’ve got next season starters and contributors all the way through the Johnson pick. I feel like the value returned on each pick would be outstanding. Still, I am dependent on getting a top-shelf cornerback to solidify that unit and am thin at the outside linebacker position. Of course, that's how I believe a draft should be run: find talent and fill in any remaining holes with veterans as opposed to trying to fill all holes with young options.

With Houston’s draft, or at least what I think they’ll draft, they’ll fill out the defensive roster and try to hit all their needs. They’re still dependent on the free agent cornerback, but they’ve got starters and depth at every level. The Marecic pick is the least likely of the mock picks to happen, but he’s the kind of player the Texans would like because of his versatility and ability to help out on special teams. I’m also assuming that Rick Smith has already made up his mind about not resigning Mr. Leach. Johnson’s their idea of a luxury pick given Kubiak’s penchant to be a home for reclamation project quarterbacks.

Tomorrow: The real 2011 NFL Draft begins to show how wrong mock drafts often are. Check back with SB Nation Houston and Battle Red Blog for all the Texans news, rumors, and analysis.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mock Updates Continue To Trend Texans Towards Aldon Smith

We’ve officially reached the point of the NFL draft universe where fans are getting slammed with multiple mocks a day from all sorts of sources. So I’m going to have a little round-up on the most recent ones and what they have to say about the Texans. Spoiler alert: Aldon Smith comes up a lot and I’m still not happy about it.

HoustonTexans.com — Aldon Smith (Video here) — If the Texans do indeed wind up with Aldon Smith, this video sure does cover a lot of tracks for it. N.D. Kalu and Marc Vandermeer join Nick Scurfield and Drew Dougherty to talk about the pick, which the Texans make over Prince Amukamara AND Robert Quinn. Kalu basically dismisses Quinn from the board entirely due to the benign tumor in his brain, which I think is a bit overcautious. Vander Meer seems to lean more towards Quinn, but consensus plays out with the Texans drafting Smith instead. If you aren’t on the Smith bandwagon, don’t watch this video in front of family or kids.

John McClain — Aldon Smith. Over Amukamara, as well. Along with that gratuitous Warren Sapp quote about Smith "being DeMarcus Ware in two years" while ignoring any sort of question about what Smith will do for the Texans right away and when Sapp became a personnel evaluator worth listening to. So, par for the course.

Shutdown Corner — Prince Amukamara — Doug Farrar writes:

This one’s pretty simple, folks. The Texans aren’t going to sniff the playoffs until they do something about their secondary, and if they miss another postseason, head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith could very well be gone. Drafting Kareem Jackson in the first round last year was a step in the right direction, but adding Amukamara to the mix would be huge. A physical press corner with outstanding instincts, Amukamara might be saving a couple jobs if he plays to his game tape.

Amukamara does trail Aldon Smith in times approved by Warren Sapp though, so I don’t know if he counts.

ESPN’s AFC South Blog — Aldon Smith — Kuharsky rightfully senses the Texans blogosphere is not big on Smith, but pulls the trigger on him anyway over Amukamara. Gutsy call, Paul. That’s why you’re a shark.

So the major thing to take away from these mocks? Need is mattering more than skill, because it seems that Amukamara is the better player between he and Smith, and yet three of the four drafts made a beeline to Smith anyway.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith To The Texans In Penultimate SB Nation Mock Draft

In what I can only assume to be a cruel idea of a joke made up to depress me, Brian Galliford continues to project Missouri defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith to the Texans with the No. 11 overall pick in the latest SB Nation 2011 NFL Mock Draft. The scenarios that he lays out are dire, as North Carolina linebacker Robert Quinn and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara are both taken off the board before the Texans pick. Rather than going with Julio Jones in a case of best player available, the Texans instead have to settle for Smith: 

11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Smith doesn't project perfectly as a rush linebacker, but in Wade Phillips' one-gap scheme, he'd have a lot of opportunities to blitz and get after the QB.

Which would be awesome if Smith had shown that he was NFL-ready in any other capacity but rushing the QB straight up the middle. Alas, he's not, and thus, the pick leaves me sad. You guys better get this ironed out by Thursday!

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28, and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare: NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft schedule and more. Check it out at SB Nation's NFL Draft page and our NFL Draft blog, Mocking the Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Rick Gosselin Tabs Prince Amukamara As The Next Houston Texan

Respected draft writer Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has been quiet during this draft cycle. He finally released his first 2011 Mock Draft, but the old folks running the newspaper up in Dallas figure they should probably charge people. For a Mock Draft. Haha, awesome business model.

Anyway, through the magic of the Internet, I was able to find his super-secret Mock Draft THAT WOULD BE DISASTROUS IF IT WERE FALL INTO THE WRONG HANDS!!!!!!!

Out of respect for SBNations' business practices, I'm not going to link to the full list of Gosselin's mock, but I will ENDANGER THE UNIVERSE!!!!! by relaying to you where players thought to be in the mix for the Texans ended up falling:

7. San Francisco - Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
10. Washington - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
11. Houston - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
16. Jacksonville - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin 
17. New England - Cameron Jordan, DE, California
18. San Diego - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
20. Tampa Bay - Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Are we safe? Did the world crater in on itself as a result of posting those pieces of his mock draft? No? Nobody is crazy enough to pay for an NFL mock draft even if it's written by one of the most respected NFL Draft writers in the country?

*EXHALE*

So, Prince Amukamara. He may end up being a fine starting cornerback in the NFL for many years to come. I hope the Texans don't get a chance to find out. I'd rather the team draft for the front seven, because I don't think Amukamara is clearly better at his position than many of the guys who will be available at 11 who play in the front seven.

If Amukamara was the guy in a best player available situation, I'd still be wary of starting another rookie corner, but it would make me feel a lot better to get a clear-cut bona fide difference-maker. I don't hate Prince as a prospect, I just don't have that level of assurance as I do with, say, Cameron Jordan, or maybe even J.J. Watt.

Gosselin knows his stuff, though. I mean, at least I know he did at one point. I wouldn't know anymore since I'm expected to pay to read his work online.

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2011 NFL Draft: Dareus, Peterson Top This Houston Texans Draft Day Big Board

We are a scant few days away from the 2011 NFL Draft. Despite the lockout, excitement for the Draft remains high, and the ratings will reflect that a labor stoppage hasn't had much effect on what has become the year-round sport of NFL Pro Football.

The Texans are in an interesting position on Thursday. With the 11th pick, they won't get a chance to hit on a perceived "elite" player, but could still get one in the top one or two of their position group. A trade up into the top ten by another team is always a strong possibility, and that could shake up the team's board severely. With that, here is what I believe to be my final 11-deep Big Board for the Texans. I won't spend much time on the guys who clearly won't be there at the 11 spot:

1. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Potentially dominant, versatile defensive lineman. Likely could move around on the line in Wade Phillips' 3-4. I'm not quite pining for him like I did for equally-unrealistic Ndamukong Suh, but yep, he's at the top of my list.

2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I've been very clear that I'm not in favor of another first-round cornerback for the Texans, but Peterson I would take in a heartbeat. I have no doubts about his ability to come in and start effectively right away. Prince Amukamara, not so much.

3. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Many of you may think I'm insane to have two players ahead of Miller, but I'm just not sold on him being a sure-thing success in the NFL. I would certainly be ecstatic if the Texans somehow landed him, but I have a higher value placed on Dareus and Peterson, as I think they're much more likely to be hits.

4. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
I'm sold on Quinn. Not too worried about the benign tumor, and not at all concerned with what I think are mischaracterized as "character issues." Bad decisions are different than character issues. Quinn made some bad decisions, but who doesn't when they're young and everyone tells them how great they are? Not everyone, but it'snothing to get in a huff about.

5. AJ Green, WR, Georgia
With all the hype around Julio Jones, Green has gotten lost in the mix a bit in this draft - even though he's still likely to go ahead of Jones. Like most of these guys, Green won't be there at 11 but his value to the Texans should be very high considering Andre Johnson's age and how much trouble he had staying on the field last year. Unfortunately, even Andre is going to start to backslide soon.

6. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
At number SIX? Chris, are you insane? I like Cameron Jordan. A lot. I know he wouldn't be a starter right away, but you can't underestimate the importance of a strong front seven, or how a strong rotation of fresh players would go a long way to strengthening this defense up front.

7. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley does have first round bust potential, to be sure. You hear the words immature, inconsistent motor, character concerns, etc. Another guy who had all those issues? Albert Haynesworth. Sure, he's a turd now, but before he turned into what he is now, he was THE most dominant defensive tackle (arguably defensive lineman) in the NFL. Fairley is a little scary, but there's too much talent, potential, and fantastic game tape on Fairley to pass on him if he drops out of the top ten.

8. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Recently I had a choice in a mock draft between Jones and Cameron Jordan, and I went with Jones. Looking back, I'd go with Jordan - but you can bet I'd be very happy with Jones if certain other defenders weren't on the board at 11. Again, we are going to have to face some harsh realities regarding Andre Johnson soon, and Jones would help ease that inevitable future pain.

9. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I wouldn't be happy with this pick. However, if those above are all off the board, which of course is as unlikely as the Texans getting Marcell Dareus, I'd have to consider. Amukamara may well be an improvement over any corner we have, assuming the Texans move Glover Quin to free safety - but is that really a reason to draft him? Does anyone look at Prince Amukamara and think he's a sure thing to be an immediately effective starting corner on this team? I don't. For the thousandth time, the Texans will and should go after their starting corner in free agency. 

10. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt is thought to be a safe bet to be a consistent, solid NFL starter. I guess I just want more out of my number 11 pick in the draft, but that's probably foolish. The Texans NEED a sure-thing in this draft, and while Watt may not exactly be that - he is probably a safer bet than, say, a guy like Aldon Smith, who I wouldn't be as opposed to in a trade-down scenario.

11. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is a bit of a mystery. There are questions about his ability to play in the 3-4, and I've seen him called overrated by a couple of draft evaluators who have opinions I hold in high regard. Still, the talent level is obvious. Wade Phillips would just have to find a place for him, or find a place for someone else that he steps in for.

More upcoming on the draft, of course. Where are you with your top 11? Better get on that. Thursday is coming quickly.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: View From The Sideline Mocks Kerrigan To Texans At No. 11

The Houston Texans are looking hard to fill their holes on defense in the NFL Draft, and one often unexplored option has been Ryan Kerrigan, who scouts are torn on as a 3-4 linebacker. However, he is regarded as a very high motor player, and he’s got all sorts of production. If the Texans think he can be a 3-4 OLB, it would make sense for them to pick him at No. 11 overall, and that’s exactly how John Harris’ mock over at A View From The Sideline plays out.

I like the Texans next two picks in the draft much more, as Brandon Harris seems a legitimate option in the second round should he be there and Dontay Moch is a terrific athletic prospect should he be able to convert the tools into skills at the NFL level. Those two are almost staples of the Julio Jones-based mock. However, it sure would have looked better if the Texans had paired them with Prince Amukamara, who was also available at No. 11 in this mock.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: What I Think I Think About Next Week's Draft

We're a week away from the NFL Draft. I have to let that sink in because I have been contributing to this draft thread since December. That's nearly five months of writing about the 2011 NFL Draft. At this point, I want to just talk about the prospects drafted and move on, but, alas, there is still time to fill before then.

After all that time, my feelings about the draft, in regards to the Houston Texans, have begun to crystallize. Now, it's time to bust out that crystal ball and see what I think will happen...

- The Texans will not get a chance to draft Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara or North Carolina DE Robert Quinn. There will also be no trading up for LSU CB Patrick Peterson or Texas A&M OLB Von Miller. Houston will pass on Alabama's Julio Jones and Missouri's Aldon Smith to select Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt. John McClain will be incredulous that his inside information was wrong while Texans fans will scratch their heads before slowly trying to rationalize how great this pick is or furiously demand Rick Smith be fired between rounds. For the record, Watt is a great prospect.

- Houston will draft two outside linebackers - in the third round and the sixth round. This will be Rick Smith's patented double dip.

- Houston will not draft a free safety, but instead will grab a cornerback in round four so they can move Glover Quin to free safety. SBN Houston editor Rivers McCown will fire off some wonderfully funny Tweets in response to this (hint: he's someone you'll want to follow on Draft Day...no pressure, Boss).

- There will be no nose tackle drafted, Houston fans. Get used to the Earl Mitchell/Shaun Cody rotation. I can hear the groans from Battle Red Blog already.

- We will regret not being able to trade players for picks as the Texans likely would have been shopping Steve Slaton and Amobi Okoye for whatever they could get.

- Maybe I'm blinded by draft lust, but I honestly think the Texans could pick up Oklahoma SS Quinton Carter in the second round. Carter would be perfect in Wade's defense, and I have never liked a Sooner more than I do Carter.

- I'm, sadly, expecting either a tight end or fullback to be drafted in round seven. This will either start a bunch of tight end jokes amongst Texans fans or spell the end of the Vonta Leach era in Houston. SBN Houston weekend editor Chris Watkins is going to have to look for a new mascot for HoustonDiehards.com.

- While Houston will grab some promising talent, they'll pass on the local names and big names which will leave fans feeling neutral about the class.

- Finally, the networks will cut away from the Texans selection at least three times.

The best part of this? It's only a week until I find out if I'm wrong or not. Before the real draft, I'll take one last crack at a full Texans mock next week. Feeling like the stars are talking to you? Fire off some of your predictions in the comments below.

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2011 NFL Draft: Kalu And McClain Name Their Best Picks And Biggest Busts Of Kubiak Era

John McClain and ex-Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu get together with Houston Community College to produce a video every week or so. This week, they went over who the Texans worst and best picks of the Kubiak era were, and betrayed a completely unstunning lack of criticism for anyone who was actually a bust.

First lets go over their best picks. Kalu chose Mario Williams—pretty clearly the best pick of the Kubiak era if you account for the scrutiny they were facing for not taking Vince Young or Reggie Bush. No reach there. McClain chose Duane Brown. While I wouldn’t go around calling someone who hurt his team by getting suspended over the NFL’s PED policy a great pick, there’s a certain logic to it. He’s certainly improved over the last two years, even if he’s not actually a top-tier tackle in protection.

But the busts? Wow, talk about not taking anyone to task. Kalu picked Garrett Graham, and his reasoning was that the Texans didn’t pick Geno Atkins because of Graham and the roster was already full of tight ends. It’s not Graham’s fault that the Texans locked themselves into a long-term commitment to a tight end who can’t stay healthy. The Texans had two shots at Atkins if you use that reasoning, and they used their first one to pick Earl Mitchell instead. Sounds like that’s the guy you should be singling out instead of a rookie who got to run something like eight plays. This isn’t even getting into the fact that drafts shouldn’t be judged until at least three years down the road.

As for McClain, he came up with Antwaun Molden. A third-round pick out of Eastern Kentucky in 2008, Molden has spent the majority of his career on the injured reserve with a number of serious injuries. While technically the pick has been a bust, it’s not like it was for performance reasons. Molden just can’t stay healthy.

Have either of these guys heard of Amobi Okoye or Kareem Jackson? Besides noting that one of them is “good against the run” and the other is “just as good as Pro Bowler DeAngelo Hall”? Instead of two enormous sinkholes (so far)  that were high draft picks they’ve declared two guys who nobody cares about busts, one of which hasn’t even played 30 NFL snaps yet after just one year in the league.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Todd McShay Believes Texans Will Look To Improve Front Seven With First Round Pick

The wait is almost over. After more than two months of analyzing a dizzying amount of mock drafts, NFL fans are eager for the 2011 NFL Draft to finally get started next Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. For Houston Texans fans, this year’s draft represents yet another opportunity to acquire talent to help the team get over the hump and advance to the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

There’s still more than a week to go before the first round commences in primetime next Thursday, so let’s resume our rampant speculation about which NFL hopefuls will land where, and why. ESPN’s Todd McShay recently filed his annual scenario based mock draft ($), the iteration of his mocks where he lays out three likely scenarios for each team. Let’s take a look at what McShay believes are the most likely scenarios for the Houston Texans:

Scenario 1: Taking [Robert] Quinn is the best-case scenario outside of Miller somehow falling this far. Quinn would be a nice complement to fellow OLB Connor Barwin, one of the best ILB tandems in the league in DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, and difference-maker Mario Williams up front.

Hard to argue with that logic. McShay then mentions J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan — two highly regarded five-technique defensive ends — as viable options if Quinn is off the board. It’s just one man’s opinion, but I think Jordan is a much more risky pick than Watt, a guy I’m extremely high on.

Finally, McShay concludes with:

Scenario 3: The Texans could be forced to weigh value against philosophy here if the players above are gone. [Prince] Amukamara would be the value pick, but I tend to think they would lean toward Missouri DE Aldon Smith because new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is determined to upgrade the front seven.

Were Amukamara to wind up in Houston, I don’t think a single Texans fan would be initially disappointed. The young man can flat out play, and considering what the Texans currently have at the CB position, even if he didn’t turn out to be a perennial Pro Bowl type of talent, he would likely still be an upgrade over the current stable of CBs on the Texans’ roster.

I think McShay has it right though — Wade Phillips will want to improve the Texans front-seven before turning his attention to other facets of the defense. And why not? Improve the front-seven and all of a sudden, deficiencies in the secondary get masked substantially. Look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers as supporting evidence. Pittsburgh’s secondary is pretty average, yet they typically don’t get exposed too often because of the front-seven’s ability to (1) stop the run and (2) get after the quarterback with out bringing the house on blitzes.

As we rapidly approach the NFL Draft beginning next Thursday night, be sure to check in at Battle Red Blog and Mocking the Draft for comprehensive draft coverage and mock draft discussions.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Peter King's Mock Gives Texans Patrick Peterson

Sure, it takes a trade up, and sure, he’s the only columnist anywhere who has even mentioned this as a possibility. But when Peter King demands something, whether it’s Starbucks or the union to give up and let the owners win, things happen!

So in his mock draft, the Texans trade up to the No. 7 overall pick to select the suddenly free-falling LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, justifying his small column note from Monday. How does this work in his head? Lets check!

I see the Texans trading up four spots with the 49ers here. With a horrendous secondary that allowed opposing QBs to complete 64.7% of their passes for 33 touchdowns, Houston can’t afford to take a chance on missing out on either of the corners of great value. The Texans will also be tempted to fill a need with defensive end Robert Quinn, but the smarter choice is Peterson, who’s much more of a sure thing at his position.

Just don’t let John McClain know about this mock, it will set him off into a frenzied chanting of “Houston only wants to trade up for Von Miller!”

As for the potential of actually pulling off a trade to get Peterson, I think it would be short-sighted and the Texans have too many holes to fill. But if he’s there at No. 7, it would also be incredibly tempting for a staff that has no future without wins this season to get the most NFL-ready cornerback that they could in this draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Continues To Be Favorite According To McClain

We're running out of days until the NFL Draft actually happens, but one thing you can count on is that Missouri defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith continues to be the player that the Texans are given most often in mock drafts. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain says that while a trade-up for Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller isn't completely off the table, it appears likely the Texans will draft Smith at No. 11 overall:

If the Texans stay at 11, I have them taking outside linebacker Aldon Smith again. His stock is on the rise. Two weeks ago, Warren Sapp called him a "DeMarcus Ware type in two years" and said he could help the pass rush right away. Sapp spent a day working out Smith and interviewing him for the NFL Network. As Sapp pointed out, Smith is a third-year sophomore with a lot to learn.

Last week, on the NFL Network, Mike Lombardi moved Smith up to Dallas with the ninth pick.

Let me feel free to point out that it's more than a bit awkward for Smith's stock to go up because Warren Sapp and Mike Lombardi say he's good. Not the direct correlation I was looking for. Either way, it's notable that McClain has the Texans passing on Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, who would seem to be the more highly regarded player, to fill their 3-4 rush OLB slot early. Particularly with someone who may not be NFL-ready right away. 

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Want a sign that the Texans are seriously entertaining the idea of letting Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach walk? They're apparently interested in Colorado State fullback Zac Pauga according to Brad Biggs of the National Football Post.

Pauga could be a candidate to be a late round pick if not an undrafted free agent. Whenever those will happen. Plus he's from Colorado State, so we can already write him in on the Texans training camp roster.

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NFL Mock Draft Round 2: Texans Snag Ras-I Dowling In SB Nation's Two Round Mock

Ras-I, Ras-Me, Ras-My, either way you put it, the Texans are in possession of the injury-prone Virginia cornerback in the second round of the SB Nation Mock Draft. I have no clue why the Texans would draft a player with Dowling's injury history when perfectly acceptable alternatives are on the board, but I guess the fake Texans felt fake forced by Rahim Moore, Stephen Paea, and Marvin Austin all getting selected ahead of them. Here's Brian Galliford's explanation behind the pick:

42. Houston Texans: Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia. Injuries have depressed his stock, but Dowling has the corner/safety versatility to make an instant impact in Houston.

Of course, if the Texans really wanted to take a risk on a player that may have injury concerns, Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor plummeted down the draft in this mock. Of course, that would also require the Texans to admit that nose tackle is a weakness, which they will never do, but this is all fake anyway, right?

At this point in the mock though, most of the players left on the board only fit the linebacker need that Houston already addressed with it's selection of Robert Quinn in the first round. They probably could've just gone with Titus Young if the best they could come up with here was Dowling. The cornerback crop really falls off fast.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Robert Quinn There For Texans In New SB Nation Mock

checks watch So there are ten days left, which means I think we only have one more of these delightful mocks to go. Kudos to Brian Galliford, who has really ensured that I am on my toes in trying to figure out why the Texans are picking Missouri defensive end/linebacke Aldon Smith some weeks. However, he left me an easy one this time, as the Texans are projected to snag North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn.

11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Wade Phillips is moving to the 3-4, and Quinn is too enticing as an OLB prospect to pass on here.

And just like that, the Texans have wrapped up one of their biggest holes. Unless Quinn can’t start right away. Or they trade the pick up to get Patrick Peterson, as Peter King rumored. Or the NFL locks out the draft out of spite. Or they put Roger Goodell on that escalator that leads nowhere…

Other than that though, solid pick!

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2011 NFL Draft: Texans 'Love' Patrick Peterson

Lets all try not to hyperventilate here, but it turns out that the Rick Smith/Gary Kubiak/Wade Phillips war room has determined that LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson may just be the best player in the draft. Bully for them, I say, for making such a determination. Well, according to a tidbit of throwaway Peter King speculation, the Texans may be so in love with Peterson that they would risk a trade up for him. That...that might not work out quite as well. Here's the quote from this week's Monday Morning Quarterback:

7. Houston loves Patrick Peterson. Capital L. I smell a trade-up

I want to point out first of all that there is absolutely nothing wrong with lusting over Peterson, who is undoubtedly one of the best players in the class and would fit nicely in Houston as a way to make fans forget about Kareem Jackson. The problem is that, well, the Texans defense has so many holes right now that they just can't afford the draft picks it would cost to move up and take him.

Two other factors that ride against this: the Texans are traditionally very anti-free agency, and if they traded a lot of draft picks, they would almost have to be players in free agency this year. Secondly, moving up for Peterson would put the Texans in line to give him an enormous contract, and they may not be financially able to do that and chase enough free agents to really round up the defense.

Not that Peterson wouldn't be great, but unless they move up with all 2012 picks, the Texans would really be putting themselves in a situation where they're setting up for 2012. It would be especially baffling considering Nnamdi Asomugha is likely to get a similar contract to Peterson, but not cost anything to move up and get.

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2011 NFL Draft: The Closer The Draft Gets, The More I Like Cameron Jordan - And You Should Too!

This draft is shaping up to be quite a crap shoot for the Houston Texans. One might argue, with their poor history of defensive prospect evaluation, EVERY draft is a crap shoot. The 11 spot is one where the Texans are likely assured of missing out on an elite prospect, but if they have their heads on straight, they could pick up a huge difference-maker. After all, DeMarcus Ware was picked at the 11th spot (and so was Aaron Maybin).

In the 3-4 scheme, Cameron Jordan of California projects as a 5-technique defensive end. There have been rumblings here and there that he is athletic enough to play the rush OLB position in the 3-4 as well. That, I'm not buying. Even if he's an elite talent, a 287-pound rushing OLB? I can't imagine. I'm perfectly happy with Cam coming to Houston at his natural DE position. 

Sure, the Texans have Mario Williams and Antonio Smith anchored as their starters, but if this team is going to start generating a pass rush - they have to start getting some dominant players in the front seven. One could argue that there simply is not a dominant player on the Houston defense currently. I'd certainly say Mario Williams often fits that bill, but even his most fervent defenders admit he could be more consistent.

The broader point here is simple. The Houston Texans aren't good enough to be able to afford the luxury of passing an elite talent at one position for a position of bigger need. If Aldon Smith is the best 3-4 OLB available at 11, do you take him with the hope that he can immediately reach his full potential as a pass-rusher? In a season where Houston is supposedly trying to make a miraculous one-year turnaround? Where all coaches are coaching for their jobs? I don't think you can do that.

Cameron Jordan, to me, is a safe pick. If the Texans had a reputation for evaluating defensive prospects with any sort of precision, I'd say go crazy, guys. Reach for your guy who you think has unlimited potential and a ridiculously high ceiling, if any ceiling at all.

But that's not reality in Houston. With Wade Phillips (hopefully) steering the defensive ship in this draft, you have to have a little bit more confidence in the Texans' brain trust, but who has the final say? Is it GM Rick Smith? Is it head coach Gary Kubiak? Is it Phillips? If it's not Phillips, then I have no idea what the point of bringing him on was. The guy has proved he can coach a defense, and by virtue of Houston's draft failures, he became their best defensive talent evaluator the second he walked in the door at Reliant. That's not an endorsement of Wade as much as it is a knock against the previous defensive evaluation. To my knowledge, the Texans may have added some evaluators at Phillips' direction, but they haven't let any of the current scouts go.

I could go on about Jordan, but I'd rather point you to some info that's already out there. Check out Lance Zierlien and John Harris's thoughts on Jordan here. An excerpt:

What I like
...can play both inside and outside...great leverage...plays low to the ground...extremely difficult to block against the run...

What I don't
...if a technique sound tackle gets hands on him, he has a hard time getting off the block...needs work with his hands...

There's also some analysis on Jordan in Lance's first mock of the 2011 draft season.

