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.