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One of the traditions over at Football Outsiders is to compile all the draft grades that they can and see who was, overall, viewed as the best and the worst.
The Texans can’t claim the top title this year, as that belongs to the Detroit Lions, but they did claim fifth place in the wide sampling of grades made by draft experts:
Highest Grade: A (Prisco, Caplan, Byrne)
Lowest Grade: C+ (Rosenthal)
Comments: Using their first five picks to fix a “woeful” defense drew applause from Caplan, and Prisco thinks second-round linebacker Brooks Reed “can be a lot like Clay Matthews” of the Packers. Byrne gave the Texans an “A” for addressing their needs, but based on previous investments in defenders in the draft, he doesn’t think they’ll pan out. Rosenthal has issues with an uneven draft approach and justifiably wonders why the Texans didn’t address their needs in the secondary.
Ultimately the weight of this class probably falls on Arizona linebacker Brooks Reed. He doesn’t need to be Clay Matthews, but he’ll have to at least justifiably be called Clay Matthews-lite for the Texans to come out of this draft with a smile on their face. The rush linebacker in Phillips’ 3-4 front is probably the most important position on the field, and handing it off to the rookie means that instant success for the Texans defense will likely depend on Reed.
Found a few more draft grades for you, since I know everyone loves draft grades. In fact, we should just scrap the 2012 NFL Draft and just grade teams based on who they look at the most in interviews. Nobody would know what to grade Jim Caldwell, since he never talks, but for most of the NFL it would be a fun exercise, right? Plus it’s just as meaningful as these grades!
Either way, SB Nation’s Brian Galliford weighed in on the Texans, giving them a B+:
Houston Texans: B+
Gary Kubiak needs a quick fix defensively to save his bacon, and the Texans did a great job getting new coordinator Wade Phillips talent at all three levels of the unit (DE J.J. Watt, OLB Brooks Reed, and cornerbacks Brandon Harris and Rashad Carmichael). T.J. Yates is an intriguing mid-round add at quarterback that gives them more depth there, where Matt Schaub is prone to bumps and bruises. Even Mr. Irrelevant, Cheta Ozougwu, looks like a find. Top to bottom, this was solid work by Houston.
The Sporting News’ Russ Lande also saw fit to give them a B+:
Love those defensive players with their first five picks. If J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris are all legit, they could finally make the playoffs.
Finally, the beloved Mock Draft masters at Walterfootball bestowed an A- on your Houston Texans:
Houston’s goal for the 2011 NFL Draft was simple: Find as much talent for Wade Phillips’ defense as possible. Mission accomplished.
The Texans made great selections throughout the entire weekend. J.J. Watt will function as Phillips’ Phil Hansen, while Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris were steals in Round 2.
Houston’s defense will no longer be the laughing stock of the NFL. This team just improved exponentially, and at this point, I think it’ll be a huge upset if the Texans don’t make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Whoa now buddy, don’t go throwing the p word around yet. And you’re not allowed to use “in franchise history” when referring to the Texans without adding “biggest game” before it.
There seems to be a couple of separate consensus’ emerging after the 2011 NFL Draft about what the Texans did. One side liked what the Texans did, but weren’t sold on Brooks Reed, and one side LOVED what the Texans did and rewarded them with A’s. Here’s a few selected grades from around the web on what Houston did in this draft:
I love this draft for Houston as they set out to improve their defense and that is exactly what they did. What makes the draft so good is that they filled position (sic) of need without reaching for players. Watt, Reed, and Harris all could have went higher but feel into the Texans lap.
Texans general manager Rick Smith finally started to address the Texans’ woeful defense and he did so with the first five selections. The first two draftees should see plenty of time as rookies and the next two could start down the line. Yates could be veteran quarterback Matt Schaub’s eventual replacement in a few years.
One thing that became clear to me throughout Sunday was that a lot of people were higher on Yates than you might have thought on Saturday. Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell both love him.
Rick Smith used the first five picks to fortify the defense. J.J. Watt (pictured), Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris should play significant roles as rookies, especially in passing situations when all three could be on the field at the same time. Shiloh Keo, a vicious hitter, should stand out on special teams.
Did Rick Smith use the first five picks on defense? I could use a clarification.