Personally, I like Jordan because I feel like he's a safe bet. Normally I'm more of a gambler (especially when playing with other people's draft currency), but there's no history of defensive drafting success to go on with this regime. A DE rotation of Williams, Smith and Jordan would potentially be a fearsome bunch. Jordan has the kind of talent and game tape that suggest he could come in and contribute right away. 

I'd much rather go that route than reach for an OLB if Robert Quinn is off the board... then again, it says here I'm supposed to put my trust in Wade Phillips.

So, I guess I'll do that?

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Where Is Robert Quinn Falling In Mock Drafts?

It has been my assertion for several weeks now that though I'd like to see Robert Quinn fall to the Texans on April 28th, I just don't think it's going to happen. His potential and importance of position (pass-rushers are of course a valuable commodity) will see him selected in the top 10, I believe.

With that, let's see where he is falling in some of the more popular and/or highly-regarded NFL Mock Drafts:

Rob Rang, CBS Sports
Quinn: 6th, Cleveland
Texans: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

Chad Reuter, CBS Sports
Quinn: 10th, Washington
Texans: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

National Football Post
Quinn: 5th, Arizona
Texans: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue (UGH)

Lance Zierlein
Quinn: 5th, Arizona
Texans: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Adam Caplan
Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina

Scout.com
Quinn: 5th, Arizona
Texans: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Walter Football
Quinn: 6th, Cleveland
Texans: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

Peter Schrager
Quinn: 10th, Washington
Texans: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

I have a short list of "respected" mocks, and most of these are on that list. I did not select mocks that fit my personal narrative for this entry. Clearly, I just share the popular opinion with a lot of other draft analysts. Quinn just isn't likely to be there on April 28, so Texans fans should prepare themselves accordingly. 

It says a lot that Quinn landed in Houston in only one of these eight mock drafts. If you're not a fan of Aldon Smith or JJ Watt joining the Texans, perhaps you should pick out an inconspicuous area of your wall to punch out now, so you're prepared to adequately react on Draft Day.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith And Prince Amukamara The Odds On Favorites To Be Texans

We've been back and forth with various mock drafts over the last few weeks, and if you've been paying any attention at all, you know the various names at this point. Prince Amukamara, Robert Quinn, Julio Jones, and Aldon Smith are the players most linked to the Houston Texans at No. 11 overall pick. But who is the actual odds on favorite? The Houston Chronicle's Lance Zierlein says it's Smith, who could slot in well in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense.

Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri - 3:1

Aldon Smith is said to be the target of the Texans as they like his edge pass rushing ability. Smith is unlikely to go in the first 10 picks so he should be at 11 for the Texans if they are truly interested in him.

Amukamara comes in second on the board at 4:1 odds, and Quinn, J.J. Watt, and Cameron Jordan all have 5:1 odds. It just goes to show you that there are a number of ways the Texans could ultimately lean with this pick. Quinn is knocked down only by Zierlein's thought that he will likely not be there for the Texans at 11. It would be a bit surprising for the Texans to pass up on Smith with Amukamara on the board, but I suppose we shall see.

For more Texans draft news and notes, check out Battle Red Blog.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Texans Land Amukamara And Wilson In NFP's Mock

A quality source for NFL news and rumors, especially since they report prospect visits as well, is National Football Post. I fully endorse checking them out if you have the time.

That said, they gave their latest two round mock draft Wednesday afternoon. Without further adieu, I turn it over to Wes Bunting for two Houston picks and explanations:

11. Houston: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Despite using a first-round pick on a cornerback last year, Amukamara is a guy who can play in a variety of roles on the Houston defense early in his career.

42. Houston: Martez Wilson, OLB, Illinois

If you've been following this StoryStream, you probably have an idea what I'll say about these two picks. I would be quite pleased with these two picks.

I've been really high on Wilson for a while now. As I've said before, I think he has the physical tools to play the strongside linebacker in the 3-4 defense while also providing excellent insurance should DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing struggle in 2011.

Bunting agrees with this by noting OLB as opposed to Wilson's college position of ILB. A guy who has had his name mocked in round one at pick 42 is also pretty good value. With Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter still on the board heading into round three, I am very happy with how that fell.

Some will look and say "What about Rahim Moore?" I'm not a fan of his. His poor tackling isn't what Wade Phillips or Texans management like in their safeties and there are murmurs that his lackluster 2010 season was a result of him not putting forth maximum effort to avoid injury and collect a large draft day. Is the latter true? Who knows exactly but the former is as well as Moore's lackluster 2010 season in a pass-happy conference. The need for a free safety is also diminished by the first round pick.

In 2008, Nebraska had the 89th best pass defense. In 2009 and 2010, Prince Amukamara started and those rankings rose to 18th and 5th. Coincidence? Perhaps but Amukamara still brings a lot to the table as a defensive back.

Mr. Amukamara could potentially play free safety. He also can free up Glover Quin to go play free safety as Prince could man the slot and/or challenge Kareem Jackson for one starting spot. I don't say start alongside Jackson because I firmly believe the Texans recognize that they need a veteran in this corps to help mentor all of their accumulated youth and stabilize the depth chart.

Back to Amukamara, he is a willing and capable tackler, shows no hesitation in playing man up on any receiver, and can make plays on the ball (averaging 12 passes broken up and three interceptions over the past two seasons in Lincoln when he started). His biggest question mark entering the draft season was if he had the speed to play cornerback in the NFL, and he answered that with a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

For Houston fans, the hesitation with Amukamara comes from either ephebiphobia due to the idea of Jackson and Amukamara starting together in 2011 or not drafting a starter in round one. I stick to the idea that Amukamara would play the nickel, but A) he puts a starter in the safety role and B) modern offenses force defenses into the nickel a lot. To grab a talented player like Prince Amukamara would be a nice bit of luck for Houston.

Bunting does a very nice job overall, but I like the Houston picks. If you told me that Quinton Carter would land in Houston during the third round then I may even call it ideal. All three would be proven talents on the field, add some speed to the back seven, and be great fits for Phillips' scheme. In two weeks, we'll find out if the real draft can make any Texans fans happy at all.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Texans Tab Amukamara In McClain's Latest Mock

If there's one thing the Houston Chronicle's John McClain is good at, it's hedging his bets. So in his quest to make sure he gets every potential Texans pick mocked to Houston at least once, he's found a creative way to get Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara to fall to the Texans at No. 11 overall. I'm not quite sure why the Cowboys would pass on Amukamara for Tyron Smith, but hey, thems' the breaks, Cowboys fans. Here's McClain's analysis:

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.

They want to fill this position in free agency, but they go after the second-best prospect at his position when they have a chance.

Mock 2: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

Drafting Amukamara would likely start a scenario in motion where he and Kareem Jackson are the Texans No. 2 and 3 corners, a free agent cornerback like Johnathan Joseph is tabbed to be their No. 1 CB, and current top corner Glover Quin would move to free safety. Of course, that still would leave the Texans very thin at corner, particularly if Jackson doesn't improve dramatically. But they should be well set up for the longer run with that pick--which might not be in the best interests of Gary Kubiak, who is looking to keep his job.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Robert Quinn Is A Texan In Latest SB Nation Mock

To the utter horror of our own Daniel Charles, who makes some solid points about the worthiness of Robert Quinn as the eleventh overall pick, the latest SB Nation.com mock draft has come out today and has the North Carolina linebacker sliding all the way to the Texans at No. 11 overall. Here’s what Brian Galliford and the crew have to say about the potential pick:

11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Gary Kubiak has been hanging onto this job by the skin of his teeth for years, plural, and if he plans to continue that trend, the defense needs to shape up quickly. 3-4 OLB is the obvious need, and Quinn gives them good value here.

This sure does look awfully similar to last weeks comment, does it not? I think SB Nation has the Texans zeroed in on a 3-4 OLB, as do most sites at this point. It’s not a bad supposition to make considering how necessary a good rush linebacker is for the health of a 3-4 defense in general and Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense in particular.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Is Robert Quinn Really The Best Case Scenario?

Normally, I find myself agreeing with Chris Watkins, our esteemed weekend editor of SB Nation Houston. Luckily for readers, we don’t share the same draft point of view which makes for a more well-rounded coverage, at least I think so. After reading his version of a best case first round scenario, I feel the strong need to reply.

North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn isn't what I see when I think "best case" first round scenario. If anything, Quinn is my 2011 NFL Draft Nightmare, and someone whom I hope the Houston Texans will avoid in about three weeks.

On top of hoping, I also believe that Houston would pass on him, should he be available at 11, every single time. This is something I have said both on this site and Battle Red Blog which usually is greeted by a sarcastic "Oh, of course the Texans won't draft Quinn. He's too talented." However, I don't believe Quinn is too talented. In fact, I think he's among the draft's more overrated prospects and, beyond that, just doesn't fit what the franchise's draft philosophy is.

Let's start with Robert Quinn as overrated first. In his two-year career as a Tar Heel, Quinn had 13 career sacks. Of those 13, four sacks came against the lowly Duke program, three came against the 2009 Virginia Cavaliers (who went 3-9 that season), and four came against Football Championship Subdivision teams (formerly Division I-AA) and a program from Conference USA. That's 11 of 13 sacks against sub-par competition. Additionally, over half of Quinn's career tackles for a loss (14 of 25.5) came in those same games.

In eight career games against ranked opponents, Quinn has a total of one sack. He continues the disappearing act against good competition by having only one game where he made four or more tackles - 2009 against Virginia Tech where he had 10 total tackles (4 solo, 6 assisted). Why is this? Tape suggests Quinn's success came from a speed rush. While he was faster than the offensive line talent in those easier games, speed alone wasn't enough to beat the top talent of the Atlantic Coast Conference - nor will it be enough in the NFL.

Additionally, those games were two years ago. Mr. Quinn didn't play in 2010 due to a season-long NCAA suspension. There was no development in his moves or improvement against quality opponents as the raw pass rusher has not played any meaningful football since December 26th, 2009. Not only that, but all of that game play was as a defensive end, as opposed to the outside linebacker role he'd take on in Houston if he were unfortunately taken at 11. Some will counter with the notion that the Tar Heel will be a weakside rushing linebacker, but even DeMarcus Ware had to handle some coverage responsibilities in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme.

Since I just mentioned it, the suspension is another reason why the Texans won't take Quinn. High-character guys don't get suspended, and suspended players aren't leaders in the locker room. Franchises, especially the Texans, tend to shy away from investing first-round money and publicity on guys who have red flags due to their behavior and character. To Quinn's credit, he has apologized about his transgressions, but how else is he supposed to act in his pre-draft season?

Let’s add it all up: Quinn disappeared in games against good opponents, is a bit of a mystery as a schematic fit, hasn't played football in nearly 18 months (and won’t even practice until this lockout is over), isn't a leader, and I haven't even talked about his health question mark (the whole benign brain tumor issue that requires a bi-yearly MRI to ensure that it’s still benign). Yet, Quinn's shown enough to be the 11th overall pick to the point where Houston fans are calling him the best case scenario? Really? The only thing he’s done since 2009 is post some times and numbers at the Combine and the UNC Pro Day. While his numbers are impressive, that makes him more a workout warrior than someone whose gifts translated into on-the-field domination. 

Call me crazy but I don't buy into Robert Quinn for the hometown team. I would much rather Houston grab a player who didn't have so many looming question marks. The Texans need to nail this pick, and Robert Quinn isn't quite the hammer to do the job. At least that’s how I see it. Easy question for readers: Is Quinn the best case scenario?

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Results Of Three-Round Blogger-Represented Mock Draft For Texans

I represented the Texans in a live NFL Mock Draft by the3-4.com this weekend. I've done a ton of these team representative mock drafts, so I was happy to oblige. Unfortunately circumstances forced me to hand off my duties to fellow Texans blogger Jake Langenkamp for the second round pick. Unfortunate, not because Jake made the pick - but because I enjoy these and hated to make the hand off.

I put Jake in what I thought was quite a bad position.

For this mock (which included trades), here's how the first ten picks shook out:

Round 1, top 10:

1. Carolina (2-14): Cam Newton*, QB, Auburn
2. Denver (4-12): Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
3. New England from Buffalo (4-12)*: Von Miller, OLB, TAMU
4. Cincinnati (4-12): Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
5. Arizona (5-11): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
6. Cleveland (5-11): A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
7. NY Giants from San Francisco (6-10): Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
8. Tennessee (6-10): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
9. Dallas (6-10): Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
10. Washington (6-10): Muhammed Wilkerson, DL, Temple

When I "came to the podium," I was unable to trade out of the 11 spot. I tried to make a deal with St. Louis, but it didn't work out. I narrowed it to two choices, WR Julio Jones and DE Cameron Jordan. After a LOT of hand-wringing, I went with Jones. I just felt like with the best-remaining position priorities I had to choose from, it was better to go with the best player available. 

11. Houston: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Andre Johnson barely made it through 2010, and probably should have missed more games than he actually did. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones both inarguably went backwards last season, and in one season the Texans went from having one of the top WR position groups in the NFL to being in need of new blood.

Little did I know, there would be an unbelievable run on OLBs in the first round after my selection. The rest of round one went like this:

Round 1, 12-32:

12. Minnesota (6-10): DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
13. San Diego- from Detroit (6-10): Tyron Smith, OT, USC
14. St. Louis (7-9): Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
15. Miami (7-9): Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
16. Jacksonville (8-8): Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
17. Buffalo Bills- from New England(14-2)*: Cam Jordan, DE, Cal
18. Atlanta- from Detroit- from San Diego (9-7): Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
19. San Francisco from New York Giants (10-6): J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
20. Tampa Bay (10-6): Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
21. Kansas City* (10-6): Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
22. Tennessee from Indianapolis* (10-6): Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
23. Philadelphia* (10-6): Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
24. Minnesota- from New Orleans* (11-5): Jake Locker, QB, Washington
25. Seattle* (7-9): Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
26. Baltimore* (12-4): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
27. Detroit- from Atlanta* (13-3): Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
28. Buffalo Bills- from New England (14-2)*: Brooks Reed, OLB/DE, Arizona
29. SD Chargers- from Chicago* (11-5): Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
30. New York Jets* (11-5): Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia
31. Detroit- from Pittsburgh* (12-4): Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
32. Green Bay* (10-6): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Eventually, the mock moved to the second round, which went this way up until Jake's pick for the Texans:

Round 2, 33-40:

33. New England - from Carolina (2-14): Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
34. Buffalo (4-12): Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
35. Cincinnati (4-12): Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
36. Denver (4-12): Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
37. Cleveland (5-11): Jabaal Sheard, OLB/DE, Pittsburgh
38. Arizona (5-11): Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
39. Indianapolis- from Tennessee (6-10): Rodney Hudson, OG/C, Florida State
40. Dallas (6-10): Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU
41. Washington (6-10): Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

This is a tough spot for Jake to pick in. He ended up going with North Carolina OLB Bruce Carter, who probably was the best OLB left on the board, unless you buy into Dontay Moch's NFL Combine hype.

42. Houston: Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina

Also still on the board:
UCLA FS Rahim Moore
Texas DB Aaron Williams

...but if the Carter pick doesn't do anything for you, (channeling Kubiak) that's on me. Jake took the best available player at the most-need position. Plus, hey, Carter is a pretty solid player. The guy is flat-out FAST and could absolutely work out as a pass-rushing OLB. He has had ACL reconstruction surgery, so that of course is a concern. I'm not crazy about Carter, but the way things went, I don't have a problem with Jake's selection here.

The rest of round 2 went like this:

Round 2, 43-64:

43. Seattle- from New Orleans from Minnesota (6-10): Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
44. Pittsburgh- from Detroit (6-10): Mikell Leshoure, RB, Illinois
45. San Francisco (6-10): Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
46. Denver - from Miami (7-9): Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
47. St. Louis (7-9): Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (Fl)
48. Oakland (8-8): Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fl)
49. Jacksonville (8-8): Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
50. San Diego (9-7): Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
51. Tampa Bay (10-6): Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
52. San Francisco - from NY Giants (10-6): Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
53. Indianapolis* (10-6): Stefen Wisniewski, OG/C, Penn State
54. Philadelphia* (10-6): Ben Ijalana, OL, Villanova
55. Kansas City* (10-6): Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
56. New Orleans* (11-5): Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
57. New Orleans- from Seattle* (7-9): Mason Foster, OLB, Washington
58. Baltimore* (12-4): Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami (Fl)
59. Atlanta* (13-3): Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy
60. New England* (14-2): Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
61. Chicago- from San Diego- from NY Jets* (11-5): Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
62. Chicago* (11-5): Clint Boling, OG/T, Georgia
63. Pittsburgh* (12-4): James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
64. Green Bay* (10-6): William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

The third and final round began today. Here's how it went leading up to Houston's pick:

65. Carolina (2-14): Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton/South Carolina
66. Cincinnati (4-12): Titus Young, WR, Boise State
67. Denver (4-12): Davon House, CB, New Mexico State
68. Buffalo (4-12): Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
69. Arizona (5-11): Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
70. Cleveland (5-11): Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
71. Dallas (6-10): Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson
72. New Orleans - from Washington (6-10): Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina

So while I made the first-round pick, and Jake made the second-round pick yesterday, today we made a joint decision. My preference for this pick was Oklahoma FS Quinton Carter. Jake was on board with that pick, but preferred Texas CB Curtis Brown. We both actually preferred DT Kenrick Ellis, but he went first in the third round. 

73. Houston: Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma

The pick is Carter. I suppose I won out because I was the original person involved with the mock, or maybe just because while Jake did prefer Brown, he also was in favor of Carter. For me, I also have that whole hang-up about how I see no reason for Houston to draft CB in the early rounds, something Jake and I definitely disagree on. I'll address that either here or at my regular blog HoustonDiehards.com sometime soon.

Carter is the kind of safety who can bring it in run support, but is still quick and athletic enough to be a decent cover man. Will those cover skills carry over to the NFL? That's a legitimate concern, but Carter is not expected to be a Pollard-esque "box" safety whose only real value is as a thumper. Quinton even had success in man-to-man coverage at OU, but again you have to wonder if that will continue on the next level with the elite competition he'll see.

Thoughts? What would you have done differently, assuming you couldn't trade out of your picks as we were not able to do?

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2011 NFL Draft: A Closer Look At Mid-Late First Round Trade Down Possibilities For Texans

Yesterday we went over some possibilities for the Texans in a "best case scenario" mock draft. Here's a closer look at some of the first-round options Houston may take a look at in case they are able to make a deal to move down.

Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri
Smith is seen as a linebacker with tremendous potential. The word "dominant" shows up in a lot of his draft profiles. That's all well and good, but this defense is supposedly in "one-year turnaround" mode right now, so can this team really afford to wait - even if he is a value in the mid-late first round?

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Put me down for 100% in favor of this pick. Taylor is thought to be almost certain to be gone by the Kansas City Chiefs' pick at 21, and a lot of people like the Patriots to snatch him up to be the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork. There were early maturity and character concerns with Taylor, but reading up on that - it doesn't bother me, and it shouldn't bother the Texans. A college fraternity fight? That's not going to hurt his stock, even in the eyes of the Texans. I hope.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple
Wilkerson wouldn't be a true monster NT in a 3-4, but if Wade Phillips has a lighter Jay Ratliff-type in mind to play the nose, Wilkerson could be a good fit. He projects more as a DE in a 3-4, though. He has good speed and feet for his size, and can close on the ball quickly. He's a hot name now, and is rising up a lot of analysts' boards. I'm not sure he's earned that kind of rise, but depending on how the draft falls, he could be an option.

Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers was thought to be a mid-first round prospect at worst for a while, but according to draft analysts, his average Combine performance has dropped his stock. I'm not convinced. Ayers is one of those guys who plays better than his statistics. If the Texans were able to trade down and get him in the lower-third of the first round, I'd consider that quite a pull. Pass rushing seems to be his greatest strength, which of course is exactly what Houston is looking for.

Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Houston's said to have great upfield burst, which helps to project him out to be a potentially dangerous 3-4 OLB. He can shed blocks and get to where he wants to go. To me he reads as a poor-man's Von Miller, in that he's pretty much a speed-only guy. That could of course still get him far in the NFL, but Houston needs to master some more pass rush moves (as even elite prospects still do when they enter the draft). Like Ayers, I'd be pretty happy with Houston coming to town in a trade-down scenario.

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
You may say that even in a trade-down situation, this is too high for Paea. Don't ever underestimate people's overreactions to NFL Combine performances (it happened with Chris Johnson, and that turned out great for the Titans.) Paea lit the Combine on fire with his strength, putting on an unbelievable 49-rep performance in the bench press. That combined with his wide body and proven track record of being a run-stopping force earns him a low first round pick in my book.

Others who may be worth a look:
Cameron Jordan, DE, California - (only if the Texans don't trade down more than a few spots).
Aaron Williams, DB, Texas - Could add versatility as a possible safety or compete for a starting CB job.
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado - Big time character issues, but could be a star in the making.
Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois - Projects more as a 3-4 ILB. Making him a pass-rushing OLB would likely take some time.

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2011 NFL Draft: My "Best Case Scenario" First Round Mock Draft For Texans

It's that time of year where the NBA season is wrapping up, and the baseball season is starting. In other words, for Houston, both the Rockets and Astros are out of playoff contention. 

So, we turn to the Texans, because that always works out. (Okay, this "positive" entry isn't starting off well. Let's try this again.)

As always, there are a ton of questions heading in to this month's NFL Draft. Texans fans are mentally-prepared to be disappointed, but what if things shake out the way the Texans (or, their fans) want?

Here's an attempt at a "realistic" Best Case Scenario Mock Draft for the Texans. Realistic meaning that no, Patrick Peterson nor Marcell Dareus are going to fall to #11, no matter how much you cover yourself in fairy dust. Of course, no mock draft is actually realistic in any way, but you get the gist. Lots of offensive players off the board (especially QBs) would make for great situation for Houston to be in:

1. Carolina - Cam Newton, QB
2. Denver - Marcell Dareus, DL
3. Buffalo - Von Miller, OLB
4. Cincinnati - Blaine Gabbert, QB
5. Arizona - Patrick Peterson, CB
6. Cleveland - AJ Green, WR
7. San Francisco - Da'Quan Bowers, DE
8. Tennessee - Nick Fairley, DT
9. Dallas - Tyron Smith OT, or Anthony Castonzo, OT
10. Washington - Jake Locker, QB or any remaining QB.

This puts the Texans sitting about as pretty as they could possibly be sitting in this draft. Here are some options, in order of my personal preference:

1. (tie) Robert Quinn, OLB
A 2011 Texans' Mock Draft favorite. I think he'll be gone, but in this scenario - there he is. Yes, the Texans have a TON of defensive holes that could be plugged in a trade-down scenario, but to get an instant-impact guy in Quinn that they would not, in my opinion, get in a guy like Aldon Smith - might be the best course of action.

1. (tie) Trade down
With three QBs off the board, and the Minnesota Vikings set to pick after Houston, the Texans have juice in this spot. The Vikings are certainly in need of a QB, especially with no free agency happening prior to the draft. Other QB-needy teams may want to move in front of the Vikes and pull the trigger. There are also players the Texans would have direct interest in that could be targets for trade-up from other teams, especially North Carolina's Robert Quinn.

Possible mid-to-low first round targets for this scenario:
Phil Taylor, NT
Aldon Smith, OLB
Muhammad Wilkerson, DL
Akeem Ayers, OLB
Stephen Paea, DT
Aaron Williams, DB


3. (tie) Cameron Jordan, DE
Could add versatility to the line and give the Texans some very exciting rotational possibilities. The closer we get to draft day, the more and more I like Cam Jordan. I've had this feeling a while, but I'm a borderline shill for the guy at this point.

3. (tie) Julio Jones, WR
The current Texans would never, ever make this pick - but I'd be all for it if Quinn is off the board. Andre Johnson barely made it through last year and didn't even play in every game. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones took steps back. If you don't improve your offense by standing pat - you're getting worse.

5. Phil Taylor, NT
Yep, Phil Taylor. At 11. I'd be ECSTATIC if the Texans were to pull Taylor in after a trade-down, but depending on how the top 10 shakes out, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of Houston "reaching" for a potential difference-maker of a NT in Taylor. The monumental shift in defensive philosophy alone would be enough to get a lot of Texans fans on board with this one - but I realize that's not necessarily a reason to get excited about this pick. It is too high for Taylor, but he will NOT be around in the second round.

6. Prince Amukamara, CB
I'm not at all a fan of the Texans picking a CB in the early rounds, but the team would probably love to have the option. I'd feel much more comfortable with him this far down the list of choices.

7. JJ Watt, DE
I can't get on board with this pick, but I'm happy to be able to put it this far down my list of preferences, similar to Prince. On draft day, he'll probably be a lot closer to the top of the list than I'd like.

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2011 NFL Draft: Texans Not High On Aldon Smith?

As always, I’ll start by putting the disclaimer that this time of year is the NFL’s version of the World Series of Poker. There are bluffs galore as front office people try to get the exact prospect they want to fall to them.

That said, I noticed an interesting tidbit of information as I read Rob Rang’s latest mock draft on CBSSports.com (h/t to Battle Red Blog user southpaw70 for bringing this to my attention).

According to Mr. Rang, in his explanation for mocking California DE Cameron Jordan to Houston:

The team, according to insiders, doesn't appear to be sold on Missouri's Aldon Smith's ability to make this transition.

The national guys seem to be a bit more connected than our own local guys, Fox 26’s Mark Berman not included, so I do buy this to an extent. However, it could definitely be a smokescreen - even though Aldon Smith is not projected to be a top 10 pick.

Personally, I’ve never been sold on Smith, or Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, as able to make the transition to the 3-4. However, I think both would be great for a 4-3 team like the Eagles, Giants, Rams, or Jaguars.

As for Jordan, he does match the schematic fit characteristic that Houston does like, and he would fit well in Wade’s 3-4 one-gap scheme. There is the question mark of how often would he play behind Mario Williams and Antonio Smith, but Jordan would still bring something to the table.

This does bring up a good point that most mocks are bringing up for Houston now. With Smith and Kerrigan not looking like fits and Robert Quinn being mocked inside the top-10 now (I’ve seen him go to Arizona, San Francisco, and Washington more frequently since his Pro Day workout plus I still believe the Texans would pass on him 100% of the time since he doesn’t match any of their drafting criteria), where do the Texans go with the 11th overall pick?

I’m sure Rick Smith and company will be holding out hope for Prince Amukamara to drop, but if he doesn’t then what? Is it now becoming more and more likely that Julio Jones could find himself to be the apprentice to Andre Johnson? The plot thickens as we head towards the 2011 NFL Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Battle Red Blog Mock Nets Prince Amukamara For The Texans

In an excruciatingly close vote, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara was the choice of the Battle Red Blog community in their own little mock draft. The process had narrowed things down to Amukamara or Alabama wideout Julio Jones, and with 167 of 326 votes (51%), the readers chose Amukamara to be their pick. 

