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.