Even before drafting Wisconsin defensive end with the No. 11 overall pick, the Texans used the equivalent of a first-round pick in adding Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. His impact will be every bit as important to Houston’s improvement defensively as Watt – though the former Badger is a prototypical five-technique defensive end. I’m not as high on Arizona’s Brooks Reed as some, but he does give the Texans competition with Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin as threats off the edge. The Texans did get nice value in former ACC cornerbacks Brandon Harris (Miami) and Rashad Carmichael (Virginia Tech) later in the draft and took a quarterback in North Carolina’s T.J. Yates who demonstrated the leadership and intelligence that could someday make him a surprise starter in the NFL.
The Texans took a risk going with front seven players (J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed) with their first two picks when the secondary needed so much help, but we can’t kill either pick because this team needs defenders period. (We are worried Reed’s draft stock was inflated.) This team has not drafted defense consistently, which is why they spent their first five picks helping new coordinator Wade Phillips. It’s an uneven approach that speaks to this organization’s desperation.
I think it’s a little silly to kill the Texans for not addressing their secondary in the draft—part of the problem they had last year to begin with was they were too young back there.
Questionable move: Picking J.J. Watt in the first round instead of Prince Amukumara, but that’s being nitpicky, especially since they later landed two corners.
Third-day gem: QB T.J. Yates. Matt Schaub is their quarterback, but this is nice developmental pick.
Analysis: They were dreadful on defense last season, but their top four picks should help change that. The first three all could be starters as rookies. Wade Phillips had to be happy. The Texans had a good draft.
It’s pretty clear that just about everyone liked the Texans first four players—I like them too. The question will be just how much of an impact they can have at the spots they are being asked to fill. Watt and Reed in particular may not fill quite as much of a need as some other picks that were available when they were drafted.
Still, seems that the consensus is that the Texans made out pretty well here. Now lets check back in three years or so when the grades actually matter.
For more on the Texans, check out Battle Red Blog.
Now that Mel Kiper has assigned draft grades to the Texans, they can have their "draft picks to cut immediately" list ready to go once the lockout is lifted.
Mel's grades are set up a bit differently this year, with three letter grades instead of one. There's a grade for how the teams picked according to need, one for how they picked according to value, and a final "overall" grade. Of course, it's hard to tell what Kiper is ever thinking with these, since there were few C's and only one D. I guess everyone was either great or average at drafting this year, huh Mel? As far as the Texans go:
Watt is a versatile defensive end who will fit that 3-4 scheme and Reed is the outside rusher they needed. The Texans then went to the secondary, a disaster in 2010, adding Harris with a particularly good value pick,
then Carmichael and Keo. I would have liked to have seen another wide receiver in the mix, but I love the pick of Yates, who could be a good one if given time to develop.
The new defensive coordinator (Wade Phillips) for the Texans got a lot of new toys to work with, and I think Houston did a solid job in terms of value in addressing what was simply a bad defense in 2010.
So, the most famous "draft guru" seems to be a fan of Houston's 2011 class. That might resonate with a bit more significance if so many teams hadn't done well according to Mel's grades. Participation ribbons for everyone! Except the Seahawks. Like many others, Mel had a bit of a "what the hell were they thinking" reaction to Seattle's draft.
Personally, I don't know that I would grade Houston's class with a B- in terms of value. Many say that Brooks Reed had first-round talent. Maybe so, but as with J.J. Watt, I thought there were better value options on the board for Houston. That said, the Texans knocked it out of the park with two tremendous value picks in cornerbacks Brandon Harris (60th overall) and Rashad "Roc" Carmichael (127th overall).
Instead of waiting until these players are even allowed in the buildings of the NFL team they were drafted by, we should probably hurry up and get the draft grades on them out there. I don't want to live in a world where a guy who hasn't been a Houston Texan for more that 24 hours has a draft grade.
Here are the draft grades for the first two days of the Texans' draft, if you're interested - AND YOU ARE.
Today's grades are based on Gary Kubiak's favorite press conference catch phrases.
Round 4, Pick 127: Rashad Carmichael CB, Virginia Tech
Carmichael is a highly-competitive corner, and a flat out speedburner. He's got excellent speed, and can close on the ball. He's not very physical, however. Basically, he's a FAR more talented version of Brice McCain, and was a decent value for where the Texans selected him.
Grade: "He's a good kid, he really battles out there."