Like most other rumored picks, I'm slowly growing acceptance with the idea of Amukamara roaming the backfield for the Texans next year. Sure, Kareem Jackson was a bust last season, but that doesn't mean Amukamara will be. He's a better prospect than Jackson was. Also, the Texans definitely could use some more bodies at cornerback considering that after Glover Quin, they had absolutely nothing worth playing down the stretch last season.

As far as a first year-impact player? Well, I doubt he's going to do much there for the Texans. Corners often do take a year to acclimate to the NFL If the Texans draft Amukamara and sign a #1 cornerback when free agency starts, that would give them a fairly strong core of defensive backs if Jackson can bounce back from his horrific rookie season.

Of course, if at some point next season the Texans wind up with Amukamara and Jackson both starting, they should probably do the honorable thing and just contract themselves from the league.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper Gives Houston Robert Quinn In Latest

The latest iterations of Mel Kiper Jr's mock drafts are out, and he was joined by Todd McShay in selecting a pair of first round defensive players for the Texans. In fact, the Texans don't draft an offensive player in either mocks first three rounds. North Carolina DE/LB Robert Quinn is the choice for Kiper, while McShay went a little off the board and wound up with Temple DT/DE Muhammad Wilkerson after Quinn was off the board earlier in his mock. McShay sees Wilkerson as a 3-4 defensive end with more upside than fellow (and more frequently mocked) 3-4 DE prospects Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt. Here's some reaction around the Texanssphere to these picks:

ESPN's Paul Kuharsky:

In my eyes, Quinn is more attractive than Wilkerson, who I've not seen this high anywhere I can remember. With so much defensive line talent available, if the Texans went McShay's direction with Quinn off the board, they simply have to be right that Wilkerson is a better fit than all the other defensive ends still sitting there at this spot.

HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield

Quinn has been a popular pick for the Texans in mock drafts over the last few weeks. McShay's is the first mock I've seen that has the Texans picking Wilkerson. He reasons that with Quinn and Von Miller off the board in his mock, Wilkerson "has more upside than any other 3-4 end in this draft," including Cal's Cameron Jordan and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt.

Incidentally, Kiper (UNC) and McShay (Temple) both had the Texans taking players from the same school in Rounds 1 and 3. The last time the Texans drafted multiple players from one school was in 2008, when they took Virginia Tech's Duane Brown in the first round and Xavier Adibi in the fourth round.

Kiper paired Quinn with Texas cornerback Curtis Brown and North Carolina corner Kendric Burney, while McShay gave the Texans Georgia OLB Justin Houston and Temple S Jaiquawn Jarrett

I still really doubt that the Texans will spend their first round pick on a 3-4 DE, regardless of how one may be the top player on their board. With Antonio Smith and Mario Williams in place, there are simply bigger needs on the defense. Quinn would be an excellent fit for Wade Phillips' scheme, but Wilkerson would find it hard to get onto the field unless he started taking snaps at nose tackle. And if that's the case, why not just trade down and snag Baylor's Phil Taylor?

For more on the Texans, check out Battle Red Blog.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Farrar Continues To Link Aldon Smith To Texans

Perhaps it’s just the massive head wound that I am now carrying from being bludgeoned with ideas that Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith would be a good pick for the Texans, but I think I’m starting to believe it. I also believe that the square root of x is Freaks And Geeks and that the best basketball player of all-time was John O’Hurley. Doug Farrar, what do you think?

Yes, the Texans desperately need secondary help, but job one for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be to help Houston’s beleaguered cornerbacks by getting them some pressure up front. Phillips will need the kind of edge rusher he had in San Diego with Shawne Merriman(notes) and in Dallas with DeMarcus Ware(notes). Phillips’ defense is often misclassified as a straight 3-4, when it’s actually based on a lot of 4-front principles. As such, the Texans need the kind of rush ends who can go after quarterbacks and still hold the point in different gap situations. Smith has the ability to line up in three very valuable positions — the 5-2 endbacker, the 4-3 end, and the five-tech in either front.

I see, well you’ve done some pretty thorough research as always. Perhaps drafting Aldon Smith at #11 wouldn’t be the end of the world, even if it is over Julio Jones AND Prince Amukamara.

(I actually really like Farrar’s writing, I just don’t think Smith has shown enough to contribute right away, which is a problem when your coach is going to be fired without a winning season.)

Now where was I? Ah yes, sitting down to watch a Youtube speed run of The Bouncer.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Julio Jones To The Texans? Zierlein Is Riding The Trolley

The Houston Chronicle’s Lance Zierlein joins Mel Kiper Jr.from a few months ago in speculating about a possible Julio Jones marriage to Houston at No. 11 as a clearcut case of Best Player Available. The way the board for his two-round mock plays out, Robert Quinn and Prince Amukamara are both off the board, leaving the Texans with a choice between Jones and Da’Quan Bowers, who continues to slide in the eyes of drafters due to his perceived struggles at Pro Days.

Of course, if the Texans actually encountered this situation, it’s likely that they’d trade the pick or select a defensive player, but it’s nice to see some verification out there from the real NFL scribes that Jones could make sense for the Texans at No. 11.

Zierlein sends Arizona linebacker Brooks Reed to the Texans in the second round of his mock. That’s also a very plausible pick, although given my man-crush on the skillset of Dontay Moch, I might wait and see if I could pick him up in the third round and instead spend the No. 42 overall pick on UCLA safety Rahim Moore.

A couple of noteworthy Texas picks in this mock: Texas cornerback/safety Aaron Williams manages to go to the Titans at #39 overall, joining Michael Griffin to form a pair of Longhorns in that secondary. TCU’s Andy Dalton goes to the Vikings at No. 43, Texas A&M’s Von Miller is a Bill at No. 3, and Baylor gets a pair of first round draft picks in Phil Taylor (21st overall to the Chiefs) and Danny Watkins (30th overall to the Jets).

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith To Texans In SB Nation's Latest Mock

Another week, another uninspired pick of Aldon Smith for the Texans. Yes, it makes sense schematically. Yes, the kid has great pass rush potential. No, neither of those two things will help the Texans win games this year. But will it stop them from making him the pick if he’s there at #11? SB Nation’s Brian Galliford explains:

11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Gary Kubiak has been hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth for years. He needs a playoff berth – and to secure a playoff berth, the Texans need to give Wade Phillips talent for his 3-4 defense. Smith is a bit raw, but has dominant potential.

Those are two very factual sentences. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that drafting Smith does much to save the jobs of those in the front office. Particularly when you consider that the Texans leave Robert Quinn and Da’Quan Bowers hanging around until later in this mock. But hey, at least the Texans have never been hurt by drafting for need before.

:listens:

Uh huh…uh huh…so he was the worst starting cornerback in the NFL last year? I see. Same scenario. Right. Well don’t worry, I’m sure the raw Aldon Smith will be totally different.

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2011 NFL Draft: More National Thoughts That Texans Could Draft A Defensive End Early

Several mock drafts have seen the Texans taking DE Cameron Jordan in the first round of this month's NFL Draft. Depending on the players left on the board, that could be a very smart pick for Houston. You can never have enough effective defensive linemen.

Here's yet another national writer saying Houston may look to the defensive end position, despite the fact that Antonio Smith and Mario Williams are entrenched into the two starting spots.

Before the Texans officially hired Wade Phillips to become their defensive coordinator, there were concerns amongst some Texans players that the 3-4 defense wouldn't be a good fit for their skill sets.

Of course, by now the players are all saying the right things and falling in line, as we knew they would.

From the above-linked article:

Antonio Smith is slated to be the starting left end. He played the same position in an odd front in Arizona earlier in his career, but we have heard concerns regarding his ability to hold the point of attack. Veteran DE Damione Lewis, perhaps better suited for the role, is an unrestricted free agent. Even if Smith does pan out, adding depth at the position will be critical.

The problem is, if Antonio Smith "doesn't pan out," that's not a position where the Texans can plug in a late-rounder or cheap free agent. It would be a shock if Smith wasn't the starter, considering 1) he's effectively played the position before, 2) he's making a ton of money for Houston, and 3) he was the Texans most consistent defensive lineman last season - arguably by FAR.

Even if Smith looks like he will make the transition to Wade's version of the 3-4 without any hiccups, the Texans will, as the article suggests, absolutely need to beef up their depth at the position. 

To have a solid defensive line rotation, the Texans would do well to add another DE who can do some damage right away. You can't get that in the late rounds. You can't get that from a cheap free agent. The Texans, with their multitude of defensive problems, are going to have to find a way to add a good rotational DE, or a versatile guy who can slide between tackle and end. That's certainly no small task, but it could absolutely be a key to the success of Houston's 2011 defense. 

When number 11 comes around on April 28, there's a very good chance that the best players for Houston's biggest need positions won't be on the board. Does the team then take a guy like Jordan? Or do they reach for a guy who fills a more dire need? 

Texans fans can only hope that the experience Wade Phillips brings to the draft War Room will be given final say over anything that Gary Kubiak or Rick Smith want on that side of the ball. Houston must, must hit on their early defensive picks. Their defense certainly isn't going to get any worse, but when you're as bad as they were last year, even significant improvement could leave them well-below average.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Thoughts On Walter Football's Six-Round Mock Haul For Texans

If you clicked this link, it's a virtual lock that you are familiar with WalterFootball.com. They live and breathe NFL Draft this time of year, and they take the time to do more than just the easily-digested one-round mock drafts we're all so accustomed to. 

Here is Walter Cherepinsky's six-round mock draft choices for the Houston Texans, with commentary and suggested other choices still on the board.

Walter Football's Six Round 2011 NFL Mock Draft

1. Robert Quinn, LB, North Carolina
I am certainly excited about the prospect of Quinn becoming a Texan. I feel like there's a decent chance someone will trade up to get him, but barring an unexpected fall from other prospects, I'd be very happy to see him in Houston.
Still on the board: DE Cameron Jordan, DT Phil Taylor

2. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Paea's incredible strength would be a good fit in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. Some say he's much more cut-out to be a 4-3 DT, but I think he'd do fine in Houston. I'd be absolutely JOYOUS to pull him in the second... except that Rahim Moore was also still around in this scenario. This would be a tough choice, but I'd lean Paea.
Still on the board: FS Rahim Moore

3. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
Serious character issues here. I'd rather the Texans look elsewhere.
Still on the board: S Quinton Carter, DE/OLB Dontay Moch

4. Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple
A solid player, but if the Texans are going to get a new FS, I'd rather have a free agent or a higher pick than the fourth, depending on who's available. That's not a knock on Jarrett, it's just where I am with the Texans' opinion of this position. 
Still on the board: DT Kenrick Ellis, FS Deunta Williams

5. Ahmad Black, SS, Florida
Actually not a bad coverage guy, for a strong safety. This is one of those situations where your opinion is skewed by how bad the team has been in the past. Black as a prospective starting SS in Houston in 2011 doesn't sound ideal, but when you put it up against the possibility of Troy Nolan starting, it starts to seem like a good idea. He's a decent value in the 5th.
Still on the board: OLB Chris Carter

6. Rick Elmore, DE/OLB, Arizona
Elmore is a high-motor guy, but isn't going to be confused for a great athlete. He's provided a good pass rush at Arizona, but a big knock against him is that he has trouble shedding blocks, and he's not a very good run defender.
Still on the board: ILB Greg Lloyd

If you haven't had enough, I did a "companion piece" to this story over at my, let's call it "Monday-Friday" blog, HoustonDiehards.com. This is my analysis of a four-round mock by Greg Cox, also of Walter Football. You can check that out here.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Julio Jones Tabbed By Texans For Battle Red Blog

In a move that will stun nobody who has been listening to most of the Texans blogosphere talk about the draft, Battle Red Blog defied the conventional wisdom that the Texans would have to pick defense in the first round by landing Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones in Mocking The Draft's SB Nation-wide mock draft. Jones was considered to be the best player available at the time, although Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers was close. Here's what Tim at Battle Red had to say about the pick: 

Tim explains: Wait a second, you say. Isn't the Houston defense terrible. Like, historically terrible? Indeed it is. We had every intention of drafting a defensive player with the eleventh overall pick of the 2011 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft. Really, we did. Unfortunately, the teams ahead of us refused to cooperate by letting any of the DBs, DTs, or OLBs we covet drop to us.

Thus, without the possibility of trading back in this mock draft, the fake Texans braintrust opted to go with the much-ballyhooed and all-too-rarely utilized- at least by your Texans - method of selecting the best player available in the first round. While the Houston passing game doesn't necessarily need Julio Jones lining up at wide receiver, the thought of Julio Jones and Andre Johnson on the field at the same time should be enough to give Texans fans the vapors and opposing defenses night terrors. We can't help ourselves. Jones is the type of special talent that demands you make exceptions to draft strategy, even if the draft strategy is as simple as "DRAFT DEFENSIVE PLAYERS BECAUSE THE ONES YOU HAVE ARE VERY BAD AT STOPPING NFL OFFENSES."

Of course, come April 28th, the Texans may well be more likely to take Cameron Jordan, J.J. Watt, Amobi Okoye or Aldon Smith if they stay at 11. Admittedly, with all the holes in their defense, the Texans would surely get KILLED by pundits and fans alike for taking an offensive player with the 11th overall pick. We happen to think Jones is worth suffering those slings and arrows. Julio now. Defense later. We promise.

As someone who was in on the discussions in the er, War Room, let me tell you that this was pick was almost unanimous throughout the BRB staff. None of us are too high on Aldon Smith, who is the logical pick at the spot according to Dan Kadar of MTD. Once Robert Quinn went off the board ninth to the Redskins, it was an easy call. This would be an obvious spot for a trade down for the real Texans, unless they covet Smith more than we do, but of course we weren't allowed to pursue that in the mock like Houston will be able to do in the real world.

And as I'm fond of pointing out, both as a pathetic reverse jinx and as a reminder to those of you who are incredulous, there is still absolutely no chance the Texans will draft Jones. It would be the most un-Texan pick anyone has ever witnessed.

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2011 NFL Draft: Texas A&M's Von Miller Among 20 Players Invited To Draft

With all the hubbub and chaos surrounding the NFL Draft this year over whether the (non union will let it's players attend the draft, hold some sort of event beforehand, or lock potential draft picks in a closet with nothing but a ping pong table until negotiations are done, the actual invitations to the draft were somewhat buried. Getting an invitation to the NFL Draft is as close to a lock at being a first round pick as there is--very few players that are among the 20 invites that don't eventually walk across that stage and shake the commissioner's hand in the first round.

So with that said, the NFL invited it's twenty players last night, and one of them was Texas A&M's Von Miller, who will likely be selected somewhere between the third and seventh picks in this year's draft:

League sources told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that 20 players have been invited to attend the draft. Among the prospects to receive invitations are Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and running back Mark Ingram, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara

It wasn't really in question at this point that Miller would be a first round pick, so this is more interesting for the lower names that were picked like Ingram and Washington QB Jake Locker. But let it be known: Von Miller is going to be a very high pick in this year's draft, and whoever gets him will have a pure disruptor on defense.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: A Rick Smith-like Houston Texans Mock Draft

Last week, I teased that it was time for another "realistic" Texans mock draft, and I’m here to deliver on that. Of course, there was a tweak to Houston’s draft class last week as the Texans were given a seventh round compensatory pick.

As we sit a month away from the draft, I firmly believe that Houston’s draft board is more or less finalized as the collegiate pro days are almost complete. Sure, there are teams who are now doing private workouts, but those are often a misdirection smokescreen to keep teams, and the media, guessing. 

Before we get to the realistic Texans mock, let’s do a quick refresh of what makes a Texans draft pick. You can click here for a full summary, but I’ll break it down for those wanting a quick read: Houston drafts based on need for the first three rounds before switching to a pseudo-best talent available model for the late round picks and ending with a high-ceiling project or two. Texans draft picks have typically been captains of their college teams and have experience playing within similar schemes. The Texans traditionally double dip at one position in the draft (having done that six of nine drafts). Rick Smith wise, he favors players from southeastern and west coast colleges as they combine for 21 of his 31 picks.

One big rule I forgot about in the initial post was that the Texans usually won’t draft someone whose name has been attached to them in the draft process. 

Let’s put on our Rick Smith cap and get mocking…trying to stick as close to the formula as possible.


Round 1: The easy mock pick has been North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn to land in Houston, so that’s part of why it won’t happen. Looking at the formula, Quinn also doesn’t have the captain’s patch or schematic fit part down. Even if he has the talent, it hasn’t been demonstrated on the game film consistently or against quality opponents, yet more reasons why this pick won’t happen. The Texans may make surprise picks, but they don’t tend to take players with a lot of red flags in his profile. 

I would slot Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara here, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be available at 11, especially with San Francisco and Dallas ahead of them – also in need of a cornerback. 

Keeping in mind that I’m acting as Rick Smith, there has to be a first round pick that catches everyone off guard but can be justified as well. The 2011 surprise pick comes in the form of Miami (FL) CB Brandon Harris. Harris has been mocked everywhere from 14th to the mid-40s. That range comes from the fact that A) some teams have more pressing needs at other positions and B) he hasn’t had a dynamic pre-draft season to rise like other players. Ignoring those two things for a second, Harris is a really good talent and coming off a season where he was a key component for one of the nation’s best secondaries. 

Why would the Texans like him? Well, he’s another player from The U (they had six on roster at the end of last season), described as a coachable leader, willing and able to support the run, has good recovery speed, and very comfortable playing man-to-man (something that will be needed more since Wade puts a premium on getting after the passer). His only faults come in playing zone defense and jamming, but that, theoretically, could be corrected with coaching and experience. Taking Harris would also, when combined with signing a veteran free agent cornerback, allow the Texans to move Glover Quin to free safety.

Round 2: Having gone cornerback in round one, that means this pick needs to be at outside linebacker. The problem? There isn’t anyone worth that pick that provides value here. A guy like Penn State C/G Stefen Wisniewski interests me, but I’ve got the Smith cap on today. 

We turn our attention to safety where a guy like Oklahoma S Quinton Carter could be the pick. Carter played both free and strong safety in Norman, something that Wade Phillips likes in his safeties. Carter’s probably more of a strong safety in the NFL, but he’s able to support the run, play centerfield, or slide down into the slot - which also sounds like Glover Quin. Back to Carter, his versatility at need positions makes him a schematic fit, very attractive to Wade and the pick in round two. 

Round 3: The OLB position is something I can’t ignore any longer. While Dontay Moch would fit well with the Texans’ history of raw projects in round three, I expect him to land in New York or Pittsburgh at the end of round two. The guy who, while still raw, has helped his stock out lately is Fresno State OLB/DE Chris Carter. 

Carter, the 2010 WAC defensive player of the year, was quietly a force for the Bulldogs. As a DE/LB hybrid, he had 55 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, and 11 sacks (seventh in the nation). At the Combine, he had an incredible 10-yard split (a sign of burst and acceleration) of 1.59 seconds to go along with 27 reps, and a strong display in the three-cone drill (tests change of direction). Carter would be a nice fit on the linebacking corps and could make an impact early with his pass rushing abilities -either standing up or putting his hand on the ground when Wade mixes his defenses up.

Round 4: It’s the fourth round which means I must fight the urge to draft a Wisconsin tight end, Lance Kendricks is this year’s model, and attempt to fill more holes. Arizona State DE/DT Lawrence Guy can fill a hole or two. 

There’s not a lot of depth along the lines for Houston because of the 3-4 transition. Guy has a nice burst of quickness and has upper body strength to clog some lanes. He could fit in at either the nose or defensive end in Wade’s one-gap scheme and could even factor in when Houston switches to a four-man front. A versatile defensive lineman would be a fantastic value pick in the middle of the draft. 

Round 5: The Texans need more quality depth at cornerback behind Kareem Jackson and a veteran CB (the rumored, targeted free agent) especially if they move Quin to free safety. Harris, our earlier pick, would occupy the nickel until he was ready to start, but the Texans need someone to supplant Brice McCain. This is where speedy University of Tennessee-Chattanooga CB Buster Skrine, who had as good a Combine day as any cornerback, comes in. He and Sherrick McManis can compete for the dime with the loser being a top special team contributor and someone the fans talk about moving to free safety some day. 

Round 6: The Texans need to grab another 3-4 OLB and have yet to grab another player from the Virginia/Virginia Tech/West Virginia region that they love so much. Virginia Tech OLB Steven Friday would allow them to check all of that off their draft list. Friday is a solid choice, but I wouldn’t expect him to be anything more than solid depth. This year’s class is thinner than your average year, so I really don’t expect much out of the latter round guys.

Round 7 (1): The Texans have added depth across the board, but one position that could use another body is inside linebacker. California ILB Mike Mohamed’s played in the 3-4 and played well, so he should, at the very least, make a decent special teamer/depth for the Texans. 

Round 7 (2): The Texans aren’t thrilled with the development of Dan Orlovsky, as evidenced by the continued retention of Matt Leinart, and it’s been a while since Coach Kubiak had a project quarterback to develop. 

Texas 
A&M QB Jerrod Johnson has seen his stock go south due to injury and not having a great 2010 season. His name has been mentioned a few times to Kubiak, and I can see the Texans using this pick to make Johnson a Texan as opposed to letting him hit the rookie free agent market. The Texans could then cut Dan O, make Johnson the third-stringer and develop him behind Matt Schaub and Leinart. 

There you have it, a Rick Smith-think draft. No picks are really splashy, but they’re all some combination of scheme fits, leaders, character guys, fill needs, and could, hypothetically, contribute early. While they could make an impact, the ceilings are definitely not as high as some of the frequently mocked names. That’s really the biggest trait a Houston draft pick has when you think about it. 

Next week, I’ll break down the mock pick made for Houston made during Battle Red Blog’s first round mock. I’ll also, time permitting, break out my own full first-round mock since we’re less than a month away from the 2011 NFL Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Farrar Sets Texans Up With Aldon Smith Again

Standout University of Missouri DE/LB hybrid Aldon Smith continues to be one of the top selections for the Texans in mock drafts, and just as he did last week, Yahoo!‘s Doug Farrar has sent him to fill the Houston Texans 3-4 edge rusher role. Here’s how it shakes out in Farrar’s mind, and why he picked Smith over Auburn’s Nick Fairley for the Texans:

Wade Phillips’s new 3-4 defense in Houston needs an edge rusher like Phillips had in San Diego with Shawne Merriman(notes) and in Dallas with DeMarcus Ware(notes). And when Phillips sets his 5-2 defense to more of a four-man front, and everyone heeds to switch gaps, he also needs the kind of edge rusher who can slip inside and help stop the run. That’s Smith to a “T” — not only can he disrupt blockers and split gaps with the best of them, but he can also use misdirection to blow through and tackle any type of ballcarrier in the backfield.

This is a really awkward scenario for the Texans to draft from. North Carolina’s Robert Quinn is off the board, as are Alabama WR Julio Jones and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. Instead, the “top tier” defensive prospect who gets knocked down a bit is Fairley, who is more of a 4-3 tackle to me than a 3-4 nose, even in Phillips’ scheme.

In this case, the Texans probably couldn’t be faulted for going with Smith, although Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt will probably enter the equation if it does play out.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Amukamara And Taylor Are Texans In Mocking The Draft's Latest

You’re not gonna believe this, but it turns out that as the draft draws near, we get more and more mocks. This time, SB Nation’s Mocking The Draft provides a mock from Chris Steuber, who is the director of pro player personnel for the Georgia Force of the AFL. Who does he have joining the Texans in his two round mock? Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara and Baylor DT Phil Taylor.

We’ve been over Amukamara again and again. I’m fine with him at No. 11, though I’d rather take Robert Quinn and get some veterans to improve the secondary. We haven’t talked much about Taylor though, mostly because he’s not considered a prospect that should be in play at No. 11 overall. He’s going way before the Texans normally get a chance to take him at No. 42 in most drafts, but here he slides way down the board.

I would love Taylor as a second round pick: he fills a need position, and even though he’s sort of a one-year wonder, so was Dan Williams last year when the Texans passed on him. Would I take him over UCLA safety Rahim Moore? Probably not. But it’s not a completely asinine pick for the Texans, and it’s good to know that outsiders can see that Earl Mitchell, starting nose tackle, isn’t a dream that makes many of us happy.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Julio Jones To The Texans In SB Nation's Latest Mock

John McClain, hold on to your heart! Despite a porous defense ruining last season, the Houston Texans will buck drafting for need and select the best player available in this week’s SB Nation Mock Draft. Yes, that’s right, Julio Jones is coming to town. (In our dreams.) Here’s what SB Nation has to say about this pick:

11. Houston Texans: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. Yeah, Wade Phillips needs front seven talent for his new 3-4 defense. Gary Kubiak, however, is on his last legs – he needs the highest-impact player he can get. Pairing Jones with Andre Johnson would do wonders for an already potent Texans offense.

If there’s anywhere not on defense that the Texans would seem to need some young bodies, it would be wide receiver. Andre Johnson isn’t getting any younger, and Jacoby Jones bombed last year’s test as “all tools guy who stretches the field.” Kevin Walter and David Anderson are both stellar receivers, but none of them have the same kind of upside as Jones, who ran a 4.39 at the NFL Combine on a broken foot.

Of course, this pick will never happen with this Texans braintrust. Not in a million years. But you can’t stop us from dreaming about it.

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2011 NFL Draft: What If The Texans Had Taken The Best Player Available?

In Rick Smith's tenure in Houston as the General Manager, he's yet to take the Best Player Available in any of the drafts he's overseen, unless it fit a specific need for the Texans at the time. Having covered Smith's drafts from 2007 to the present, I can recall with accuracy the players that were discussed as the best available. For instance, I don't recall many people screaming for the Texans to draft Darelle Revis over Okoye in 2007, so don't expect to see that name. I'm going to avoid hindsight here.

2007
The pick: DT Amobi Okoye, #10
Best Player Available: Okoye
Seemed like a good idea at the time. I was certainly on board. Okoye was very young and considered to be highly-intelligent, coachable, and on his way to big things in the NFL. Instead, we ended up with a guy who has done little to earn his draft slot, and who isn't likely to make the team in 2011.

