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?