Round 5, Pick 144: Shiloh Keo, SS, Idaho
Keo is a coach's dream. He's a leader, he's hard-nosed, tough, and by many accounts, he's better at coverage than the average safety... which is to say, he's not very good at coverage, but not terrible. Sadly, that is a huge improvement for the position in Houston. Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak both said he was their favorite pick in the draft, when prompted.
Grade: "We have to put these kids in a position to win. That's our job as coaches."
Round 5, Pick 152: T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina
Showed improvement throughout his career at UNC, and is a nice developmental QB pickup. He'll probably end up on the practice squad - because there's no way he could possibly overtake Dan Orlovsky! Or something!
Grade: "That's on me."
Round 7, Pick 214: Derek Newton, OT, Arkansas State
Newton is too raw to be in the mix for immediate roster-ready depth on the offensive line, but he's another guy who's almost a lock to hit the practice squad. If he gets his physique and technique in order, he could be a solid future prospect for a swing tackle or spot starter.
Grade: "Oh, I don't know, John. I just know that I'm proud of this group."
Round 7, Pick 254: Cheta Ozougwu, LB, Rice
Finally, someone who can hang with James Casey in a conversation... well, until the end of camp, anyway. Cheta does have some quicks and they'll try to see if he flashes as a pass rusher, but of course his ability to succeed on special teams will be the key to him sticking with the Texans.
Grade: "Is that it? Okay, thanks guys."
There's nothing quite as asinine as grading an NFL Draft the day it ends, or in this case, the day before it ends. But since we've been requisitioned to do it, lets have some fun with it. Here are some completely random grades on the excellence that was the Houston Texans first three picks:
Round 1, Pick 11: J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin. Grade: Beige Alert!
I understand J.J. Watt's strengths are a great fit for Wade Phillips' new 3-4 scheme, but the idea that they'd take a non-nose tackle defensive lineman with their first pick fills me with confusion. But then I remember that these are the Houston Texans, and they don't know or care what a nose tackle is. So I'm filled with the same kind of jarring indifference that I felt all of last season as I watched their defense fail to do anything right.
In the face of the Watt pick, I'm forced to conclude that a simple Beige Alert is the best way to go about things for now. If J.J. Watt doesn't improve the defense, tell my wife I said hello.
Round 2, Pick 42: Brooks Reed, linebacker, Arizona. Grade: A slightly used record of Nena's 99 Luftballons
The experts have gotten together and formed their consensus opinion on defensive end J.J. Watt, and outside of a few obvious exceptions, that consensus seems to be "juh? Well, okay." Scribes seem to genuinely like Watt as a player, but they all had their own ideas about the Texans would've been better off spending their first round pick. Here are what the three scribes closest to the Texans had to say:
Paul Kuharsky, ESPN's AFC South Blogger
Many of us thought the team coveted Aldon Smith, who would have been an outside linebacker. But Smith went seventh to San Francisco.
I see no panic in this pick.
I felt some from the Texans last year in the first round when I believe they wanted running back Ryan Mathews and didn't recover well when he disappeared ahead of schedule. They wound up with cornerback Kareem Jackson.
It's crazy that just a year ago, the Texans were conspiring to block Arian Foster from getting the ball. Doesn't that read funny in retrospect? Well, yeah. Anyway, at least there was no panic to the pick.
John McClain, Houston Chronicle
In defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' new 3-4, Watt (6-5½, 290) should compete for a starting job on the left side with veteran Antonio Smith. In passing situations, both are expected to move inside and be sandwiched between defensive end Mario Williams and outside linebacker Connor Barwin.
McClain also notes that the Texans had no interest in trading down. I would have punched a kitten, had I read that when there were any in my room.
Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
In the NFL draft, disappointment is the opposite of excitement, and fans typically feel one or the other when the draft is done. Texans fans are accustomed to the former.
Something tells me that after Watt was selected, there weren't a lot of calls to the ticket office from people interested in buying season tickets. Something also tells me the Texans' front office is not the least bit bothered by that.
The Texans picked an OK player who fits in with what seems to be an "OK is OK" philosophy, hence the disappointment.
The Texans are Average Joe's gym. In the black and white world of the NFL Draft, that may make them losers, but I don't think not hitting a home run with the pick is as big of a deal as Solomon makes it out to be. Who was a home run pick at 11? Nobody.
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