Other BPA in the mix: LB Patrick Willis

2008
The pick: LT Duane Brown, #26

Best Player Available: RB Rashard Mendenhall
The Texans were in need of a running back, and Mendenhall was there when Houston originally went on the clock at #18, but they traded down with Baltimore to drop to 26, picking up an extra third-rounder, which ended up being Steve Slaton. We can't complain about our running back situation much these days, but Mendenhall was thought to be a great fit for Houston's running scheme, run at the time by zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs. Mendenhall got off to a rocky start in Pittsburgh but has since become their primary runner, and on the cusp of a franchise-level RB. 

The Texans needed their franchise LT in 2008, and while Brown has been excellent as a run-blocker, his pass-blocking leaves much to be desired. Slaton of course had an incredible rookie campaign, but has since fallen back to Earth. Like Okoye, he will have a hard time making the team in 2011.

Other BPA in the mix: CB Antoine Cason

2009
The pick: LB Brian Cushing, #15

Best Player Available: Cushing, or OT Michael Oher
There's no way the Texans were going to draft a franchise tackle with Eric Winston and Duane Brown in place, but Oher was thought at the time to be among the most talented left on the board when their pick came up. The Texans absolutely could have adjusted the line to accommodate Oher, but strongside LB was certainly a huge need for Houston at the time. There's really no basis to argue the Cushing pick without the benefit of hindsight (except that I preferred Clay Matthews, but at least he plays the same position). Cushing easily could be considered the second BPA selection for Rick Smith, but only because it also filled a dire need for the Texans at the time.

Other BPA in the mix: C Alex Mack

2010
The pick: (gulp) CB Kareem Jackson, #20

Best Player Available: WR Dez Bryant
Of course, there was no chance the Texans were going to take Bryant, but he was by far the best player left on the board. The real problem here, is that the Texans simply didn't take the best available CORNERBACK. We've since been sickened by the repeated "Kareem was the most NFL-ready CB in the draft" hogwash. Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty were thought to be more likely picks for Houston (especially Wilson) and of those two I was a big McCourty fan. He turned out to be one of the top corners in the AFC in 2010, on top of being the best rookie. McCourty ended up being a New England Patriot, so who knows how well he would have done in Houston under the instruction of former position coach David Gibbs, and former defensive coordinator Frank Bush.

The guy I really wanted in last year's draft was DT Dan Williams, but that was never going to happen.

Other BPA in the mix: TE Jermaine Gresham

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper And Todd McShay Discuss Texans Options

Nick Scurfield over at HoustonTexans.com passes along word that ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper and Todd McShay podcasted about possible fits for the Texans with the eleventh overall pick. McShay believes North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn will be the pick at 11, while Kiper thinks the Texans will come around on Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt. McShay was effusive in his praise for Quinn, saying he thinks that he will be “one of the seven, eight, nine best players in this year’s draft.” Here’s some more from that interview:

I still think he’s (Quinn) a work in progress. You go back and watch that tape from a year ago. I just watched the Virginia Tech game; it was one of the last games I had to watch on him. He makes some special plays. He’ll fly around. He doesn’t always finish, but he’s disruptive as all get out.

I think McShay sells the Texans pass rush a little short—or at least I would if the Texans were still playing a 4-3—but it’s nice to see a draftnik who recognizes that the Texans need help at both safety positions, because they were horrendous at those spots last season. And every season that they’ve ever played minus 2009.

They also spent a little time at the end talking about how awful Kareem Jackson was last year and how badly the Texans need him to turn it around this year. It’s worth a listen.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft Thread: There's No Such Thing As A Sure-Fire Texans Pick

I’m not going to break down any mock drafts this week, so apologies if you’re looking for that. I know there are a lot of readers searching for mocks, but they're tending to read very monotonously (as in, Robert Quinn is getting the mock selection in nearly every one). This isn't a great sign considering that a mock is usually considered good-to-great when someone gets seven picks correctly. While mock drafting is a fun exercise, it's ultimately rather pointless and incorrect (which is why I'll never pay for ESPN Insider to read a bunch of Mel Kiper Jr's and Todd McShay's mock drafts). 

Why am I saying this? Well, all thoughts on the Texans mock picks read something like this: "The Texans are definitely looking to upgrade their front seven" or "The Texans defense was bad, so the picks go defensively" or "The Texans have to stop Peyton Manning." I've read mocks claim that the Texans are head over heels for a certain prospect and I laugh. 

How do these mockers know that? The Texans give away no hints on prospects. Heck, they rarely even talk to anyone their interested in (example: Kareem Jackson never talked to Houston officials during the pre-draft season). I'm sitting here and can't recall ever hearing a word from their scouting department and getting anything but stock answers from general manager Rick Smith. 

The point being that these sure-fire picks aren't sure-fire. The Texans will spring surprises on NFL Draft weekend as they typically have because they tend to avoid players whose names have been associated with them. No one should assume these picks are going to be all defensive and don't assume that they'll be the "brand" names. The Texans have repeatedly shown that they draft to the beat of their own drum, and many mockers continue to ignore the traits of a Texan draft pick. For those fans dreaming/dreading Robert Quinn in Houston, don’t get too excited/worried as it stands a good chance of not happening.

Speaking of traits of a Texan draft pick, it’s just about time to enter the mind of Rick Smith as we are 34 days away from the 2011 NFL Draft. 

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Prince Amukamara And Brooks Reed Are The Latest Texans Class From Mocking The Draft

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: it turns out that the Texans need help in their secondary, and should Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara fall to their spot, mock drafters snap him up in a flash. Mocking The Draft is the latest website to do that, and here’s what they have to say about it:

Amukamara will join a much criticized defensive backfield in Houston and hope to right the ship. He is a technically sound corner with the potential to shutdown his side of the field.

In the second round of their mock, they pair Amukamara with Arizona OLB/DE Brooks Reed:

Wade Phillips is bring the 3-4 defense to Houston and pieces will need to be added. Reed is a rising prospect that could fit at the outside linebacker position.

I still think the Texans are better off with North Carolina’s Robert Quinn over Amukamara at #11, although it’s not close enough to bother me. I do loathe any mock draft that has us selecting a cornerback or outside linebacker over Oregon State’s Stephen Paea if he somehow falls to Houston’s second round pick. Of course, I loathe it more for it’s accuracy than anything, because Earl Mitchell is a perfectly capable nose tackle, as we all know and are sure to find out this season.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Gets Another Vote For Texans

What is a defense hungry team to do with Robert Quinn and Julio Jones on the board? Why, they’re taking Aldon Smith, that’s what! Draft Countdown is the latest mock draft to link Smith’s pass rushing tools to the Texans. Here’s what they have to say about the pick:

With a potent offense already in place, the Texans will look to address their leaky defense with this pick. Houston’s secondary was an absolute mess last season so in a perfect world they would probably jump at the chance to add a stud cornerback like Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara. However, odds are Amukamara will be gone and they’ll be forced to look elsewhere. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is installing a 3-4 scheme and will need some new personnel, with a pass rushing outside linebacker topping the list. Missouri’s Aldon Smith came out as a redshirt sophomore and is still a bit raw but he’s an amazing athlete with a rangy frame and great speed who has drawn favorable comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. A dynamic threat off the edge, Smith has shown the ability to play on his feet and in space and could be the Texans very own version of DeMarcus Ware. North Carolina’s Robert Quinn could also be a possibility if he slipped this far. Based on their needs and the talent available, it might actually be in Houston’s best interests to trade up a little bit to position themselves for Amukamara or perhaps even hometown hero Von Miller of Texas A&M.

As we’ve been over, I’m not real wild on Smith over Quinn, and if Quinn and Amukamara are both gone, the best player available would have to be Julio Jones. Trading up to nab anyone with the dearth of overall talent the Texans have would be similarly undesirable.

Draft Countdown also ran a second round mock, where they gave the Texans talented-but-injury-prone Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling. I think that’s another questionable pick considering UCLA safety Rahim Moore is still on the board.

The draft is only about a month away, but I think we’ve seen the trend line move more and more towards Smith and Quinn. The Texans really do need that edge rusher more than anything.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Why Aldon Smith Could Be A Good Fit For The Texans

Just about every Mock Draft we've seen has the Texans looking for help on the defensive side, particularly along the front seven where they will be transitioning to a new defensive scheme. Defensive end happens to be a position of strength in this draft, and it could be something the Texans target.

In the latest version of their 2011 NFL Mock Draft, the fellas over at SB Nation have the Texans taking Missouri Defensive End Aldon Smith. Here is their rationale.

Some question whether or not Smith is capable of playing 3-4 outside linebacker. In Wade Phillips' one-gap system, his natural athleticism and pass rushing ability would be at the forefront.

Smith measured out with pretty good size for a 3-4 outside linebacker at the NFL Combine, and might be a little bit too small to play 4-3 defensive end like he was in College. But an undersized defensive end would make for an excellent pass rushing outside linebacker for the Texans. He is a bit of a project, but he has the potential to develop into an excellent player.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Jordan, Amukamara Are Latest Top Picks From CBS Draft Analysts Rang & Reuter

CBSsports.com's Rob Rang has the Texans bucking conventional wisdom in his latest Mock Draft, with Houston selecting 3-4 defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Rang has the Washington Redskins selecting current Texans' Mock Draft favorite Robert Quinn in the No. 10 slot. While I'm not sure the Redskins will pull the trigger on Quinn if he's there, I have nearly convinced myself that the talent and upside of Robert Quinn will have him off the board before the Texans pick at No. 11. If Quinn gets past the 49ers in the seventh slot, I won't be surprised at all if a team trades up to get him.

Cameron Jordan is thought to be one of the safer picks in the first round's top half. He's got elite strength, and many think he's a sure-thing to be at least a solid five technique defensive end at the next level. He would give the Texans some versatility and exciting rotational choices if he were to join the team. Though the Texans certainly have bigger areas of need, Jordan at No. 11 would be a better play than reaching for a rushing OLB, which may be the team's only choice if Quinn is off the board and they can't manage to trade down.

In Rang's latest Mock Draft, I would have... taken WR Julio Jones, who went to the St. Louis Rams in this scenario. The Texans are in desperate need of defensive help, but with top rush OLBs off the board and no safety worth anything close to a first round pick, I'd go with Jones in a blatant argument for Houston going with the best player available. 

Rang's CBSsports.com cohort Chad Reuter has the Texans selecting Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara with their first round selection. In Reuter's scenario, Quinn is there when the Texans pick, but understandably he has Houston shoring up their God-awful secondary with Amukamara, who is widely accepted to be the second-best corner in the draft behind LSU's Patrick Peterson.

I'm starting to prepare myself for Amukamara being the pick. It seems like complete lunacy for the Texans to add yet another starting rookie corner to their ranks after last season's Kareem Jackson disaster, but Prince would certainly be an upgrade over what they have now. He is far more heralded than Jackson was last season, but I think most sane Texans fans agree that the team needs a veteran starting corner in 2011.

In Reuter's latest Mock Draft, I would have... selected OLB Robert Quinn, who went to the Minnesota Vikings with the next pick. Quinn is thought to be a top-five talent, but of course the tumor issue and his having to sit out last season knocked him down a few pegs (and likely will cost him a lot of money).

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mocking The Draft Gives Texans Aldon Smith

While most of the recent mock drafts have given the Texans either Robert Quinn or Prince Amukamara, Mocking The Draft’s Dan Kadar is a man after my own heart. By that, I mean that he knows that neither of them will actually be on the board at #11. With them off the board, Houston is free to pursue it’s 3-4 OLB agenda by selecting previous mock draft crush Aldon Smith. Here’s what Kadar has to say about the pick:

Aldon Smith | Defensive end/Outside linebacker | Missouri: As the Texans transition to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense, it’s paramnout they add a pass rusher. Unless the team trades up to get Von Miller or Robert Quinn, Smith is arguably the best 3-4 rusher in this draft. Houston has a lot of good pieces in their front seven with Mario Williams at end and DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing at linebacker. A lot is also expected of Connor Barwin as a pass rusher in 2011. Still, Smith gives them an element they don’t currently possess.

- Scouting report -

It’s also worth noting that Kadar put up a draft of the second round, where he has the Texans selecting Utah CB Brandon Burton over Oregon State DT Stephen Paea. Why yes, that was the sound of my blood vessels popping. Thanks for asking.

If the Texans are really faced with the conundrum of Smith as the top-rated player on their board, I’d really hope that they trade down. After Quinn and Texas A&M’s Von Miller are gone, I don’t think any of the first/second round OLB’s have much to separate them from each other. Why go Smith when you could go Arizona OLB Brooks Reed or Nevada OLB Dontay Moch later?

Nevertheless, most mocks don’t incorporate trading down. So…Aldon Smith everyone! Are we happy?

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Julio Jones Hits The Mock Radar

Breaking up the monotony that is Robert Quinn (defensive end from North Carolina) being mock drafted by your Houston Texans with the 11th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, we've found a mock where Houston takes Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. 

While fans have been clamoring for it, this mock comes from an unnamed scout of an AFC team on NFL.com. I make a note of this mock because it's the first mock I have seen from anyone affiliated with any franchise. It's one of the few mocks I've seen where there's impeccable logic and reason for each team. So what does the mocker say about the Texans taking Jones, who would join fellow Crimson Tide alum DeMeco Ryans, Antonie Caldwell, and Kareem Jackson in Houston? 

Sure, they have tons of needs as Wade Phillips installs a new 3-4 defense, but in the end they'll be thrilled to match Jones with Andre Johnson.

It makes sense when you think about the pick. Jones, in this scenario, would be the best player available. It's one of the oldest draft adages around: just add talent that you know will succeed. Heck, it's the safe route to take a man who has been an elite receiver in college and dominated the NFL Combine on a broken foot. 

From a need standpoint, Houston could use a viable second option to take pressure off of Andre Johnson. This move would provide that and allow Kevin Walter to move into the slot while Dorin Dickerson and David Anderson could be brought in when the team goes four or five wide. Not only does the offense improve, but there's a safety net there in case Johnson gets nicked up. As was evidenced in the games #80 missed in 2010, the passing game disappears without Johnson.

Would Jones be a smart pick? Yes. Would he be a safe pick? Yes. Is he the likely pick? Not at the moment. It's widely assumed that Houston will throw most of their draft defensively to add talent and depth to one of the league's worst defenses. At this point, Jones is just a dream, but it is nice to see some people who believe Houston should just go best player available and not ignore offensive players in April.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Todd McShay Mock Sends Robert Quinn To Texans

Yes, I know. Ho hum, it’s another selection of Robert Quinn for the Houston Texans. But this time it’s ESPN’s Todd McShay, which makes it a much bigger deal! In theory, at least. Here’s what ESPN AFC South Blogger Paul Kuharsky had to say about the pick:

Could the Texans take another cornerback? Yes. But it sure seems like a veteran leader would be a better add than another kid, no matter how ready and confident he appears. Quinn seems like a better match, as the Texans certainly need pieces for their revamped 3-4 front and there isn’t a proven 3-4 outside linebacker on the team.

Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki selected Miami cornerback Brandon Harris for the team, which would have been great if this was a second-round mock. If Harris is actually the pick in April, Texans fans would be well-advised to cheer for the lockout to last throughout the season.

It’s getting hard to add new commentary on Quinn at this point. I still think he’s the best player on the board that the Texans are likely to get as far as skill and need. It seems like they’d consider him at #11. I think the Texans would rather have Prince Amukamara, but they would probably be pretty satisfied with Quinn at #11. It’s the scenario where they’re both off the board where things get interesting, especially because selecting Julio Jones would be almost out of the question for this Texans staff.

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2011 NFL Draft: Are The DEs The Best Selection For Houston?

As we hustle along the road to the 2011 NFL Draft, I have written many a time here and on Battle Red Blog that I wasn’t too excited about drafting a defensive end and converting him to a linebacker in round one. That sentiment has only grown to an out and out dismissal of the idea in favor of trading back, nabbing an extra pick, and selecting Illinois LB Martez Wilson. As someone said to me, "Why take a square and make him into a circle when you can take a more polished circle?"

That’s not to say that the DE/LB conversion can’t be done. Many point to Dallas OLB, and Wade Phillips project, DeMarcus Ware as what the Texans could do with their 1st round pick. Many salivate at the thought of a Ware-like ‘backer in Houston, but he’ll be quick to remind people that it was a learning process and transition. In fact, he says it took two years for him to feel comfortable as a 3-4 LB. The raw statistics will support that as Ware went from 19.5 sacks in his first two seasons to 34 in his next two. Houston fans would be thrilled with 19.5 over two seasons, but I digress from the point that Ware had a transition period where his game had to develop beyond using a speed rush.

Those two years of development may raise a flag in some people’s heads as the Texans are more in win now mode – especially general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak. A lot has been said about those two feeling that pressure and making sure that whoever is drafted is able to make an immediate impact. Do those two have time to wait on a more raw project to develop? Are defensive ends Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn really the best picks for this defense?

I don’t believe they are nor do I believe the team can wait on someone who'll need more time to develop. I’ve mentioned his name before (and he is someone they've met with as well),  but Illinois LB Martez Wilson does get my full endorsement for being Houston’s 1st round pick (after a trade down of course). Wilson’s athletically gifted enough to play any of the four LB positions and is far more polished as a LB than any DE. He has a better understanding of reading offenses, standing up as opposed to putting his hand down, and dropping into coverage because he's done that already. Did I mention that taking him means trading back and nabbing an extra pick or two as well? 

While Wilson’s ceiling may not be as high as a Smith or Quinn, he’s more of a sure thing – however sure anyone can be about any of these prospects. He’s coming off a season where he finally put everything together and had a monstrous year earning first-team All-Big Ten honors at inside linebacker with 112 tackles (11.5 for a loss), four sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception, four passes defensed, and a blocked kick. Not to mention that he was a co-captain, which the Texans value greatly, for the Illini in nine of their 2010 games.

By touting Wilson I’m putting stock in the full recovery of Connor Barwin, someone who was scouted as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker when he came out of Cincinnati, to take up the weak-side pass rusher with Wilson on the strong-side. Even still, I’d rather have the guy with proven success as a linebacker than taking a chance on a developing, transitioning defensive end. Perhaps it’s not as risk-taking as some want the Texans to be, but they can’t afford to miss on this draft – they need an immediate impact…at least in this writer’s mind.  

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Three Choices For The Texans According To Lance Zierlein

We’ve reached the point of over-saturation with this draft. I can tell because the names keep staying the same, rather than getting different. Lance Zierlein’s View From The Sideline put up a different kind of mock draft yesterday: one with three separate picks for each team based on how the draft unfolds in front of them. The three Texans choices? You’ve seen them before: Prince Amukamara, Robert Quinn, and J.J. Watt.

Houston Texans

(1) Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
(2) J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
(3) Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

The Texans almost have to draft on the defensive side of the ball. Amukamara is an immediate upgrade, but the Texans may look to add to the front via the draft and the secondary via free agency or in the second/third round.

One point that is definitely going in Amukamara’s favor in this point is that there are quite a few 3-4 outside linebackers getting hyped up as decent second round picks. Guys like Arizona’s Brooks Reed or Nevada’s Dontay Moch could be around at the start of round two for the Texans, whereas if they had to draft a defensive back, the only choice that would really be a coup in value for the Texans is UCLA safety Rahim Moore.

For that reason, and buoyed by the fact that John McClain wrote up a piece on him at the draft, I believe Amukamara is probably ahead of Quinn on the Texans board. Quinn’s suspension last year probably does him no favors either, especially considering how hypersensitive the Texans are about drafting high-character players.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Nick Fairley Slides To The Texans In SB Nation's Latest Mock

The mock draft world has come down pretty hard on Nick Fairley since the NFL Combine, where he didn’t look like he put in the requisite work to belong on the same field as Marcell Dareus. Where he was once in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick that would be going to the Panthers, he’s now consistently around for the Titans at No. 8. In this week’s SB Nation mock, Fairley falls all the way to the Texans at No. 11. Here’s Brian Galliford’s reasoning:

11. Houston Texans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Wade Phillips’ 3-4 under defense is predicated on having elite talent at pretty much every position in the front seven. Fairley’s athleticism gives him the range to play end for Phillips, and eliminates some of the worry about him wearing down during games.

I would say it’s fairly unlikely this pick will get made. The Texans keep talking as if they’re set at defensive tackle with Earl Mitchell and Shaun Cody, and every scrap of available evidence says that they will go with a 3-4 rush linebacker or a defensive back. Or a trade down.

But there are much worse ways for a mock to go than this. Fairley is clearly one of the top nine players in the draft in my eyes, and if three quarterbacks go in the first ten selections? The Texans will be sitting pretty in that scenario.

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A Look At The Most Popular Texans 1st Round Mock Draft Selections

Thinking too much about the NFL Lockout makes my head feel like I've been hammering nails with it all day. What doesn't hurt at all, though, is repeated NFL Draft talk. It's exciting! Right?

I don't want to bang the self-promotion drum here, but my source for this entry is, in fact, my own 2011 Texans Mock Draft Tracker that I keep over at my regular Internet cage. Here is some reaction to the current top four predicted first-round Texans picks, roughly a month and a half away from the 2011 NFL Draft.

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina

The way the mocks are shaking out, it seems as if Quinn is going to be the best player Houston can hope to draft. Other favorites are staying in the top ten, and Quinn may still join them. He's an explosive pass-rusher, and his talent and potential are undeniable. There is a health risk involved, as Quinn has a benign tumor in his brain that has caused severe headaches and blackouts. There is also the question of his losing an entire college season due to accepting gifts from an agent - but I don't think anyone really cares about the character end of that as much as the side that made him lose a year of experience and development. 

Fit for the Texans - Fantastic. He'd be the pass-rushing OLB the Texans so desperately need going into their first year of the Wade Phillips 3-4 defense.

Chances he is available at #11 - Not good. I don't care what the mocks say. I think Quinn is an elite talent, and I won't be at all surprised to see someone trade up ahead of the Texans to nab him.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Prince is overwhelmingly thought to be the second-best corner in the draft behind LSU's Patrick Peterson. I'm not convinced, but more importantly, the last thing the Texans need is another starting rookie cornerback. We know the way the Texans operate, and they wouldn't draft a first round corner to play the nickel (or even have to earn a starting spot. See: Jackson, Kareem).

Fit for the Texans - Sure, he'd fit. But only because there's such a lack of talent at the position. The Texans need a veteran corner, not another rookie. As a safety convert, he is intriguing - but the Texans would be foolish to spend a first round pick on a guy and then immediately change his position. 

Chances he is available at #11 - Very good. I don't think the Cowboys are as enamored with Prince as a lot of mock drafts suggest. 

Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

Incredibly athletic and tough. He could very well become an solid pass-rusher as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. Problem is, he is very young, and his draft stock is largely based on potential, not performance. 

Fit for the Texans - I wouldn't go this route. He may turn out to be fantastic, but the Texans can't gamble on potential in this draft. If they are going to get their rush OLB, it needs to be a guy who has proven it on the field. If he was around in the late first after a trade down, I would be a little more open to this but it's hard to ignore the "potential vs. production" argument when you consider how the Amobi Okoye pick turned out.

Chances he is available at #11 - Almost certainly. 

Cameron Jordan, DE, California

A great run defender, and one of the top 3-4 DE prospects in the draft. He has elite strength, and plays consistently with that "low pad level" you hear draft analysts refer to. I feel he will be an excellent NFL 3-4 five technique.

Fit for the Texans - If they aren't completely in love with Antonio Smith, Cameron Jordan would be a great fit. If Jordan is higher on their board than available OLBs at #11, I won't be surprised (or disappointed) at all if they take him. He could give the defensive line some serious depth and versatility. Obviously, I'd rather them get their rush OLB, but if there isn't a great option at that position on the board, I'd much rather see the Texans snatch up Jordan over reaching on their biggest need position. 

Chances he is available at #11 - Fair. This is the guy I think the Cowboys covet most, of the realistic options to be on the board when they pick at nine. That said if he makes it past Dallas, he should be there at 11 unless someone trades up.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Justin Houston To Houston, Says Lance Zierlein

Here’s one we haven’t seen yet. The Houston Chronicle’s Lance Zierlein has reached deep into the well for the Texans at #11 and pulled out Georgia linebacker Justin Houston. The UGA standout is considered a pretty good 3-4 pass-rush prospect in his own right, and if the Texans are left with a board where North Carolina linebacker Robert Quinn and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller are off the board, it wouldn’t be a complete shocker if they bypassed Missouri linebacker Aldon Smith and went with Houston at #11. This is the organization that picked Kareem Jackson over Kyle Wilson and traded down to the bottom of the first round to select Duane Brown; they are clearly married to their board for better or for worse. Here’s what Lance had to say about the pick:

11. Houston – Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia

Z-Report Says: The first “reach” of the draft and I have that reach tied to the Texans. I will admit that this pick wouldn’t be the favorite in this spot, especially with Amukamara on the board, but Houston is one of the best pure pass-rushing OLBs in this draft and has the type of explosive numbers that will catch the Texans eyes. Keep in mind that Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has coached for the Texans under Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense and has NFL ties so if he likes Justin Houston, that could help his standing with NFL teams including the Texans who are in dire need of an impact edge rusher. Is Houston stiff in coverage? Yes, however, ability to cover in space is much lower on the priority scale than rushing the passer and Houston has been a productive pass rusher in the SEC which carries some weight with NFL teams.

I would think that Houston would be a solid Texans target should they trade down, but I wouldn’t be terribly happy with picking him at #11. Especially over Amukamara. If you look at it from a football perspective rather than a value perspective though, and value is often extremely relative when it comes to the NFL Draft, it does make some sense for Houston. Both of them.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Is Martez Wilson The Answer To The Texans' Draft Doomsday Scenario?

We’re roughly about a month away from the 2011 NFL Draft, and this is about the time where a team’s big board is being refined. Pro days are wrapping up, the Combine’s in the books, All-Star games have long since come and gone, and 2010 season tape has been broken down to death.

The question for Houston Texans fans is a simple one: Who will the franchise take 11th overall? Do they sit and pray that Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara or Texas A&M OLB Von Miller fall into their laps? Do they try and convert a defensive end like North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, or Missouri’s Aldon Smith? Or do they simply take the best player available such as Alabama WR Julio Jones?

Of course, the answer seems obvious out of that list, but what happens if Miller, Amukamara, and Jones are taken in the top 10? What happens if all that’s left is a bunch of potential converts that, frankly, no one seems uber-excited about? It’s a question I’ve pondered many, many times as we get closer to Draft day, but the answer I’ve come up with has only come recently (and reminded of thanks to some of the fellows over at Battle Red Blog).

Houston fans, add a new name to your draft mix and meet Illinois ILB Martez Wilson. 

If not for Miller and Nevada OLB Dontay Moch, Wilson would’ve been the defensive show at the NFL Combine. At 6’4’’ and 250 pounds, Wilson ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, benched 23 reps, and had a 36’’ vertical leap in a display of athleticism that was downright incredible (and on par with a certain linebacker who may be the best in the league).

Last season, the Fighting Illini ILB recorded 112 tackles including 11.5 for a loss and 4 sacks from the inside linebacker position. He forced three fumbles, picked off a pass, broke up four more passes, and blocked a kick in his best collegiate season (earning the nod as first-team All-Big Ten ILB from the media in the process). In a trait that the Texans admire, Wilson was also chosen as a team co-captain in nine games last season. That stat sheet combined with his Combine numbers leads one to believe that he could man the inside or outside linebacker spot in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.

Many mocks are predicting Wilson goes anywhere from 24-40. What this could mean for the Texans is that they could have a very good plan B if the prospect they want isn’t there at 11, and they want to move back a little bit. Wilson could also be the kind of player that Houston may want to consider moving up for as well (if they took Amukamara 1st and wanted to move up from their 2nd round pick).  

At a time when we’re looking for answers, I’ll add a few more questions into this draft process. Do you like Wilson more than any of the DE/OLB hybrids? Do you like Wilson as insurance in case DeMeco Ryans or Brian Cushing can’t regain their stellar forms? Putting aside when you draft him, is Wilson worth considering for your Houston Texans?

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper's New Mock Lands J.J. Watt To The Texans

Mel Kiper Jr’s latest mock has finally been released and Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt has been tabbed as the Texans selection with the No. 11 overall pick. A 3-4 defensive end over 3-4 OLB Aldon Smith? Sounds like someone is going best player available. Here’s Kiper’s reasoning behind the pick:

"Wade Phillips will love Watt, a big, aggressive, smart, scheme-versatile defensive end who can offer an immediate help for a defense in need of bodies for the front seven. At 290 pounds, with a really good burst and a relentless nature, you can do a lot with Watt along the defensive line. Houston has to find some pass-rush help to complement the great Mario Williams, and this is a good place to look."

I’m not sure a 3-4 defensive end is really going to improve the pass rush, but from a best player available perspective Watt could make sense for the Texans at No. 11. I continue to think that if the Texans don’t have the luxury of having Robert Quinn, Prince Amukamara, or Aldon Smith on the board, they’ll likely trade down.

The Texans have usually focused on need more than skill with their first round pick, drafting Kareem Jackson last year, Brian Cushing the year before that, and Duane Brown in 2008. One of the biggest questions the Texans will face in the draft this year is what happens if their need positions are gone. If the defensive backs and 3-4 OLB’s that they value at around the No. 11 pick are gone, will the Texans sit there and take a Watt or a Cameron Jordan knowing that they’ve got two highly paid and skilled players at 3-4 end already? Or will they trade down?

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Robert Quinn, Brandon Harris Are Your Newest Mock Texans

Another week, another WalterFootball.com update to their mock draft. Let’s see what they have in store for Houston after the Combine and some pro day workouts.

1st Round – University of North Carolina OLB Robert Quinn

2nd Round – University of Miami (FL) CB Brandon Harris

3rd Round – Ole Miss NT Jerrell Powe

4th Round – University of North Carolina FS Deunta Williams

5th Round – Rutgers University SS Joe Lefeged

6th Round – University of Arizona OLB Rick Elmore

Not too much has changed with the Walter mock, we’ve got the addition of another late round. The sense that Houston will draft almost exclusively defensive players is a thought that is growing prevalent around the mock sites. I don’t disagree with the players. If I wanted to nitpick, I’d say this class is filled with a lot of unfamiliar schools for Texans draft classes. That should be a sign that there isn’t too much to quibble with here. In fact, Walter’s mock is pretty indicative of what we’re seeing from almost all Houston mocks which is…

1 – Prince Amukamara or best OLB available

2 – CB or best OLB available

3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 – Some combination of NT, FS, SS, and LBs.

There’s not a whole lot of variety out there, which makes mock reviews somewhat dull right now. Barring anything eye-opening or head-shaking during pro days (which are on-going), I don’t imagine many mocks to change. Texans fans should be prepping for a defense heavy draft. Hopefully, Rick Smith won’t let us down once again.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Robert Quinn Is John McClain's First Texans Pick

Our almighty Texans beat writer has finally mocked, for the first time this year, his draft. In this draft, the Houston Chronicle's John McClain took Robert Quinn for the Texans with the #11 overall pick. While this isn't an especially bold pick among mock drafters, it's still interesting to see McClain run with it as the most well-connected Texans writer out there. The Texans value character so highly among their draftees that there was a chance Quinn's suspension from North Carolina for accepting gifts would affect his status in the eyes of the brass. Apparently McClain hasn't gotten those indications, which is a good sign for the Texans picking up the talented edge rusher they'll need to run Wade Phillips' 3-4 system.

11 Houston Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina If he hadn't missed his junior year because of a suspension this 6-4, 265-pound talent wouldn't have been on the board at this point.

It remains likely that the Texans will embrace a strategy at #11 that involves hoping Quinn, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, or Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara falls to them. If not, they could be a prime target for a trade down, particularly if Auburn QB Cam Newton or MIssouri QB Blaine Gabbert are still on the board and a team wants to jump ahead of the quarterback-hungry Vikings before they can snatch them up.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Will The Texans Target Cal DE Cameron Jordan?

The Houston Texans had no trouble scoring points last year. They could always use some help on the offensive side of the ball, but not enough to warrant using a first round selection there. That is why you will see most take a defensive player for the Texans in most Mock Drafts around the Internet.

On that side of the ball, they could use help in two areas. The defensive secondary which got shredded last season, and a front seven that is facing a transition to a new system. In their latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft, SB Nation has decided to give the Texans help with the latter. They have the them taking Cal DE Cameron Jordan. Here is their rationale.

Over and over, you'll see mock drafters slot the best available front seven defender to Houston as Wade Phillips moves them to the 3-4. Here, that's Jordan, whose quickness and pass rushing ability should help him in Phillips' one-gap scheme.

Cameron Jordan is the definition of a 3-4 DE, and he has shot up draft boards with solid performances in all of the offseason all-star games and workouts. He would be a great fit for the Texans new defensive scheme. There might be more exciting prospects on the board when the Texans pick, but there will probably not be players that are a better fit for the Texans, and with as much potential upside as Cameron Jordan.

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2011 Mock Draft: Reuter Selects UCLA FS Rahim Moore In 2nd Round For Texans

Chad Reuter of CBSSports.com continued his current mock draft into round two today. In the first round, California defensive end Cam Jordan was the pick for the Texans at number 11. 

Reuter then went with the rare style choice of a John McClain tribute by machinegun tweeting his way through round two where he selected - hold on to your skin - UCLA free safety Rahim Moore. Okay, sure. I guess I'll take him. 

If there's a best-case scenario that tops landing Rahim Moore with pick 42, I don't know what it is. 2011 is not a strong early-round safety class, but Moore is the clear-cut best of the bunch. Check out some highlights from his CBSSports.com scout sheet:

 Zone Coverage: Good instincts and overall athleticism for zone coverage. Gains good depth due to his backpedal and can plant his foot in the ground and drive downhill on the ball. Good lateral agility and balance, despite his high-cut build and average hip flexibility to turn and run. Good acceleration and top-end speed to provide a safety net in deep coverage.

Closing/Recovery: Classic ball hawk. Reads the quarterback's eyes and breaks quickly when he reads target location. Good acceleration and straight-line speed. Very good ball skills. Times his leaps well and has good hand-eye coordination to make the difficult grab. Good vision and natural running skills with the football.

"Top-end speed to provide a safety net in deep coverage." Huh? You can do that?

"Classic ball hawk." What is that thing?

Dare I say, Moore in the second would be the most celebrated pick amongst the "smart" Texans fans ever. Repeated demands for nose tackles and true free safeties have been ignored, but this pick would finally give the Texans their ball hawk. Unfortunately, I don't see Moore going any lower than the top five of the second round. It's arguable if he's worth drafting that high, but he is the best of the postion group, and that counts for something.

Are mock drafts legally binding? Call the SBN lawyers, immediately!

 

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2011 Mock Draft: Robert Quinn To Houston?

I wasn’t really sold on North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn early on in the draft process, but I think he very well may find a home in Houston now. Texas A&M’s Von Miller is sure to go before the Texans pick, and Quinn is probably the best 3-4 OLB available after that. It may come down to him or Missouri’s Aldon Smith, and if they’re both gone along with Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, the Texans might just trade down since they aren’t filling any needs. WalterFootball’s latest update has the Texans picking Quinn at #11:

  1. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
    With the shift to Wade Phillips’ 3-4, Houston will need a nose tackle to pair with ends Mario Williams and Antonio Smith. DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing would play inside linebacker, while the outside pass rushers would be Connor Barwin and… umm… Robert Quinn.

Quinn missed the 2010 season because the NCAA is ridiculously stupid, hypocritical and tyrannical. If he had played, he’d probably be a consensus top-five prospect, so Houston is getting major value with this selection.

The Texans also nab Miami cornerback Brandon Harris in the second round, Mississippi nose tackle Jerrell Powe in the third, and North Carolina safety Deunta Williams in the fourth round. That would be a pretty stellar draft class, all things considered. I would prefer UCLA safety Rahim Moore in the second, but he goes six picks before the Texans get on the board in Walterfootball’s mock.

The key to the Texans draft very well may be how far the 3-4 OLB’s fall, because if they’re all off the board at #11, it could signal that it’s time for a trade down.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: CBS Says It's Cameron Jordan For The Texans

Both Rob Rang and Chad Reuter of CBSSports.com have new mock drafts up, and both of them involve California defensive end Cameron Jordan getting snapped up by the Houston Texans. Jordan projects as a 3-4 defensive end, and as Julio Jones and Robert Quinn have spiraled up draft boards, the new trend is for the Texans to get “stuck” with either Wisconsin end J.J. Watt or Jordan after the run ends.

Oddly enough, in their drafts one of Quinn and Jones are on the board for the Texans pick, but they instead choose to go with Jordan. Jordan very well may be a dynamite pro, and 3-4 defensive ends are the strength of this first round class, but I’d be shocked to see the Texans go that way if the board plays out in either of those directions.

Look for the Texans to explore a trade down if they can’t get a defensive back or 3-4 outside linebacker who is qualified for the spot. Or look for them to eschew Jordan in favor of Missouri linebacker Aldon Smith if neither Quinn, Von Miller, or Prince Amukamara is on the board.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: J.J. Watt To Houston In Our Nightmare Scenario

SB Nation has thrown it’s post-combine mock draft up, and it encompasses a scenario that nobody wants to admit is possible: the mock without two quarterbacks in the top ten. When this scenario happens, nine of the top ten players are the nine targets the Texans should probably have for their eleventh overall pick: Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Von Miller, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Da’Quan Bowers, Prince Amukamara, and Robert Quinn. Going by best player available, the Texans are forced to snag Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.

11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin. Unless a cornerback is miraculously available here, expect the Texans to add a front seven defender – ideally a lineman – for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense. Watt is quietly garnering Top 15 consideration as a five-technique end, and fits Houston’s need perfectly.

It’s nothing against Watt, who very well could contribute right out of the gate, he just doesn’t fill a position of need like the others do. Antonio Smith and Mario Williams are a pair of pretty stellar defensive ends, even if they will be learning the 3-4. If this scenario unfolded for the Texans, I really hope they’d just consider trading down.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Combine Shake-Up To Texans Mock Draft

 

The NFL Combine has come and gone, faithful Houston Texans fan. Unlike many years past, I wouldn’t say workout warriors dominated the Combine. Instead, I would say that the talent expected to shine did shine.

A lot of perceived top-10 talent actually showed up and performed as such – especially defensive tackle Marcel Dareus and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara. Beyond that, teams looking for 3-4 outside linebackers, like your Houston Texans, could see how fast and fluid these guys looked in comparison to each other.

As last time, this mock is based on how I think players will fall (without any trades) and not necessarily what I’d want. For the record, I’m hoping Amukamara falls to 11 or Houston trades back to the 22-32 range to take a swing at someone like Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor or Illinois inside linebacker Martez Wilson. However, I am digressing from my main point…the post-Combine Texans-centric mock:

1st Round – North Carolina OLB Robert Quinn
Again, I’m assuming Amukamara, Dareus, Von Miller, and Julio Jones are all off the board at this point. It came down to Quinn versus Aldon Smith, and Quinn displayed more speed and athleticism on day five of the Combine. Of course, Mike Mayock thought Quinn would be faster, but that just knocked him down from a top-five pick to the top-ten bubble. Quinn or not, someone that "should be" top ten will fall and Houston will have a chance be all over that pick at 11.

2nd Round – Miami CB Brandon Harris
Again, Harris was once thought as a mid-to-late 1st round pick, but he’s fallen as other prospects have risen. The value is there, the need to grab a cornerback so Glover Quin can move to free safety is there (don’t worry, they’ll also grab a veteran…I hope…so Harris will play in the nickel to start), and Houston loves to grab players from The U (Andre Johnson, Eric Winston, Chris Myers, Rashad Butler, and Darryl Sharpton).

3rd Round – Nevada OLB Dontay Moch
While I know nose tackle is expected by many, I don’t think Houston will grab one in the top three rounds. I do believe two OLBs will be drafted though, so I’ll take Moch in the third – the typical round Houston takes a raw project (examples: Antwaan Peek, Seth Wand, Antwaun Molden, Jacoby Jones, and Earl Mitchell). That’s not a good track record for projects, but Moch is incredibly fast (ran a 4.45 40). If he’s there in the third, when you consider the OLB need and track record of Houston to take projects in the third and double-up on a position in nearly all their draft classes, it seems like a Texans pick.

4th Round – Stanford NT Sione Fua
Will the Texans target a nose tackle? I honestly don’t know, and I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. However, Fua in the fourth would provide a lot of value. Granted, Fua did not have a great Combine, but there’s plenty of tape, at Stanford and the Senior Bowl, that shows him being disruptive in a 3-4 defense. This is the perfect match of scheme fit, character fit, and value for Houston to take a nose tackle.

5th Round – Boise State SS Jeron Johnson
Like Fua, Johnson’s that same sort of character/leadership fit that the Texans like. Johnson ran a better than expected 4.55 40 at the Combine and generally looked solid. As I’ve said before on him, Jeron may not be an elite All-Pro, but he’s a well-coached, smart athlete who you can rely on to make plays and not be out of position or take bad angles. Given the history of Texans safeties, I’ll take solid in a heartbeat.

6th Round – Idaho QB Nathan Enderle
Again, he’s a guy I’ve been touting for a while, and I’ll continue to do so. Similarities to Matt Schaub showed when he ran a slow 40 at the Combine, but I'm drafting him for that arm of his that doesn't seem to lose much on the bootlegs and rollouts.

7th Round – SMU WR Aldrick Robinson
He ran in the 4.4s during the Combine showing speed for the slot and as a returner. Again, I look at what Emmanuel Sanders (another SMU WR) did for Pittsburgh in 2009 and think Robinson could provide the same for Houston – if Jacoby Jones does not resign with the team.

There you have it Texans faithful. I make some changes up near the top, but I remain locked in on those late-round fits for Houston. Sound off in the comments with your thoughts or altered post-Combine draft wishes.  

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: J.J. Watt To The Texans, Blaine Gabbert 1st Overall

If you were an NFL GM or talent evaluator, and you were charged with selecting a franchise quarterback for your team, what would you rather see from a prospect? Willing to try to impress you with all of his talent (while potentially failing to do so), or play conservatively with the expectation of resting on his laurels?

I'd take the first guy, confident enough in his abilities to show them off. But that is why I don't work for an NFL team, and why I don't organize Mock Drafts. SB Nation just came out with their latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft and they have Blaine Gabbert (who elected not to throw at the combine) at first overall to the Panthers, and Cam Newton (who threw but failed to impress) at twelfth overall. Quite the difference.

As for the Texans, they have them taking Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt, here is their rationale.

Unless a cornerback is miraculously available here, expect the Texans to add a front seven defender - ideally a lineman - for Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. Watt is quietly garnering Top 15 consideration as a five-technique end, and fits Houston's need perfectly.

Where Watt will play at the next level is kind of up in the air. He might not have the size to play DE in a 3-4 and certainly doesn't have the speed to play OLB. That can either be seen as lack of a natural position, or the benefit of versatility. Watt could probably play in a few different spots in the Houston defense, and could be a good addition to a team looking to implement a new defensive scheme.

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2011 NFL Draft News: Texans Meet With LB Wilson & TE Williams At NFL Combine

It was tweeted by the National Football Post's Aaron Wilson that Illinois LB Martez Wilson met with the Houston Texans, among other teams. Of course, a player meeting with a team doesn't show interest. In fact, many teams will never publicly meet with a player they have interest in. It's all part of the poker-esque aura of the pre-draft season. All 32 NFL teams are bluffing each other in order to get their prospects - the ones they're ignoring.

However, I digress from my main point: Martez Wilson. Who is he? A 6-4', 250-pound middle linebacker from Illinois who was a 1st-to-2nd round tweener. On Monday, Mr. Wilson ran a 4.44 (to some sources) 40-yard dash - the fastest by anyone who ran with the linebackers. According to the wide Internet opinion, Wilson's always had the tools to play at an elite level, but, for whatever reason, has not consistently put it all together on the field. Wilson's got the size and athleticism to play strong-side linebacker for Houston, but is this the right situation for him?  Can new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips unleash Wilson and bring out the most of his incredible physical gifts?

If the Texans truly are considering Wilson, they either need to A) hope he's available at 43 (their 2nd round pick) or B) trade back in round one to try and pick up Wilson with an additional pick or two. Picking Wilson at 11 would be a reach...even for someone like me who doesn't embrace the traditional models of value and reach - more on that as we roll on to the draft.

Another player who spoke with Houston? Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams - let your tight end jokes start now.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Doug Farrar Sends Von Miller To Houston

And lo, so it was written that the chain of events that needed to happen to knock perfect 3-4 outside linebacker, Texas A&M attendee, and John McClain lovechild Von Miller to the Houston Texans wasn’t completely impossible. That it just needed a chance to flourish, and that perhaps it wasn’t far-fetched at all.

Your yay sayer is none other than Yahoo!’s Doug Farrar, who has concocted a scenario where Von Miller drops all the way to No. 11. Lets see some comments, then lets see how this happened:

Yes, the Texans need cornerback help. But Wade Phillips’ version of the 3-4 defense is less hybrid and more purist. Rushers off the edge are at a premium, as Phillips showed us in San Diego with Shawne Merriman(notes) and in Dallas with DeMarcus Ware(notes). Miller is one of the fastest players off the snap in recent years, and he can also stunt inside to provide further issues for enemy quarterbacks. Miller is learning to defend the run and drop back in coverage consistently, which means that his value could grow.

Here’s how this mock goes down:
1) Marcell Dareus
2) Da’Quan Bowers
3) Cam Newton
4) Nick Fairley
5) Blaine Gabbert
6) Patrick Peterson
7) Robert Quinn
8) A.J. Green
9) Prince Amukamara
10) Cameron Jordan

I have seen a lot of mock drafts as I’ve put these things together, but this has to be the most optimistic I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the Cardinals will pass up a premiere pass rusher for a quarterback—they do need both, after all—but I can’t see any chance that the 49ers take Quinn over Miller. It does highlight that only a few things need to go right in the draft process for Miller to wind up in Houston, but I wouldn’t be very confident in it happening.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Rang And Reuter Give Texans Jordan And Amukamara

CBS Sports' last pre-combine mock drafts, one each from both of their experts in Rob Rang and Chad Reuter, have the Texans going in completely different directions. I'm not a fan of either of them.

Rang suggests the Texans will draft California defensive end Cameron Jordan. However, if the Texans are going to have Mario Williams as a defensive end rather than an outside linebacker in Wade Smith's 3-4, Jordan doesn't seem to really have the skillset to be a 3-4 pass rush linebacker. This isn't a knock on Jordan, who seems like a good prospect, but as the roles are defined right now, I don't think he makes a whole lot of sense for the Texans.

With Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, my problem is less with the player and more with the philosophy. The Texans can't keep going to the well on young players in the secondary and expecting them to play good football right off the bat. Amukamara might be a solid NFL player one day, but this Texans team was assembled to win now, and one way to make sure you don't do that is to count on a young secondary. One would hope the Texans had learned their lesson from that after last season's Kareem Jackson debacle, but then again, they didn't learn from the Duane Brown debacle either, so who really knows? I think there are scenarios where Amukamara will be the best player on the board for the Texans, but I'm not really wild about them and would prefer a trade down if it came to that.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Houston Gets It's Pass Rusher In Latest SBN Mock

Earlier this week, SB Nation released its final pre-combine mock. The Texans wind up with North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn this time:

11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Houston is becoming a fairly easy projection: in any scenario, find the best front seven defender for a 3-4 defense, and make that the Texans’ pick. Here, it’s Quinn, who has the pass rushing acumen and natural athleticism to play outside linebacker in the scheme.

Quinn is one of those prospects that seem underrated by the Mockers right now, considering the amount of support he has from analysts like Mike Mayock and Doug Farrar. I would be extremely surprised to see him sitting at No. 11, and next to the possibility of Von Miller tumbling, it’s probably one of the best defensive scenarios that Texans fans should be dreaming about. Quinn does have some off-the-field character questions, after being suspended last year for taking gifts, but he’s got Aldon Smith’s athleticism and a much more well-refined game.

Which, as usual, means the Texans would pass on him if he were available.

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2011 NFL Draft: Mock Draft Breakdown V - A Rival's Look At The Houston Texans

Following off the tease from the pre-Combine mock draft, I wanted to look at how a fan from a rival team views our Houston Texans. For a decade, the Indianapolis Colts have owned the AFC South - seven of nine all-time division titles and a 42-10 division record. Even in a down season, Indianapolis won the division, so how does a blogger of the division's best franchise view the Houston Texans? For that answer, we turn to Joe Baker.

Who is Joe Baker? Joe Baker's a writer for the fantastic Colts blog: 18to88.com (part of the Bloguin network where our friends at Texans Tribune reside). Like myself, Baker's outed himself as a major draft addict. He does a pretty good job of educating himself on prospects and team needs by putting in the leg work with research, tape watching, and asking fans their thoughts and opinions. I praise him now, but will that praise continue when we breakdown his mock?

For his mock, Mr. Baker is going two rounds. You can see his full two round mock here, but what we care about are his Houston picks. Without further adieu, the web page belongs to 18to88's Joe Baker...

11. Houston (6-10) Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Texans need safety help and a real option at NT badly, unfortunately there are no great prospects at either spot. If the Texans stay in this spot Ayers makes a lot of sense opposite Conner Barwin, next to Ryans and Cushing as his extensive experience at OLB gives the Texans far more flexibility and a better contrast to the pass rushing Barwin than any of the prospects converting from DE.

 

42. Houston (6-10)  Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Taylor reportedly "carried 337 lbs well" I'm not entirely sure how that's possible, but I assume it means he's got that 2-man-wide build at 6'3" 1/2 making him more massive than fat.

First, I have to applaud Baker for A) not taking the easy way out and sticking Houston with a cornerback and B) not using SB Nation Houston editor Rivers McCown's favorite draft reasoning that "Houston must take [Player X] because they must stop Peyton Manning." That shows more effort than many nationally known mockers put into their mocks.

Position wise, outside linebacker and nose tackle are becoming the favorites to mock into a deep steel blue jersey. It makes a lot of sense to have Houston bolster its front seven because A) Wade Phillips has shown a tendency to build from the front (lines) to the back (secondary) and B) Houston needs 3-4 parts. Do the players, who haven't been addressed here, work though?

Ayers, the OLB from UCLA, sure made an impression on many Texas Longhorns fans when the Bruins visited Austin this past season. Find YouTube footage from one of his good games to see Ayers make plays in all phases of defense (pass rush, coverage, run defense). That said, there's other YouTube footage (like his game against Stanford) where you'll find the flaws in Ayers game: he doesn't hold the edge well against the run, he can be physically dominated by blockers, and he can be rather timid and not aggressive enough. He certainly has the talent and physical tools to be a top 10 players, but he also is maddening that there's a severe lack of consistency. I'm not entirely sure how I would feel about Ayers compared to an extremely raw Aldon Smith. Which flaw is the lesser of two evils? That may be the question fans need to ask themselves.

Taylor's a guy who was once dogged for being lazy. If you read the stories on him from his Penn State days to Baylor, you do see the picture of a guy who has slowly matured and improved his work ethic. At the Senior Bowl, Taylor was a physical beast who dominated the interior offensive linemen. At 6-3, 337 lbs., Taylor's a mountain of a man who can hold the point of attack to clog run lanes, shield inside linebackers from blockers, and collapse a pocket. The big question on Taylor is his endurance and stamina. The guy gasses out. He did it in the second half of many Baylor games, he did it in the latter stages of Senior Bowl practices, and the second half of said Senior Bowl. He's not going to be a full-time, three-down nose tackle. For the Texans, it may not mean as much if you rotate Taylor with Earl Mitchell, Amobi Okoye, and, probably, a fourth body in the middle for the three and four man fronts. However, there is still that question of value with a second round pick and if Taylor will give enough to justify the pick that could be used on a three-down player, like a defensive back.

This is what makes the mock a little harder to grade. These picks are perfect fit as far as need goes and both guys can, hypothetically, contribute right away - that is worth an A in that sense. However, these picks are riskier than the norm. Can Ayers be coached up and let loose? Will Taylor work on his endurance and give you enough impactful snaps? Player wise, I have to grade it as a B, and I'm being optimistic about it. They're good, I can rationalize the picks to where I like them, but there is still some doubt in my minds to A) their future and B) maximizing value. That's my take on it, but the comments are there for you to chime in with your takes on Ayers and Taylor.

Now, our focus begins to shift from Indianapolis Colts blogger to Indianapolis, Indiana - site of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Texans To Consider Baylor NT Phil Taylor?

One name that’s been rising up a few draft boards is Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor. While he has his share of baggage in the past, being dismissed from Penn State and having problems keeping off weight, Taylor is one of the very few pure 3-4 nose tackles in this draft. Battle Red Blog caught up with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting and Taylor was a featured topic of conversation:

Jake: The Texans are switching to a 3-4, and don’t have a natural nose tackle on the roster. You recently stated that there is a chance Baylor DT Phil Taylor may end up being a top 15 pick. How realistic do you think that is, and could the Texans make that surprise move?

Wes: It wouldn’t surprise me at all to be honest. How realistic? We would have said that there was zero percent chance that Tyson Alualu went in the top ten last year and he did, so there’s always a chance. What makes it even more intriguing is that Phil Taylor is one of the few tackles in this year’s draft that not only is a really gifted guy; physical, plays strong, has an anchor, good athlete for his size, he can potentially anchor a 3-4 defense as a nose, but he’s also athletic enough to play the five technique. So when you have a guy that fits perfectly into a 3-4 defense and you’re a 3-4 team like the Texans that have a lot of missing pieces in the front seven, getting a guy that could anchor your defense would be key.

At the same time, he does have some character issues. He was kicked off the Penn State team and then transferred to Baylor. He has had some weight issues and really only had one year of production, so there’s definitely some risk that goes with the reward with a guy like that. I think 11 is too high for him, but I’ve been shocked before and when you have a talent like him, a lot of times teams will overlook those character concerns.

The guys at Draft Zoo also predicted this pick in their latest mock.

While I don’t have any deep connections with the Texans front office, this potential pick smells funny in two areas. First, the Texans always shy away from draftees with any sort of character issues. Second, the Texans always ignore nose tackles in the draft. Maybe there really is a sea change going on at Reliant this year with Wade Phillips running the show, but I think the odds of Taylor being the man at #11 are pretty low.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Continues To Be Most Mocked To Texans

After a quick glance of every reliable NFL draft site on the Internet, a few things have become apparent when it comes to the Texans. One of these is that just about everyone is picking a defensive player, and the other is that Missouri linebacker Aldon Smith continues to be the player who is most linked to the Texans. Call it a lack of faith in Daryl Sharpton as an outside linebacker, call it the need for Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense to secure the most important rush spot on the field, or call it a pick for youth and development. Either way, he is the leader in the clubhouse today. Here's what a sampling of nine sites gave the Texans:

SB Nation - Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri
SB Nation Houston (Charles) - Smith
Mel Kiper Jr. - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Draft Countdown - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Walter Football - Smith
Ourlads.com - Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
CBS (Rob Rang) - Cameron Jordan, DE, California
CBS (Chad Reuter) - Dareus
Lance Zierlein - Jordan

By a nose, Smith edged out fellow defensive front seven players Jordan and Dareus to be the consensus pick of the lot. 

Personally, I would rather grab a more NFL-ready player than Smith. The Texans defense needs to be equipped, as much as possible, to win now. Here's what my board, combining need/talent for the Texans, would look like as of today: 

1) Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU
2) Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
3) Dareus
4) Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
5) AJ Green, WR, Georgia
6) Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
7) Jones
8) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
9) Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.
10) Amukamara
11) Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper's Latest Mock Has The Texans Taking Julio Jones

The fun thing about the NFL Draft is that everyone is the same level of expert. Well, let me rephrase that. There are people who know more about all the prospects than others, but everyone has the same amount of authority when claiming which players a team will or will not draft. Even the professionals get most of their mock draft picks wrong. It's the nature of the business.

So even though we all have equal levels of expertise, there are still some people that we listen to more than others. I'm not sure if it is the hair, or the fact that he is constantly on ESPN yelling at me at this time of year, but Mel Kiper's mock draft continues to be a big deal (even though he staked his reputation on Jimmy Clausen last year and failed miserably). For some reason, his words seem more valuable than most. In his latest mock draft at ESPN (insiders only) he has the Texans taking Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Here is his rationale.

I can see Houston looking here for a fit at outside linebacker as well -- and I expect some surprised Texans fans -- but Jones is a hunch call as a perfect option to take some of the pressure off Andre Johnson.

I'm not sure how to feel about this pick. Jones is a fantastic prospect and would look great next to Johnson, but there are other holes the Texans need to fill before WR. I guess the problem is that there are no players at other positions of need who represent good value still available when the Texans draft in Kiper's mock. If that does turn out to be the case, than I guess taking the best available player on the board (if that is in fact Julio Jones) might just be a good idea.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: SBN Houston's Pre-Combine Texans Mock Draft

Finally, this 2011 NFL Draft thread has come to this: my Houston Texans mock. For the past month or so, I’ve criticized and reacted to most of the bigger draft sites using the historical trends I unraveled in December/January and my personal Texans fan-dom. Now, it’s time to put myself out there to be criticized and mocked for being a bad mock GM in my mock situation of a mock NFL Draft. 

For this scenario, I’m doing my best to put myself in the shoes of general manager Rick Smith, head coach Gary Kubiak, and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to fill the needs of the roster. I’m under the assumption that free agency won’t occur until the summer, but I try to anticipate what will happen there. I do try to keep a lot of their draft trends in mind, but I’m not in their draft room, so I make no claims that I know for certain that these are their guys.

It’s also difficult to say who will go where, so I tried to just go by general mock consensus as to who will be more or less available by balancing the big boards of Mocking the Draft, Walter Football, DraftTek, and CBSSports.com.

These are the picks as they stand now. In other words, no compensatory picks are included. I do disagree with the esteemed Mr. McCown and believe that the size of Dunta Robinson's contract to Atlanta (and even Rex Grossman getting some playing time in Washington) will net some sort of higher compensation (I'll say a 4th round pick just to go on record).

1st Round – University of Missouri OLB Aldon Smith

I’ve been critical of SB Nation writer Brian Galliford mocking Smith to Houston, but, given the predicted available board, I can’t see anyone who I would want more. I think Texas A&M OLB Von Miller will be gone as will LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, and Alabama WR Julio Jones. I believe Purdue OLB Ryan Kerrigan is a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end so that leaves me the raw and incredibly athletic Smith to take at OLB. Lately, Smith has drawn comparisons to Cowboys, and Wade pick, OLB DeMarcus Ware – not a bad player to be compared to at all. 

At this point, arguing whether Connor Barwin or rookie OLB is suited for the weakside and strongside is silly because Houston needs defensive talent in general. Personally, I’m not a fan of raw rookies, but Smith would be an immediate starter and provide impact in Wade’s aggressive 3-4 scheme – something the current regime needs.

2nd Round – University of Texas CB Curtis Brown

I make this pick because I firmly believe new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will make good on some of his hints and move Glover Quin to free safety – filling that void that has been caused by Eugene Wilson but leaving another void in the cornerback depth chart.

With a veteran #1 CB a top priority already, any rookie will be able to slowly work their way up through the slot. Given Kareem Jackson's skill set, I believe Houston will look for someone a bit speedier to pair up with him as the franchise's future. Brown’s got the speed and size, but, more importantly, he’s also a great tackler which Houston values in their defensive backs.

3rd Round – Stanford University NT Sione Fua

I’ve said all I need to say on Fua. I think he’d be great in a nose rotation with Earl Mitchell, if Phillips truly does like Earl, or behind a veteran guy like Pat Williams. I think Fua has the tools to be a very good nose tackle in Wade’s one-gap system a la former Phillips NT Jay Ratliff. The value in the 3rd round is very good for Fua, an experienced 3-4 NT and the Texans do love players who have scheme experience (for the record, not many college teams run a 3-4 base defense). 

4th Round – University of Pittsburgh OT Jason Pinkston

Another pick made on the assumption that current reserve swing tackle Rashad Butler will be offered a deal and starting position by someone desperate to improve their line during the free agency period. I think Pinkston would ably fill the same role behind Duane Brown and Eric Winston

There’s varying opinion on Pinkston’s stock as some have him going as high as 35 while others have him going in the late 4th round, but I think Pinkston has the talent to start in the NFL, much like Mr. Butler. Pinkston’s draft stock probably will see a rise or fall depending on what the Combine reveals about his previously injured knee.

5th Round – Boise State University SS Jeron Johnson

Admittedly, I’m a fan of Boise State and watch a lot of their games, so I’ve seen how reliable Johnson is in the secondary. He doesn’t bring the size that Bernard Pollard does (Johnson’s 5’11’’ 194 pounds to Pollard’s 6’1’’ 224 pound frame) nor does he dish out the highlight reel hits, but Johnson’s a smart football player who is consistent, if nothing else.

Johnson wraps up and makes the solid tackle and is athletic enough to make plays in coverage (averaged ~3 INTs and 6 passes defensed over the past three seasons in Boise). He could be a nice fit in the Houston secondary with Pollard not expecting to return and the pass defense needing to improve dramatically.

6th Round – Virginia Tech OLB Steven Friday

Outside linebacker is my prediction to get doubled up with draft picks as the Texans have done many times in their previous draft classes. There are concerns about Friday’s size and physicality, but he’s got athletic ability that could develop into something with the right coaching. As a 6th rounder, it’s a solid pick for depth which Houston needs at the OLB position.

7th Round – University of Idaho QB Nathan Enderle

I gushed about my recent discovery of Enderle recently. I think it is a smart roster management move to get a young quarterback in to develop, especially since Gary Kubiak loves having that project, whether it is to benefit your team on the field or eventually trade away for more draft picks. Enderle’s got potential in the scheme due to his arm and mobility (definitely as a primary back-up at a minimum) and would benefit from developing behind Matt Schaub and a veteran back-up – preferably not Dan Orlovsky since we know he’s not up for the job.

As always dear readers, the comments are yours to mock the mock and tell me who I missed out on and why you're glad I'm not the Texans general manager.

Next up here? A look at how a blogger from a division rival mocks for your Houston Texans. Who will it be? That's what we call a cliffhanger.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Texans Add Depth At Defensive Line In Latest Mock

SB Nation has been releasing weekly mock drafts for a little while now, but this week we're going to two rounds; which means twice the speculation, and three times the fun (roughly). Let's check out who SB Nation has the Texans taking with their first two picks in their latest mock.

In the first round, they have the Texans taking Missouri defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Here is their rationale.

Wade Phillips is moving the Texans to a 3-4 defense, and his priority is upgrading his front seven with as much talent as possible. Smith has it in spades.

They build on that theme of depth up front with their second round pick, LSU DT Drake Nevis.

This is another case of a player being a poor body type fit for the 3-4, but Nevis is a super-disruptive player that would thrive in Phillips' one-gap system.

Nevis might be more of a 4-3 DT, but we've similar players like Jay Ratliff and Tank Johnson succeed in Wade Phillips' defensive scheme before.

As for the draft strategy as a whole, I think it is a good one. the foundation of a 3-4 defense is a strong front seven. If the Texans can add strong players to that scheme in a single draft, it is definitely worth doing.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Looking Beyond Round One For Potential Texans

As promised last Friday, I'm back to take a look at some non-first round prospects that would look good in a Houston Texans uniform. Honestly, I look more forward to breaking down these guys than the first rounders because I am the type of fan who will pour over all sorts of information and sit through every single pick from No. 1 to No. 255 in April.

A lot of attention is, rightfully, put on the first round, but as I sort of got at in the Texans Draft Rewinds: the good teams hit on and develop their mid-round and late round picks - something Houston has to improve on. While I'm cheering to select player A or B on day one, I'm really hoping that player O or P are available in the second or third because I've seen them play on Saturdays, studied their tapes, and really think that they're right on track to make something of their pro opportunity.

Last year, I had my draft junkie eyes on WR Blair White, CB Alterraun Verner, and DT Geno Atkins (along with the injured RB Montario Hardesty and primarily spent times on special teams coverage unit OLB Dekoda Watson) - all three had solid-to-good seasons and made a positive impact for their teams. I only hope this year's non first round gems pan out with similar success - preferably in deep steel blue. 

Prospect:
Stanford NT Sione Fua
 
Draft Stock: Projected anywhere from the 2nd to 4th rounds. 
Why I Love Him: First off, Fua brings in a background that Houston executives like: he comes from a schematic fit (3-4 system at Stanford) and is a smart kid with good character (he did go to Stanford University after all).

Moving beyond that, Fua is Incredible Hulk strong. Whether it was in the season or during the Senior Bowl, Fua was able to get off the ball and hold the point of attack. On that first drive during the Senior Bowl, Fua also showed some gap-shooting ability to disrupt run plays in the backfield. Fua was directly responsible for stopping the opposing team's drive in the red zone with tackles in the backfield and forcing the quarterback out of his pocket. Smaller, strong, and with a quick burst, Sione Fua reminds me an awful lot of Jay Ratliff, and he worked well for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in his previous stint in Dallas.

Of all NT prospects, Fua has long been a favorite of mine. I certainly would love to see him learning (he does need work on keeping a low pad level and making better use of his hands) behind a Pat Williams or Shaun Rogers at nose and next to Earl Mitchell and Amobi Okoye when Houston runs a 4-man front. For those wanting to see tape, click here for a tape that showcases both positives and negatives for Fua.

Prospect: Michigan State OLB/ILB Greg Jones
Draft Stock: 2nd to 3rd rounds.
Why I Love Him: Jones is a playmaker - plain and simple. At Michigan State, all Jones did was make the play that needed to be made. Watching him in 2010, not only was he the unquestioned leader of the Spartans - a trait Houston loves - but he can cover (four career interceptions and ten passes defensed), rush the passer (9 sacks in 2009), and has great speed to disrupt in the backfield (averaging nearly 12 tackles for a loss per season).

He played inside and outside at Michigan State, but his smaller size (6-0, 240 at the Senior Bowl) has some thinking he's more a 4-3 weakside linebacker only. I think he's talented enough to be able to play in the 3-4 but could use some work on shedding blocks and being a bit more aggressive. Here's some footage (focuses more on Iowa's offense but Jones does make some plays in the footage) for Jones. If he added a bit more bulk to fill out his frame, I'm sure Wade would be able to find a spot for him inside or outside.

Prospect: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba
Draft Stock: 5th to 7th rounds
Why I Love Him: He's another scheme fit (Auburn's zone is one reason why Ben Tate was drafted after all), but he's also one of those guys who was knocked down for injury concerns. He stayed healthy this season and was a part of that championship Auburn team. Ziemba's biggest problem, as I watched live because there's no YouTube tape of him, is his footwork and flexibility. Both things can be improved, but I like Ziemba's strength and athleticism to help him overcome his shortcomings. I think he’d be a smart choice to be developed behind Eric Winston and Duane Brown if Rashad Butler wasn't re-signed. 

Prospect: Oregon ILB Casey Matthews
Draft Stock: 4th to 5th rounds
Why I Love Him: He's a Matthews so you know he'll work hard, allow coaches to coach him up, and has a non-stop motor.

Unlike his talented older brother Clay, Casey is a bit smaller (makes him easier to block), a bit less athletic/explosive, and prone to misdirection. Still, Casey could be an effective 3-4 inside linebacker if he bulked up a little bit and found the right situation. Learning from DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing may be just what the doctor ordered for Matthews


Prospect: Idaho QB Nathan Enderle
Draft Stock: 5th to 7th rounds
Why I Love Him: I initially wanted to put Colin Kapernick in my QB to Watch position, but he’s played himself way up the draft board to a very high 2nd round pick. Delaware QB Pat Devlin’s stock has taken a hit to the point where he’s more thought of as a game-managing back-up. TCU’s Andy Dalton and Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi are nice, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the late-round QBs to find someone not so widely known. What I found was Mr. Enderle's big arm. This video will show him off a bit, but he can make a lot of throws and has some surprising athleticism for a big 6’5’’ 240 pound QB. For a Houston team that loves the bootleg, Enderle's arm doesn't seem to lose strength on the move.

A little sloppy in his footwork, could be more consistent with his ball placement, but these are things that can be polished as he studies behind Matt Schaub. He certainly has the arm and size to be successful in the NFL if he works hard and gets coached up. While I would like to see more on Enderle, I’ve seen enough to certainly pique my interest in him since the back-up options behind Matt Schaub are not inspiring.

These are the non-first rounders I’ve locked in on early, Texans fans. Are there any late rounders standing out to you that deserve a look? Are there any thoughts on some of these guys mentioned?

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Will The texans Look To Boost Their Defensive Secondary?

The Texans were pretty successful on the offensive side of the ball last year. It was on the defensive side, particularly the defensive secondary, where they ran into a lot of problems. It will be an area of the roster that I'm sure the team will address through the draft, even as early as the first round if the right prospects is available. According to Nolan Nawrocki at Yahoo, that prospect could be Prince Amukamara.

Must find way to upgrade league's worst secondary, replace Dunta Robinson.

Brief, but accurate. Amukamara would be a good pick for the Texans, in that he fills a position of need while still representing good value at the eleventh pick overall. Most mock drafts that I've seen have Amukamara going in the top ten, with the Cowboys as one of the most frequent destinations.

Amukamara has all the tools to be a shut down corner at the next level. He has excellent size, and has above average agility. He is a converted running back, but he still possesses the ball skills and instincts to make him a top flight corner in the NFL. I'm just not sure he'll be available when the Texans pick.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Marcell Dareus To The Texans According To Mocking The Draft

Just in case you didn't know, SB Nation has a blog that is completed devoted to covering every angle of the NFL Draft. Mocking The Draft - in addition to having a pretty clever name - provides player profiles, draft related news and mock drafts in advance of the big weekend in April. Their latest mock draft just came out, and they have a pretty good player going at 11th overall to the Texans. Here is their rationale.

I am shocked with the way this mock has shaped up and the fact that a top 5 talent like Dareus is still available here.  Dareus' versatility will allow Wade Phillips to use him all along the defensive front.

I really like the guys over at MTD, but this has always been a pet peeve of mine. They make the mock draft and then are "shocked" at how it turns out; like it isn't in their control. If you think Dareus is a player that should have gone in the top ten, then you should put him there. I've never once been surprised over the outcome of something I have complete and total control over. But I digress . . .

Dareus would be a good player for the Texans, likely serving as a defensive end in the team's new 3-4 scheme. But he also has the talent to play all across the defensive line in various schemes and packages. But like MTD, I don't think he'll be available when the Texans draft at 11th overall. He has too much talent to last this long, and I am confident that a team in the top ten will snatch him up. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't get past the Redskins at tenth overall, for example. But if he is there at 11, with all the trouble the Texans had on the defensive side of the ball last year, Dareus would be somewhat of a no-brainer.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Continues To Be Linked To The Texans

There seems to be a consensus among Mock Drafters as to which side of the ball the Texans need to improve on through the upcoming NFL Draft. We just don't know which area of the defense is the most important one to upgrade. SB Nation just came out with their latest mock, and they have the Texans taking Aldon Smith, a defensive end from Missouri who should transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker once he turns pro.

Wade Phillips' 3-4 under calls for excellent front seven personnel, and in switching from the 4-3, the Texans have a lot of question marks in that area. Smith may not provide an answer immediately, but he's a phenomenal athlete that should transition well to outside linebacker.

The Texans already have a player who should be able to make an impact at 3-4 outside linebacker in Brian Cushing, but Smith should provide a pretty talented bookend in a few years. He's pretty raw, but if he ever reaches his potential, he has the athleticism to be a real difference maker for the Texans. He is a bit of a project, so I'm not sure the Texans will be interested. but if they decide that they can afford to wait for Smith to develop, he could turn out to be one of the more valuable players from this class.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Mock Breakdown IV - Chronicle Reporter Enters The Mock Fray

If you have kept up with this thread, you've probably have heard me criticize mockers, both in mock reviews and in general, for not truly understanding your Houston Texans. It's certainly understandable, I mean the Texans haven't done enough to truly register on the national radar while most of the local media, frankly, doesn't really get it. I mean we had one writer chiming in for Vince Young in a battle red jersey and another is busy talking about the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas. Thankfully, Chron.com's Lance Zierlein has come to save the day.

Amongst the Houston media, Zierlein is THE draft guy for those who cover Texans. He comments relentlessly on Twitter during the college football season, puts out an annual draft guide, and is pretty level-headed in his Texans analysis. His is a mock that all Houston fans should check out. You can do so here, but it's time to put his first first round mock pick through the ringer.

With the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Mock Draft, Lance Zierlein, representing the Houston Texans, selects defensive end Cameron Jordan out of the University of California. Tell us why, Mr. Z:

I wanted to put Aldon Smith from Missouri or Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue in this spot, but my guess is that the Texans will see the OLB position as a position that they have covered on their roster currently or as a position they can grab a little later in the draft. It is difficult to find 3-4 DEs who can rush the passer effectively and that might end up being what Jordan can bring to the table. Jordan was one of the most dominant pass rushers in Senior Bowl drills and his father, Steve Jordan, played tight end for the Minnesota Vikings and was a 6-time Pro Bowler.

On the need scale, Jordan's not entirely necessary, but I can't say that I hate the pick.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was majorly impressed with Jordan during the Senior Bowl - as were most people. On Battle Red Blog, the esteemed writer known as bigfatdrunk, among others, suggested that getting rid of Mr. Yellow Flag - a/k/a Antonio Smith - may not be a bad move.

In a sense, I like this pick because it's all about adding the most talented prospect available. I'm not a fan of Houston's need-based drafting process because it does cause you to ignore talent, and this is a franchise that can't afford to do that for another season. Even if you don't trade Smith, you have built yourself a very nice defensive end rotation which could pay off if Mario Williams does suffer another injury. With the second and third round picks, you can then look for outside linebackers, nose tackles, and safeties.

In looking at Zierlein's draft, I'm not desperately wanting someone else at 11. Sure, I would consider Alabama WR Julio Jones or UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers - and my ultimate draft crush in Ohio State DT Cameron Heyward - but I don't wish the pick away as I've done with other mocks.

Low-grade on need but Lance puts together a good pick and sound analysis for Jordan to Houston that is hard to argue against. Over the next few months, I wonder if he'll stick with Cameron Jordan. Next up here? Taking a look at some non-first round options for mock flexibility and, hopefully, some scouring of the many fan mocks over at Mocking The Draft.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Mock Breakdown III - Aldon Smith Anyone?

Real life kept me from being sucked into the Senior Bowl's grasp, but I'm actually sort of grateful for that. As nice as the All-Star games are, I try not to get too high or low on a guy based on them. A quote from the German poet Rainer Maria Wilke comes to mind when I think of these pre-draft events, "A person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them. They're who they've been throughout your whole relationship."

While these practices and measurements might tweak an opinion here or there about work ethic (is someone practicing hard...is he able to take coaching...is he keeping himself in good shape), I'm not going to let it destroy what I see on film and what's been on film for years. Like Rilke says, the greater sample size matters more than a single moment.

That said, I'm sure you'd rather read about a mock draft evaluation as opposed to the philosophies of a German poet. This week, I'm keeping it in-house and taking a look at the single round effort from SB Nation's own Brian Galliford.

Mr. Galliford is one of the good ones here at SB Nation. Don't believe me? Check out his blog for all things Buffalo Bills. Oh...probably not a good idea to mention the Bills when former Oilers fans could be here. Oh well, Brian's a sharp guy and a good writer...he's worth the plug.

His mock drafts have been well constructed throughout this process. He's able to give sound reasoning on the majority of these picks to the point where I find myself nodding along. The problem, however, is I stop nodding when I read his Houston Texans first rounder. Without further adieu, I give you Brian's mock first round pick. With the 11th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select...

"Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. When Wade Phillips was with Dallas, he coached the league's best outside linebacker in DeMarcus Ware, a former No. 11 overall pick that nobody saw coming and many questioned. Smith is in the same mold - a raw, freakishly athletic player that Phillips would love for his 3-4 defense."

If you've been paying attention to this extravagant thread or the guys at Battle Red Blog then you know what is coming next.

Why do people insist on giving Houston another speed rusher? The pass rush wasn't terrible in 2010 while Houston has its rush outside linebacker in Connor Barwin. If you're going linebacker in round one, the need is more for a strong-side outside linebacker who is an able cover man with some pass rush skills.

I know Stephen Paea's injury may scare some off who had interest in him playing the nose, but Galliford has him going three spots later. He also has the Patriots drafting the versatile Akeem Ayers a few spots after that, and the description sounds like what I'd prefer at Houston's strong-side (although I'm not sure how I feel about Ayers at the moment).

Even if you believe the Texans need a speed-rusher, I'm sure most of the fan base cringes on the word raw. Raw is another word for oozing with potential. Potential is what the Texans have had for years. The fan base is tired of raw, potential, looking toward the future. For Houston, 2011 is about realizing that potential on the field. If you need another anti-raw stance then look at their draft philosophy: The Texans prefer to take guys who can start from day one in round one. The raw projects? Those are for the later rounds.

As I said, I believe Brian Galliford's mock is among the better ones out there, but I don't believe his Texans pick matches need or philosophy. Who would I take in this instance? As I have said before, if it is good enough for Bill Belichick then it is good enough for me. I'd probably take UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers and place him with Barwin and ILBs DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.

Ayers? Smith? Someone else? Do you cringe at the idea of a raw first round pick? Do you like German poetry? That's why there's a comment box, Internet Draft Gurus.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Talked About DT Stephen Paea Suffers Knee Injury, Out For 2011 Senior Bowl

The number one rule about the NFL Draft is: don’t overreact. There’s a steady stream of news, the argument about one senior all-star performance versus a body of work, and rumors galore. However, this update is something to keep an eye on.

Oregon State DT Stephen Paea suffered, according to a filing to ESPN, a “suspected lateral meniscus knee injury.” No word yet on severity or actual injury, but it’s definitely worth noting given the frequent mocks of Paea-to-Houston.

More on this as information becomes available, but this could change some draft boards and mocks in the coming days.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Mock Breakdown II - J.J. Watt In Houston?

One of the larger draft sites out there is DraftTek.com. Upon perusing it, DraftTek's noticeably different than its peers. For starters, there is no love for special teams in their rankings. Speaking of their rankings, they break down positions into sub-groups (example: running back turns into featured running back and change of pace running backs). They also leave their formulas out to tinker with if you want to see different draft scenarios with their simulator.

However, we're not here for a simulator. We're here to mock! Breakdown their latest mock that is. DraftTek features constantly updated seven round mocks, so let's jump to their Houston Texans picks from their January 22nd mock draft.

1st Round: DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)
2nd Round: FS Ahmad Black (Florida)
3rd Round: DE Christian Ballard (Iowa)
4th Round: OG Danny Watkins (Baylor)
5th Round: SS Dom DeCicco (Pittsburgh)
6th Round: OLB Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
7th Round: OLB Eddie Jones (Texas)

For the depth of their rankings and analysis, this is a pretty poor mock from a personal and Texans-think process. Why? Let's break it down.

DraftTek proclaims Watt to be the best 3-4 DE in the draft, which is certainly not too far from the truth, but they don't address the fact that he's probably a better fit for the traditional two-gap scheme as opposed to the one-gap Wade Phillips scheme. Houston also has starters locked in at DE, so it seems wasteful for a team that lacks starters to take a back-up in round one. Watt's talented, but this doesn't seem like the best fit of value and need - which is what Houston tries to do in the draft.

Black, aside from making general manager Rick Smith cringe from being an early-drafted safety, is, frankly, too small and more of a strong safety.

We've talked about Ballard before, but the real head-scratcher is taking another back-up defensive end for the 3-4 when there is a lack of nose tackle in this defense.

As discussed, the Texans are pretty loaded at guard and spending a fourth rounder on a guard seems like a bad pick - no offense to Danny Watkins.

Admittedly, I don't know much about DeCicco as I rarely saw him play. Size and statistics wise, I like what I see from the strong safety. However, the knock on him, online report wise, seems to be his speed as some suggest he may be too slow to play strong safety at the next level.

Houston needs OLB depth, so the Matthews and Jones picks make sense for depth purposes.

Frankly, to save you from suspense, I give this draft an F. The class is poor as far as fitting Houston and maximizing value. This is the kind of draft class that could lose fans because it is that underwhelming. Let's get to how I would draft given DraftTek's mock.

1st Round: LT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College)
2nd Round: OLB Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma)
3rd Round: FS Deunta Williams (North Carolina)
4th Round: NT Sione Fua (Stanford)
5th Round: QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)
6th Round: WR Aldrick Robinson (SMU)
7th Round: OLB Eddie Jones (Texas)

As I said, this is what I would do given the DraftTek board. This is proof, given these mock limitations, that Houston can fill a lot of needs if they draft smart.

With a lot of talent off the board at 11, I would've traded back if possible. I take Castonzo because he's an athletic and talented tackle that could push Duane Brown and Eric Winston, provide depth at the tackle spot, and even play guard to start with (possibly in place of restricted free agent Mike Brisiel who has spent a fair amount of time being injured in recent years). It's very Andy Reid like to invest in the line in round one, and that is a philosophy that works.

I choose Beal over Georgia's Justin Houston in round two because I feel like Beal's better in coverage which would work at the Strong-side outside linebacker position.

Williams is a first round talent available in round three at a position of need. No-brainer.

In round four, Fua's a great value pick. He reminds me of Jay Ratliff - smaller but freakishly strong with a good first step. Most mocks have him in round two, so I'll steal him in round four to have a good nose tackle to groom behind a free agent signing or a guy like Earl Mitchell.

Devlin's another Andy Reid philosophy pick. He's talented enough for a team to draft him in round two or three to maybe start, so the value is there. Why not, especially with Dan Orlovsky in the back-up role right now, grab a talented young quarterback? Low-risk, high-reward in my mind. Look at Matt Schaub, he was a back-up dealt for picks, so why not try it out?

Robinson's got returner speed and good hands. His former teammate Emmanuel Sanders looks promising in Pittsburgh (and not like he was just a product of June Jones' scheme), so I'll take him to replace Jacoby Jones.

As I said above, Jones is nice depth at the outside linerbacker position.

My mock's not a perfect one. You can debate the first round pick and whether Houston would actually do something like this. That's fine, but I know it's a lot better than the DraftTek mock which doesn't seem to fit. To be fair to DraftTek, their previous Houston mocks had been better, but this one really sort of stumbled around.

The question I'll lob for all you draft experts: If the board is bare at 11 (no Marcell Dareus, no Julio Jones, no Ryan Kerrigan, and not really feeling Stephen Paea or Von Miller) then what do you do? Who do you grab at 11 or try and trade back to get for better value?

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2011 NFL Draft Prospect: Stephen Paea

Since the dawn of Texans time, the fans have yearned for someone to adequately step up and man the middle of the defensive line. Since the Texans slid down to #11, it’s looking more and more likely that Marcel Dareus and Nick Fairley will not be there at that pick. Could Stephen Paea be that man?

Videos
-Highlight reel against Oregon in 2009.
-Interviewed about growing up in Tonga, wanting to be a Rugby player
-Doing LOTS of reps.

Scouting Reports
-SB Nation’s own Mocking The Draft
-Draft Countdown
-NFL Draft Scout (CBS)
-NFL Draft Bible

Wordle: Paea
A word cloud of these scouting reports.

What the scouts all seem to agree on: He’s powerful, he’s active, and he has great initial burst on the snap. Words like motor, dedication, and gym rat also pop out to me—this guy has the sort of intangibles the Texans always target when they’re drafting. There also seems to be a theme of untapped potential, which probably comes from the fact that he’s been playing football for such a short period of time.

What the scouts all seem to think he needs to work on: Pass rushing repertoire. He’s pointed out as relying on his bull rush almost exclusively. Hey, it worked for Mario Williams, didn’t it? Lateral movement is another key issue, and that sort of links right in with the problem they have with his pass rushing, he’s overly reliant on winning that first step. Of course, players have made a career out of that.

Will he be there at 11? Probably. Most drafts right now have him in the 11-25 range, although that could change once NFL scouts get a load of his bench press numbers at the combine. Would he be a fit in the Wade Phillips 3-4? He is a quick penetrator, he can split double teams, and by that measure and MDC’s analysis of the Phillips 3-4, he should be a fit.

Logically, this would seem to make him a pretty good candidate to be drafted by the Texans at #11. Keep in mind that logic hasn’t always been this franchise’s strong suit, but he’s as strong a contender as there is in the field. He’d fill an area that has been a need for the Texans for a very long time. If it were my pick, he’d be my #1 candidate (that’s likely to be there) on the board. Will the Texans see it that way?

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: The Needs Of The Texans

To evaluate mocks in a critical fashion, do mocks of my own, or talk Houston Texans drafts in general, we need to understand a few things. First, we tackled the franchise's drafting history in an effort to understand some underlying trends. Now, there has to be an understanding of the team's needs...and they are many.

Normally, I'd save this discussion until after free agency, but this Collective Bargaining Agreement issue will make that a tricky situation in 2011. If that gets settled out before the draft then I'll re-address this, but, until then, these needs will stand until the draft. Let's get to it.

Quarterback: Matt Schaub is the unquestioned starter while Dan Orlovsky is under contract in 2011. Matt Leinart is hoping to go somewhere for a chance to start (Tennessee? Seattle? Miami?). Orlovsky's not great and has his contract up in 2012. Now may be a good time to take a guy in the 6th or 7th and groom him behind Schaub. Ideally, they'd cut Orlovsky and grab a veteran, but that's another post for another time.

Running Back: Arian Foster's the man, Ben Tate's the back-up with Steve Slaton on the bench while Derrick Ward looks for more playing time somewhere else. There's no real need here if Slaton sits on the bench (or if the coaching staff decides to use him in the screen pass game). Perhaps an undrafted guy to bring in for camp, but there's no need unless the value is overwhelming.

Fullback: Re-sign Pro Bowler Vonta Leach and do it ASAP. That's all I have to say about fullback.

Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson is the go-to man with Kevin Walter probably better suited for slot duties given his skill set. David Anderson is a nice option when on the field while Dorin Dickerson is full of untapped potential. If Jacoby Jones leaves (to Washington perhaps?) then Houston needs to pick someone up - preferably someone who can stretch the defense. Will it be a free agent or draft pick? Could it even be Alabama's Julio Jones?

Tight End: Owen Daniels' down year may make for an easier return which means the position is set. Otherwise, it could be Joel Dreessen holding down the fort while James Casey and Garrett Graham grow into their proper pass-catching roles. Either way, Houston shouldn't be drafting any more tight ends this season. Oh, and Anthony Hill is still here. I almost forgot about him.

Offensive Tackle: Duane Brown and Eric Winston are starters while Rashad Butler's a free agent. Should Butler not re-sign, and maybe even if he is, it's imperative that Houston grabs a young swing tackle and begins to develop him.

Offensive Guard: Between Wade Smith, Mike Brisiel, Shelley Smith, and Antoine Caldwell, the Texans are set at guard if they don't switch anyone's position.

Center: Chris Myers is coming off a pretty good year. Smith and Caldwell can back-up at center, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a back-up dedicated to being a center - whether that's moving Caldwell back to his natural position or picking up someone else. If one of the reserve guards are moved to center then picking up a guard in the late rounds or after the draft may not be a bad idea.

Defensive End: Antonio Smith and Mario Williams make for starters while there's enough guys to throw in behind them as depth - especially since Houston will employ a one-gap 3-4 scheme. If the value presents itself then take a defensive end, but it's not a pressing need.

Nose Tackle: New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has mentioned Earl Mitchell, Amobi Okoye, and (free agent to be) Shaun Cody as nose tackles in his system, but I don't know if I buy it. I think Mitchell makes for good depth, but the Texans need a guy to anchor the front seven.

Outside Linebacker: Yes, the Texans need some outside linebackers outside of Connor Barwin. If Darryl Sharpton or Brian Cushing start on the strong-side then it's simply depth needed, but Houston should be picking up outside guys in the draft and/or free agency.

Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, and Darryl Sharpton should hold the fort down inside, but another one guy couldn't hurt. Of course, if one of those latter two names moves to the outside then Houston could use another inside backer. In either case, Houston has four guys for four spots so three or four more bodies are needed this off-season to round out this woefully-thin corps.

Cornerback: The problem with Houston's secondary was its youth. Until Jason Allen was signed, the top four cornerbacks had about two years total experience between them. A top veteran must be signed. If Houston plans to move Glover Quin to free safety, which is a possibility, then retaining Allen may be a priority since Kareem Jackson hasn't shown enough to be entrusted as the #2 guy. Sherrick McManis should get more snaps over Brice McCain in a dime role, but Houston's biggest need is to get that proven veteran to stablize the top of the depth chart.

Free Safety: Eugene Wilson shouldn't be on an NFL roster, Troy Nolan may be better suited for strong safety, and Glover Quin's currently a cornerback. Free safety is, arguably with NT, Houston's biggest position of need. Someway, somehow this position needs an improvement.

Strong Safety: If Bernard Pollard doesn't return and Troy Nolan isn't moved to strong safety, Houston will need a starting strong safety. Dominique Barber provides adequate depth.

Kicker: Neil Rackers had a Pro Bowl-quality season. No need at the kicker position.

Punter: Matt Turk's age was showing with short punts that lacked hang time and inaccurate coffin corner attempts, so it may be time to pick up a punter since Houston lost the field position battle often in 2010.

Now that those position-by-position briefs are done, let's put these needs in order:
1. Nose Tackle
2. Free Safety
3. Outside & Inside Linebacker
4. Cornerback
5. Strong Safety
6. Wide Receiver
7. Offensive Tackle
8. Punter
9. Guard/Center
10. Defensive End
11. Quarterback
12. Running Back
13. Tight End
14. Fullback
15. Kicker

Call me conventional, but I believe good play starts in the trenches. One-gap or two, nose tackle is where the 3-4 defense begins. Houston couldn't get consistent, impactful play from their 4-3 defensive tackles, so improving the middle of the defense is still on the list after the move from Frank Bush to Wade Phillips. Free safety, a linebacker, cornerback, strong safety, and (possibly) wide receiver need starters, but nose tackle, for the reasons mentioned, is where I see the biggest hole.

The needs stop becoming critical once you hit punter on the list. From punter on down, improving those positions would be nice, but those improvements wouldn't make or break playoff chances, in my humble blogger opinion. Yes, Turk is becoming Chad Stanley bad, but he could be neutralized if the offense became more consistent.

In the end, I don't think anyone's walking away surprised by these rankings. Aside from possibly defensive end, Houston needs all the help it can get on defense. While they won't solve every need in the draft, there are three-to-five legitimate holes on the defensive starting roster after all, the Texans are still going to need a pretty good weekend in April if they plan on being relevant next January.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Making Sense Of The Texans' Draft Past

For the past month, I have gone back to re-visit every single Houston Texans draft class. In all, the Texans have drafted 76 players in the NFL or Supplemental Drafts. With nine years of samples (four of those under general manager Rick Smith) to draw off of, what do these 76 Texans reveal?

- The Texans have invested in both lines heavily with 13 offensive and 11 defensive linemen, which includes first-round linemen from 2005-2008. With nearly one out of every three picks going on the lines, you have to question the results since Houston's never been known for dominant line play on either side of the ball.

- The Texans have drafted at least one linebacker in eight of their nine drafts - more than any other position group. Running back and wide receiver come in second with seven out of nine years and defensive tackles have come to Houston in six out of nine drafts. Given the switch to the 3-4, it's virtually a lock that a LB will be in the draft class.

- For all the tight end jokes, Houston's only ever drafted five tight ends (in four drafts out of nine).

- If anyone's dreaming about Nebraska's kicker/punter Alex Henery or replacing the aging veteran Matt Turk, Houston has never drafted a punter, kicker, or long-snapper. Other rarely drafted positions include: fullback (1), returner specialist (1), center (2), and defensive end (3).

- No safety (free or strong) has ever been drafted before round four. Yes, Glenn Earl is the best safety Houston's ever drafted out of the seven taken. Let that sink in just a bit.

- Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller to Houston? According to draft history, that's not the most-likely selection. The Texans have only selected a player from a Texas-based college six times, including one lone Aggie in 2003's selection of Chance Pierce.

- The Texans have taken multiple players who play the same position in six out of nine drafts. More recently, it's been back-to-back seasons of double cornerbacks (that's how you know the position has too much youth).

- Rick Smith's favorite conferences in his 31 picks? The SEC and Pac-10 share the lead with five players selected since 2007. From his alma mater of Purdue? 0. Sorry, Purdue OLB Ryan Kerrigan.

- If Houston does a draft day deal it'll likely be in the second round. Five times Houston has traded its second-round pick - four years not making a second-round selection at all.

- That said, Houston rarely trades up. Aside from the ill-fated Jason "Bust"-in pick, the Texans have not aggressively moved up in the draft.

- The Texans are a need-drafting team. Houston tends to look for players who can step in and start at a position of need in round one. The picks for rounds two and three traditionally rotate in, so they're also at need positions.

- There's more signs that Houston doesn't abide by the rule that "you just take the most talented players out there." Scheme fit, leadership skills, and drafting players from "pipeline" schools have been a major part of general manager Rick Smith's philosophy. Hence why you see a lot of players from Alabama's cover-2 defense, Colorado State's zone offense, and USC's 4-3 under front-seven.

What's that tell us BEFORE we get to Houston needs? Well, Houston fans should expect a LB, OL, and DL in this class. Those players will primarily be from the Southeast or West Coast and not the Midwest or Texas. The Texans will put needs and scheme fits before talent - except at the safety position where they'll look for another late round find - which will lead to a debatable draft pick (see: Kareem Jackson over Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty). It is also highly likely that two rookies will play the same position (I'd bet linebacker this season).

For those wanting any first round name thrown out...the information currently points to Oregon State's Stephen Paea or Alabama's Marcell Dareus (Pac-10/SEC player, first round defensive lineman, and fits the one-gap 3-4 defensive scheme). Take that for what it's worth, fans.

The next scheduled post? Ranking the needs of the Houston Texans. Hopefully, there will be another multi-round mock to analyze as well.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: 2010 Texans Draft Class Are Rookies No Longer

With the 2010 Houston Texans season over, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case you have drunk enough to forget, the 2010 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - CB Kareem Jackson (Alabama)
2nd Round - RB Ben Tate (Auburn)
3rd Round - DT Earl Mitchell (Arizona)
4th Round - TE Garrett Graham (Wisconsin), LB Darryl Sharpton (Miami)
5th Round - CB Sherrick McManis (Northwestern)
6th Round - OG Shelley Smith (Colorado State), Returner Trindon Holliday (LSU)
7th Round - WR Dorin Dickerson (Pittsburgh)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are in the very distant future of nine months later, look no further:
- Jackson struggled, to put it lightly, in his rookie year. Hopefully, he'll have things slow down, as all second year players say, and begin to put it together. The new defensive coordinator is preaching fundamentals and technique, so, hopefully, Jackson will benefit from this regime change.
- Tate was injured, but he looks to get carries behind Arian Foster. If he's what Houston envisioned, Foster-n-Tate could spell trouble for many teams in 2011 and beyond.
- Mitchell showed some flash. There's talk that he could be the nose tackle in Wade's one-gap 3-4 system.
- Graham, a/k/a the Owen Daniels clone project, saw limited action as a rookie, but he did force some 3-TE sets. Chances are he'll see more action in 2011 if Daniels leaves.
- Sharpton had the most positive impact of any rookie (de facto 2010 Houston Rookie of the Year) after replacing Zac Diles in the starting line-up.
- McManis saw limited time as a cornerback, but he seemed to be a lot faster than anyone thought. He'll either grab the dime in 2011 or be a top special teamer again.
- Smith reminded me of another CSU guard: Mike Brisiel. Smith was physical in the preseason and should get a chance to position himself as the top guard reserve behind Wade Smith and Mike Brisiel.
- Holliday was IR'd in 2010, but the Texans return game could use a major spark. Hopefully, Holliday will catch the ball. Speaking of catching, Holliday will need to show up as a receiver if he hopes to grab a roster spot - which would be easier if Jacoby Jones does not return.
- Dickerson's the one player fans want to see more of. He's got the size, speed, and skills to be a good receiver, but can he learn fast enough? If Jones leaves, Dickerson may get a shot at replacing him in the slot.

It's way too soon to tell about the 2010 Houston Texans draft class or any 2010 rookie at all. Point blank, if you're calling any rookie a bust after one season then you need to get "Football For Dummies" or something because you have very little football knowledge. If it was too soon for a 2009 re-draft then it's definitely too soon for a 2010 re-draft.

If I'm comparing this class to their predecessor, I think 2009 was more talented and offers much more impact. The 2010 class can still produce a lot of solid guys for the roster, but they're going to have to fight the traditional regression that Texans picks have seen of late. Hopefully, Wade Phillips and his staff can coach up the young defenders.

Since this is the last of the draft reviews, I have to say I enjoyed doing all of these draft histories - even with all of these memories of bad talents. With all of this information, we'll look for some trends and try to decipher some of the Texans code before we fully move onto analyzing this year's needs, prospects, mocks, and rumors. I'll also address those lazy mockers who keep mocking another first-round rookie cornerback to Houston.

Make yourself comfortable because there's still a long way to go on the road to the 2011 NFL Draft.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: 2009 Texans Rookie Class Still Has Promise

With the Houston Texans officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case you have drunk enough to forget, the 2009 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - OLB Brian Cushing (USC)
2nd Round - DE Connor Barwin (Cincinnati)
3rd Round - OG Antoine Caldwell (Alabama)
4th Round - CB Glover Quin (New Mexico), TE Anthony Hill (Fresno State)
5th Round - TE James Casey (Rice)
6th Round - CB Brice McCain (Utah)
7th Round - FS Troy Nolan (Arizona State)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are in the very distant future of two long years later, look no further:
- Cushing won the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but struggled in 2010 due to his four-game suspension, position change, and lack of DeMeco Ryans to work with. At times, Cushing looked like 2009 Cushing, but there were also moments of heistancy. Can a full, normal season help the return of Brian?
- Barwin led rookie defensive linemen with 4.5 sacks in 2009, but his sophomore season was cut short due to an ankle injury. The 2011 question is can Barwin make the leap to 3-4 OLB?
- Caldwell also had a good rookie season, but regressed and lost his starting job in training camp. Can he find that nasty streak that helped him in 2009?
- John McClain would be so upset if I didn't remind you that Glover Quin didn't allow a touchdown in his rookie season. In 2010? Quin fell pretty hard in back-to-back weeks against Jacksonville and New York, but he bounced back like a man. After those games, many a blogger, fan, and analyst saw marked improvement by Quin, who did out do his 2009 numbers. Quin's more comfortable in space than on the outside while some still wait for Houston to put him at free safety - where his skill set seems to best fit.
- Hill's still on the roster, but he's been injured for the majority of his career.
- The affectionately-nicknamed THOR (The Hero Of Rice) saw more field time in 2010. He's shown flashes of being a good receiving tight end. Will the Texans bank in THOR and let Owen Daniels walk?
- McCain was good in limited dime-only action in 2009. In 2010, McCain saw the field more and got torched. Eventually, McCain was benched.
- Nolan seems to be a bit too slow to be a rangy free safety, although he's miles faster than Eugene Wilson, but I believe he could make a transition to strong safety if Houston needed. Either way, Nolan seems, at the least, back-up quality.
- Of course, you almost have to add Arian Foster to this class since he was an unsigned rookie free agent. Foster's kind of good.

It's still too soon to tell about the 2009 Houston Texans draft class, but I'm inclined to say that there's talent in many of these picks. Aside from McCain, these players can make an impact on the roster. Normally, I re-draft at this point, but it is too soon to tell on this class and the next, and final, class. I think the only pick that I know for sure that I would change is South Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn over McCain in the 6th round because McCain's just fallen apart while Munnerlyn has looked good in Carolina.

The 2009 NFL Draft has produced some impact players for Houston. There's potential for this class to produce seven starters, including Foster. It's too early to grade this, but, so far, it's passing. Year three will be the telling point for the development of many of these guys who hit the wall during their sophomore seasons. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic about this group. Time will tell...

Next up? The 2010 NFL Draft where Houston wanted NFL-ready players.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: The First SBNH Texans Mock Breakdown

There are a ton of NFL Draft sites out there that put out a lot of analysis, information, and prospect breakdown. Over the course of the next few months, we'll be breaking down mocks and seeing just how informed these sites are.

Walter Football is one of my favorite mock sites. They do a great job of breaking down prospects and analyzing team needs and schemes. Yesterday, the good people at WF put out a four-round mock draft with Wade Phillips-influenced picks. Let's take a look, shall we? You can look at the full mock here if you'd like or read ahead for the Texans-specific selections.

1st round: Texas A&M OLB Von Miller
2nd round: Maryland S Kenny Tate
3rd round: Baylor NT Phil Taylor
4th round: Iowa DE/DT Christian Ballard

Why these players? Let's break them down.

- Miller's the premier 3-4 pass rusher. He had a "down" season in 2010 with 9.5 sacks, but he's as natural a pass rusher as one will find in this draft class - some compare him to Denver Bronco OLB Elvis Dumervil. If the Texans take him then you have to think they're thinking Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans in the middle with Von Miller and Connor Barwin outside. As a side note, 11 is as high as I've seen Miller go.
- Tate's a massive S at 6-4, 226 pounds. A former WR, he's talented enough to play either safety position. Given his 2010 stats (94 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles) and size, he's probably more of a strong safety. He's switched position a few time, so he's a bit raw at either safety role.
- Taylor's also massive at 6-4 and 355 pounds. He may be too big for Wade's one-gap 3-4 scheme. There's weight concerns with him a la Terrence Cody.
- Ballard's drafted for defensive line depth, but there's a concern, read on multiple sites, that he's a soft player. Fourth round or not, I do not want a soft player or any player with that label. The Texans need football players.

Based on Walter's mock, this is how I would draft:

1st round: Ohio State DE Cameron Hayward - I like Miller a lot and wouldn't mind if Houston traded back into the first round to grab him if he were hanging around spot 20-25, but I've been a fan of Hayward's since his freshman year. He can play the run, rush the passer, drop into a zone on a zone blitz, and is a football player. His Sugar Bowl performance was absolutely outstanding. His name's been mostly linked to New England, and if he's good enough for Bill Belichick then he's good enough for me - especially if Antonio Smith seems to be speculatively waffling a bit at the 3-4.

2nd round: North Carolina FS Deunta Williams - The safety class isn't particularly strong up top, but Williams is a guy who's been mentioned in the late first round. If he's there in the second round then it should be a no-brainer.

3rd round. Stanford NT Sione Fua - I considered Oregon ILB Casey Matthews for depth and insurance purposes, but I like Fua way too much to pass on him in the third round. Whether or not Wade can actually bring in Pat Williams for a season, I think there needs to be a young guy in development behind him. Fua reminds me a lot of Dallas Cowboy NT Jay Ratliff, in terms of being a "smaller" NT but freakishly strong. Having him learn and rotate with Pat would be good for 2011 and beyond.

4th round. Alabama SS Mark Barron - I nearly took Auburn OT Lee Ziemba as a guy to develop as a swing tackle since he fits into the zone-blocking scheme, but the defense really could use all the help it can get. Barron does need some coaching to become more consistent and refine his technique, but it's a good risk/reward/value slot here in the fourth round. Barron's got the size, hitting ability, and athleticism to be a good strong safety if he can put it all together.

It's very defense-heavy, but the defense needs all the help it can get. It's not the Walter's mock is bad - I actually wouldn't mind it. I appreciate the fact that he didn't go first round cornerback (more on that after the draft history is finished), but I don't think the mock was fully optimized for Wade's one-gap 3-4 scheme. I'll give Walter's 1/6 Mock a B- for being acceptable but not great given the board. Not that mine is the end-all, be-all, but I feel like it's more suited for Wade's scheme...even though no one is sure, especially since he's been on the job all of two days, what defense(s) Wade will run in Houston.

Whose mock would you rather have: mine or Walter's? Which prospects have your eye? For more Texans draft news, keep checking this stream for updates and be sure to visit Battle Red Blog for all your Texans needs.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Texans 2008 Class Slowed By Injuries

With the Houston Texans officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2008 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - OT Duane Brown (Virginia Tech)
2nd Round - Traded (Matt Schaub Pick)
3rd Round - CB Antwaun Molden (Eastern Kentucky); RB Steve Slaton (West Virginia)
4th Round - LB Xavier Adibi (Virginia Tech)
5th Round - DT Frank Okam (Texas)
6th Round - SS Dominique Barber (Minnesota); Traded (Chris Myers Trade)
7th Round - QB Alex Brink (Washington State)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are in the very distant future of three years later, look no further:
- Brown has been the starting left tackle since being drafted. While initially horrible, Brown's improved steadily to the point where he really only struggles with pure speed rushers (Dwight Freeney). He's a pretty good run and screen pass blocker.
- We've discussed Schaub.
- Molden's career has been injury plagued despite having the measurements to be an ideal starting CB. This season, Molden was one of the top special teams players for Houston, but he could not crack the terrible secondary rotation. That's pretty telling.
- Slaton had an amazing rookie season, but the line and injuries derailed him in 2009. In 2010? Slaton was among the league's worst kick returners.
- Adibi's another guy who has had injury woes. The coaching staff would like for him to start, but injuries, weight issues, and inconsistant play have impeded on their desires.
- Okam was supposed to be the space-eater in Houston, but he never could get it going. He was cut and signed with Tampa Bay earlier this season.
- Barber's primarily been a reserve in Houston with spot-starts. He's a decent reserve player.
- Myers has been the starting center for Houston. Despite being "ragdolled" by New York Jets NT Kris Jenkins in 2009, Myers was, arguably, the best offensive lineman in Houston in 2010.
- Brink was a practice squader for two seasons before moving to the CFL. He currently plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The storyline of the 2008 Texans draft class is: injuries. It has kept players from fulfilling their potential and wreaked havoc on those who had success. While five of the seven are Texans still, most are reserves. At the least, the trades look pretty good for Houston. Random note: There was a lot of (West) Virginia love in this draft with two Hokies, one Mountaineer, and one pick traded for a Cavalier. Nonetheless, it's time for the re-draft.

How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then. I'm also considering my previous re-drafts in this as well. At the moment, I'm pretty well stocked, so I can go best player available which means I'm more in the class of a Philadelphia or New England - find talent, always be replenishing.

1st Round - CB Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech)
2nd Round - RB Jamaal Charles (Texas)
3rd Round - TE Jermichael Finley (Texas), WR Mario Manningham (Michigan)
4th Round - CB Brandon Carr (Grand Valley State)
5th Round - OG Carl Nicks (Nebraska)
6th Round - FB/RB Peyton Hillis (Arkansas)
7th Round - LB Gary Guyton (Georgia Tech)

Before anyone says it, I drafted Matt Schaub in a previous re-draft so there was no need to trade picks. It's all about talent here. Each one of these players starts in the NFL. In the case of Flowers, Charles, Finley, Nicks, and Hillis, these talents are all improving and heading towards the discussion of "best at their position."

The 2008 NFL Draft produced depth for Houston. It could've been a lot better, but it could've been worse. Including the traded picks hich give them three current starters, I'll give a B- for talent and Texans Impact. Without the trades, it's about a C or C-.

Next up? The 2009 NFL Draft where Houston found another rookie of the year.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: The Case For Texans Regression

With the Houston Texans officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Just to update you in case you haven't heard: the Texans have the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2007 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - DT Amobi Okoye (Louisville)
2nd Round - Traded (Matt Schaub Trade)
3rd Round - WR Jacoby Jones (Lane)
4th Round - Traded (Got additional 07 picks), CB Fred Bennett (South Carolina)
5th Round - FS Brandon Harrison (Stanford), OT Brandon Frye (Virginia Tech)
6th Round - OG Kasey Studdard (Texas)
7th Round - OLB Zac Diles (Kansas State)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are in the very distant future of four years later, look no further:
- Okoye's endured an fluctuating Texans career under different weights and line philosophies after a good rookie season. Arguably, despite three sacks, 2010 was Okoye's best season as far as being a more consistent disruptive tackle.
- Schaub's a top-ten NFL quarterback by most people's standards.
- Jones was a dynamic and explosive receiver/returner before 2010 hit and brought him down due to overhype in the off-season.
- Bennett started off great as a rookie before disappearing into Gary Kubiak's doghouse. He was cut by Houston and San Diego before landing on Cincinnati's roster.
- Harrison, the highest drafted free safety in Texans history, was cut after one season. His last known whereabouts was in the UFL's 2009 season as a member of the California Redwoods.
- Frye was cut and no longer plays football.
- Studdard started and played horribly in 2009 after Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel went down with injuries. He spent most of 2010 inactive on gamedays.
- Diles had played well in spots, but he regressed horribly in 2010. He's a free agent to be.

The storyline of the 2007 Texans draft class is: regression. After promising rookie play, most of these players never developed. Is there a problem with developing players? Is this why Houston cannot get over the hump? All are good questions to wonder that are personified with this draft class.

How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then. I'm also considering my previous re-drafts in this as well. At the moment, I'm pretty well stocked, so I can go best player available which means I'm more in the class of a Philadelphia or New England - find talent, always be replenishing.

1st Round - ILB Patrick Willis (Ole Miss)
2nd Round - C Ryan Kalil (USC)
3rd Round - OT Jermon Bushrod (Towson)
4th Round - Trade, FS Dashon Goldson (Washington)
5th Round - TE Brent Celek (Cincinnati), WR Legedu Naanee (Boise State)
6th Round - RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Marshall)
7th Round - FB Jason Snelling (Virginia)

Before anyone says it, I drafted Matt Schaub in a previous re-draft so there was no need to trade picks. Willis is a no-brainer as he has been, arguably, the league's best defensive player since his rookie season. Aside from that, I'm mostly grabbing depth for my re-drafted team (which you can check by going through earlier posts on this StoryStream). Unlike the Texans picks, those players progressed, but that wouldn't be a given in Houston. Still, this proves that every pick can really be used to find talent.

The 2007 NFL Draft produced talent for Houston. Those guys all had starter-level talent, but it never was or has been developed. I'll give a B for talent, but an Incomplete for Texans Impact. That seems fitting, no?

Next up? The 2008 NFL Draft where Houston would try to find a franchise left tackle.

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2011 NFL Draft Order: Houston Texans Have The 11th Overall Pick

Where are your Houston Texans drafting in the 2011 NFL Draft after Sunday’s win over Jacksonville?

1. Carolina Panthers (2-14)
2. Denver Broncos (4-12)
3. Buffalo Bills (4-12)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)
5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
8. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
10. Washington Redskins (6-10)
11. Houston Texans (6-10)
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
13. Detroit Lions (6-10)

The tiebreaker is based on opponent’s winning percentage. The easier your schedule, the higher your tiebreaker.

While player profiles and more will come in the coming months, I’ll leave you with two quick examples of players that have been slotted around 11th and fit Houston’s needs.

DT Stephen Paea (Oregon State) and CB Janoris Jenkins (Florida).

Battle Red Blog and SB Nation Houston will have more to come on the 2011 NFL Draft efforts of the Houston Texans in the coming months.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Mario Williams Was The Right Choice

With the Houston Texans officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2006 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - DE Mario Williams (North Carolina State)
2nd Round - LB DeMeco Ryans (Alabama)
3rd Round - OT Charles Spencer (Pittsburgh), OT Eric Winston (Miami)
4th Round - TE Owen Daniels (Wisconsin)
5th Round - Traded
6th Round - RB Wali Lundy (Virginia)
7th Round - Traded, WR David Anderson (Colorado State)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are five years later then wonder no more:
- A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Mario Williams has definitively answered the question if Houston got it right or not. He's been a top-five defensive end while Reggie Bush has been a third-down running back (effective but not worth #2 dollars) and Vince Young has seen unending drama in Tennessee.
- Ryans, a Pro Bowler and All-Pro himself, is the leader of the Houston defense and has been consistent until his ACL injury earlier this season.
- Spencer played for the UFL's Florida Tuskers in 2009 and, more recently, had a workout with the Texans in 2010.
- Winston still starts at right tackle. Long considered the best Texans lineman, Winston has struggled this season.
- Daniels, a Pro Bowl TE, has been a value pick, but he has struggled in his return from an ACL injury.
- Lundy showed some flashes as a rookie, but he was released in 2007 and didn't catch on anywhere else.
- Anderson is still with the Texans and proven himself reliable in the slot.
- Those traded picks were compensation for WR Eric Moulds (Buffalo) and WR Kevin Walter (from Cincinnati). Moulds was a bit long in the tooth when he got here, but Walter is a still a starter.

The big question from the 2006 NFL Draft is who ran the show: soon-to-be leaving general manager Charley Casserly or new head coach Gary Kubiak? Given the past drafts I've reviewed, I doubt it was Casserly. The 2006 Draft stands as the best in franchise history given the six Pro Bowls and three All-Pros between the six picks who resulted in players who still start/contribute to the organization today. Even Lundy and Spencer showed promise before they were waived for injuries (or whatever it was in Lundy's case). One note is the picks from the big programs such Alabama, Miami, and Wisconsin.

How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then. I'm also considering my previous re-drafts in this as well. At the moment, I could use depth at FB, OT, DE, NT, ILB, FS.

1st Round - DE Mario Williams (North Carolina State)
2nd Round - LB DeMeco Ryans (Alabama)
3rd Round - OT Eric Winston (Miami), DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil (Louisville)
4th Round - TE Owen Daniels (Wisconsin)
5th Round - DT Kyle Williams (LSU)
6th Round - OT Donald Penn (Utah State)
7th Round - Traded for K. Walter, WR David Anderson (Colorado State)

How good a draft is this? I kept six out of nine picks the same. Even if I took into account my re-drafts and the switch to the 4-3, this looks pretty good. There was just a lot of talent taken in 2006 by Houston.

This was a big first step in correcting the errors of Casserly and Capers. The class was talented and continues to make an impact on the Texans in 2010. For whoever (Kubiak?) ran this class, I give an A- on overall draft class and Texans impact. The only minor gripe I have is trading for the older Eric Moulds when Buffalo took Kyle Williams, who is having a fantastic season in Buffalo as their anchor in the 3-4.

Next up? The 2007 NFL Draft where Houston took a chance on a teenager.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: The End Of The Capers/Casserly Era

With the Houston Texans officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2005 Houston Texans draft class - the final draft class of Dom Capers and Charley Casserly:
1st Round - DT Travis Johnson (Florida State)
2nd Round - Traded Pick
3rd Round - RB Vernand Morency (Oklahoma State), Traded Pick
4th Round - WR Jerome Mathis (Hampton)
5th Round - C Drew Hodgdon (Arizona State)
6th Round - S C.C. Brown (Louisiana-Lafayette)
7th Round - LB Kenneth Pettway (Grambling)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are five years later then wonder no more:
- Johnson was traded for an eventual fifth round pick to San Diego where he is currently a rotational defensive linemen.
- Morency eventually ended up in Green Bay but hasn't played since 2008.
- Mathis, the former Pro Bowl and All-Pro kick returner, bounced to the CFL and was an inactive member of the UFL's Hartford Colonials in 2010.
- Hodgdon was released in 2007 and never heard from again, according to Wikipedia.
- Brown is currently tormenting Detroit fans with his terrible non-coverage skills.
- Pettway plays in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos.
- Those traded picks were for cornerback Phillip Buchanon. He currently is a cornerback for the Washington Redskins.

Out of the six drafted players, four are still playing some form of football. With Buchanon, three of those players are contributing members of a football team. Still, Casserly and Capers' last draft didn't provide any star impact players once Mathis fractured his foot. Needless to say, I will be re-drafting all new players.

How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then. I'm also considering my previous re-drafts in this as well. At the moment, I could use starters at FS and DE with some depth at TE, OT, the defensive line, and OLB. Let's see if the 2005 Re-Draft can't fix those issues.

1st Round - QB Aaron Rodgers (California)
2nd Round - FS Nick Collins (Bethune-Cookman)
3rd Round - OT David Stewart (Mississippi State), DE Chris Canty (Virginia)
4th Round - WR/KR Joshua Cribbs (Kent State)
5th Round - TE Bo Scaife (Texas)
6th Round - NT/DE Jay Ratliff (Auburn)
7th Round - OLB Cameron Wake (Penn State)

It was a bit painful to pass on DE Marcus Spears to shore up a starting spot in the 3-4, but Ratliff helps that later. Rodgers would really be the missing piece on the Houston offense I've re-drafted, and allows flexibility in trading David Garrard (2002 re-draft) or Matt Schaub (2004 re-draft) for more picks. After this draft, I've really built out every position with depth, and this doesn't count free agency. It really goes to show you that, if done well, Casserly and Capers could've turned out a dynasty of a roster. Whether they could develop those players or put them in good position is another story, but the talent was there for the taking.

Another weak draft class that left the cupboard barer than bare when Gary Kubiak came into the head coaching position. If you've been following these re-mocks, Andre Johnson is really the only good pick from the era since most Casserly picks don't even play football in 2010. This draft pulls Fs for overall talent and Texans impact, but it's better than 2004 because there was no mega-trade for a bust of a talent. Yeah, there's a silver lining.

Next up? The 2006 NFL Draft where Houston held the #1 overall pick.

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2011 NFL Draft Order: Panthers Locked In To #1, Texans Could Pick As High As #2

Here is your up-to-the-date NFL Draft order through Week 16:

1) Carolina Panthers (2-13) — .576 Opponent’s Win% (.559)
2) Denver Broncos (4-11) — .508 Opponent’s Win % (.507)
3) Cincinnati Bengals (4-11) — .582 Opponent’s Win % (.570)
4) Buffalo Bills (4-11) – .580 Opponent’s Win % (.576)
5) Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — .456 Opponent’s Win % (.464)
6) San Francisco 49ers (5-10) — ..494 Opponent’s Win % (.505)
7) Dallas Cowboys (5-10) — .521 Opponent’s Win % (.509)
8) Houston Texans (5-10) — .527 Opponent’s Win % (.527)
9) Detroit Lions (5-10) – .549 Opponent’s Win % (.561)
10) Cleveland Browns (5-10) — .576 Opponent’s Win % (.565)
11) Minnesota Vikings (5-9) — .542 Opponent’s Win % (.545)
12) Seattle Seahawks (6-9) — .482 Opponent’s Win % (.489)
13) Tennessee Titans (6-9) – .513 Opponent’s Win % (.500)
14) Washington Redskins (6-9) — .518 Opponent’s Win % (.509)
15) Oakland Raiders (7-8) – .469 Opponent’s Win % (.458)
16) Miami Dolphins (7-8) – .536 Opponent’s Win % (.513)

Those win percentages are through Week 15. I haven’t found ESPN’s SOS numbers to be particularly reliable in this matter. But I’ve included them in parentheses so we can see how they hold up to reality once someone who is actually double checking these comes through. It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference either way, as most teams are just about where they’re supposed to be.

EDIT: All the 5-9/5-10 and above teams' OW%s have been updated thanks to Paul Kuharsky.

Basically, there are a few things in favor of the Texans getting a (Nick) Fairl(e)y high pick here:
-Arizona and San Francisco play each other, which means one of them has to win and leapfrog the Texans should they lose.
-The Bills will be playing the Jets, who have nothing to play for, and rumors have already started to spread that the Jets will rest Mark Sanchez in that game.
-Denver draws an opponent, San Diego, that also has nothing to play for.
-While Cincinnati and Cleveland get the Ravens and Steelers, who do have the division to play for, they both have their spots locked in.
-Should the Eagles lose to the Vikings on Tuesday, they will also have nothing to play for against the Cowboys next week.

The Texans, of course, host a Jaguars team that is fighting for their playoff lives and who need to win to have a chance. So there is still a little bit of drama left in the Texans season: just instead of them competing for the playoffs, it’s the other team.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: The One Where Casserly and Capers Hit A Lower Low

With the Houston Texans all but officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fan base will shift to coaching changes, offseason moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2004 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - CB Dunta Robinson (South Carolina); DE/OLB Jason Babin (Western Michigan)
2nd Round - Traded draft pick in Babin deal; RB Tony Hollings (Georgia Tech - Supplemental)
3rd Round - Babin Trade
4th Round - Babin Trade, SS Glenn Earl (Notre Dame)
5th Round - Babin Trade
6th Round - DB Vontez Duff (Notre Dame), RB Jammal Lord (Nebraska), LB Charlie Anderson (Ole Miss)
7th Round - LB Raheem Orr (Rutgers), WR Sloan Thomas (Texas), QB B.J. Symons (Texas Tech)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are six years later then wonder no more:
- Robinson was on his way to elite cornerback-dom, but a leg injury robbed him of speed and practice time. He signed a six year deal with Atlanta, but he hasn't played up to the deal's lofty prices. They're 12-2 though, so I doubt they care.
- It's taken five teams and six years, but Babin is enjoying a good season in Tennessee. It'll take more than that to change his status as a draft bust though. This is easily the worst pick of the Capers/Casserly era due to the picks given up.
- Duff, Lord, Orr, Thomas, and Symons are not on any current active roster - although some did play in the AFL for a few seasons. Lord is a coach/teacher at his old high school.
- Anderson is currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Although taken in the 2003 Supplemental Draft, Hollings' pick came from the 2004 class. He also doesn't play but did bounce around in Europe.

This is easily the worst draft in Houston Texans history. No member plays for the Texans nor has been consistently good, but, at least, Robinson has been a consistent contributor in the league. Then there is the terrible decision to trade draft picks, to a division rival of all teams, for Babin. Needless to say, I will re-draft the entire class. How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then. I'm also trying to keep in mind my other re-drafts. After 2002 and 2003, I'm in need of defensive line depth for the aging Gary Walker and Seth Payne, a franchise quarterback, safety help, and depth for the linebackers and offensive line.

1st Round - NT Vince Wilfork (Miami)
2nd Round - DT/DE Darnell Dockett (Florida State), C Nick Hardwick (Purdue)
3rd Round - QB Matt Schaub (Virginia)
4th Round - CB Nathan Vasher (Texas), K Josh Scobee (Louisiana Tech)
5th Round - RB Michael Turner (Northern Illinois), OT Jason Peters (Arkansas)
6th Round - P Andy Lee (Pittsburgh), QB Jim Sorgi (Wisconsin)
7th Round - WR Patrick Crayton (NW Oklahoma State), CB Jacques Reeves (Purdue), S Jordan Babineaux (South Arkansas)

I do not make the boneheaded draft trade for a bust nor do I take Hollings in the Supplemental Draft. I'm preparing for Walker and Payne to leave with Wilfork and Dockett - both who could play in 3-4 or 4-3 schemes so I've got some flexibility. I've invested in two special teamers who are among the league's best at each position so I can say good-bye to the average-at-best Chad Stanley and Kris Brown. I get good depth everywhere else since all those players are still playing. Schaub is in Houston from the start, but he finds himself behind David Garrard on the depth chart at the moment. After three years of drafting, I feel pretty good about my roster though and am only concerned about QB development and the ever-constant FS hole.

Short and sweet? This is a F- in terms of talent and Texans impact. Dunta Robinson's the best pick, so that says it all - except I'm going to take another opportunity to ask aloud, to no one in particular, why did the Texans send picks to Tennessee to grab the biggest bust in the history of the franchise?

Next up? The final draft of Charley Casserly and Dom Capers.

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2011 NFL Draft: Draft Order Trending Up For Texans

Here is your up-to-the-date NFL Draft order:

1) Carolina Panthers (2-12) — .571 Opponent’s Win%
2) Denver Broncos (3-11) — .518 Opponent’s Win %
3) Cincinnati Bengals (3-11) — .585 Opponent’s Win %
4) Arizona Cardinals (4-10) — .460 Opponent’s Win %
5) Detroit Lions (4-10) – .545 Opponent’s Win %
6) Buffalo Bills (4-10) – .580 Opponent’s Win %
7) San Francisco 49ers (5-9) — ..487 Opponent’s Win %
8) Dallas Cowboys (5-9) — .518 Opponent’s Win %
9) Washington Redskins (5-9) — .518 Opponent’s Win %
10) Houston Texans (5-9) — .536 Opponent’s Win %
11) Minnesota Vikings (5-9) — .536 Opponent’s Win %
12) Cleveland Browns (5-9) — .571 Opponent’s Win %
13) Seattle Seahawks (6-8) — .482 Opponent’s Win %
14) Tennessee Titans (6-8) – .513 Opponent’s Win %
15) Oakland Raiders (7-7) – .469 Opponent’s Win %
16) Miami Dolphins (7-7) – .536 Opponent’s Win %

Based on mathematical fact, we can deduce that the Texans will pick between 2 and 16. Adding Denver and the Jacksonville Jaguars to the schedule will be a net boost for their opponent winning percentage, but not enough of one to leap past the .520-.530 level even if their other games help them out.

Assuming nothing crazy, the Texans should probably hunker down somewhere between 9 and 14. Their strength of schedule will be a big deterrent towards moving up anywhere with even one win. If they happen to lose out, they probably wouldn’t be able to catch the Broncos in SOS, but could catch the Bengals. But if any of the vast swath of 5-9 teams loses out with them, the Texans are probably licked on tiebreakers.

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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Andre Johnson And Nine Other Guys

With the Houston Texans all but officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine drafts. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2003 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - WR Andre Johnson (Miami)
2nd Round - TE Bennie Joppru (Michigan)
3rd Round - OLB Antwan Peek (Cincinnati), OT Seth Wand (NW Missouri State), QB Dave Ragone (Louisville)
4th Round - RB Domanick Williams (formerly Domanick Davis) (LSU)
5th Round - Traded pick to New England for T Greg Robinson-Randall
6th Round - QB Drew Henson (Michigan), DT Keith Wright (Missouri)
7th Round - DB Curry Burns (Louisville), C Chance Pearce (Texas A&M)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are seven years later then wonder no more:
- I hear that Johnson guy is kind of good.
- Wand currently plays for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL (4th pro team).
- Ragone is currently the QB Coach for the UFL's Hartford Colonials.
- Joppru, Peek, Williams (the Texans' career rushing leader at 3,195 yards), Henson, Wright, Burns, and Pearce bounced around but, as of 2010, are not on any active professional roster.
- Robinson-Randall, the acquired traded player, played one season for the Texans and is also not on an active professional roster.

Unlike 2002's class, only one player is still active in the NFL. With that kind of class record, the re-draft won't be nearly as similar. How would I re-draft the entire class now? Again, I only select from the players available at the Texans pick and try to keep in mind the schemes ran back then.

1st Round - WR Andre Johnson (Miami)
2nd Round - WR Anquan Boldin (Florida State)
3rd Round - LB Lance Briggs (Arizona), OL Wade Smith (Memphis), CB Asante Samuel (Central Florida)
4th Round - RB Domanick Davis (LSU)
5th Round - Pick was traded prior to the draft.
6th Round - CB Chris Johnson (Louisville), WR Kevin Walter (Eastern Michigan)
7th Round - OG Kris Dielman (Indiana), TE Antonio Gates (Kent State)

I re-drafted two of the Texans 10 picks, so there's progress from 2002. I take Davis again because he was a talented running back and still better than any late-round back from that draft. Unlike the line-heavy 2002 re-draft, there's a lot of focus on skill positions to round out the then-anemic Texans receiving corps and provide depth for an aging secondary. Could you have imagined an offense with Johnson-Boldin-Gates? Let these drafts serve as a reminder that Charley Casserly and Dom Capers did this team no favors.

Unlike 2002, this was not a group of solid draft picks. Most of these players never made an impact in the NFL and are no longer playing. Still, the Texans found a surprise in Williams, although injuries cut his career short, and a future Hall of Famer in Andre Johnson. The 2003 class was awful overall, and Johnson's brilliance is the only thing keeping it from being a double F. Overall Talent: D-; Texans Impact: D-

As bad as that draft was, Johnson excluded, it wouldn't reach the depths of suck that Houston achieved in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Continue

2011 NFL Draft Thread: Houston Texans - The Beginning Revisited

With the Houston Texans all but officially eliminated from playoff contention, the talk of the fanbase will shift to coaching changes, off-season moves, and the 2011 NFL Draft. Before we break down prospects and analyze mock drafts, we're going to re-visit Texans draft history to study where the franchise has been and grade each of the nine draft classes. Let's begin, shall we?

Here it is, in case your minds have blocked it out, the 2002 Houston Texans draft class:
1st Round - QB David Carr (Fresno State)
2nd Round - WR Jabar Gaffney (Florida), OG Chester Pitts (San Diego State)
3rd Round - OG Fred Weary (Tennessee), NT Charles Hill (Maryland)
4th Round - RB Jonathan Wells (Ohio State), Traded a pick to Atlanta for 2003 3rd Round Pick
5th Round - FB Jarrod Baxter (New Mexico), S Ramon Walker (Pittsburgh)
6th Round - CB DeMarcus Faggins (Kansas State), DT Howard Green (LSU), and supplemental pick OG Milford Brown (Florida State)
7th Round - DE Greg White (Minnesota), DT Ahmad Miller (UNLV)

Talk about a flashback, right? If you're wondering where those guys are eight years later then wonder no more:
- Carr's a third-string QB for the San Francisco 49ers (his 4th team).
- Gaffney's a contributing WR for the Denver Broncos (his 4th team).
- Pitts is a starting guard for the Seattle Seahawks after eight years starting in Houston.
- Green's a back-up for the Green Bay Packers (his 9th team) and former head coach Dom Capers.
- Stylez G. White (formerly Greg White) starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (his 7th NFL team, spent 2 years in the AFL) and has 24.5 sacks in 60 games for them.
- DeMarcus Faggins plays for the Omaha Blackhawks of the United Football League.
- Fred Weary, Charles Hill, Jonathan Wells, Jarrod Baxter, Ramon Walker, Milford Brown, and Ahmad Miller aren't on any professional roster as of 2010.

Half of the picks don't play football anymore while some have fought hard to stick somewhere. In a re-draft situation, I would only take Pitts again. Want proof? With current knowledge, here's how I would re-draft in 2002 only allowing myself to pick players available at Houston's picks.

1st Round - OT Bryant McKinnie
2nd Round - RB Clinton Portis and OG Chester Pitts
3rd Round - FB Lamar Gordon and SS Chris Hope
4th Round - QB David Garrard and OG Jonathan Goodwin
5th Round - LB Scott Fujita and DE Aaron Kampman
6th Round - LB Bart Scott, RB Chester Taylor and TE Jeb Putzier
7th Round - C Eric Heitmann and LB James Harrison

The pick that may be questioned most is McKinnie. In fact, I'm sure most Texans fans wouldn't take McKinnie over Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, or Ed Reed in a re-draft. However, McKinnie's a still-starting Pro Bowl-level left tackle who could have been a huge help for the offensive line - especially since Tony Boselli never played a snap in Houston. Also, Freeney and Peppers may not have played well at 3-4 OLB, and Reed probably would've been behind then-FS Marcus Coleman. Speaking of that early offensive line play, it's no coincidence that I drafted four linemen overall. If only Charley Casserly had the foresight to see those 76 sacks coming.

Still, the Texans found decently talented players - many of whom did play a few seasons in the NFL and two who still start. On a more established team, some of these picks could have panned out much better. I'll give a C- overall on talent, but a F in terms of how it fared for the Texans as only one of those players panned out to be a true starter or significant player for the franchise.

2002 may have been an overall bust, but 2003 would yield something a bit more substantial for Houston.

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