Waaaay back in the infancy of me actually writing about the Texans instead of just watching them, I had some inspiration from one of John Sickels' pet projects: the shadow draft. Every year, he drafts along with the Minnesota Twins pick-for-pick in the MLB Draft. Seeing as how the NFL draft is both shorter and easier to scout, this seemed like a no-brainer idea for me. So I did one. And here we are two years later, with you indulging me by reviewing it and pretending I am not an idiot. Good times? Good times.
1) No trading down. If I was running the draft board, the Texans would trade down a LOT. But considering the amount of hypotheticals you create by opening the door to fake trades, there is just way too much guesswork involved. If the Texans do happen to pull off a trade, I have to adjust my board to that.
2) I can't assume anyone the Texans picked will last to their next pick. It's just common sense.
3) On the other hand, I will assume that my hypothetical front office has gathered enough draft intelligence to know who will be coming off the board by the time our next pick happens. This is so I don't get stuck with overdrafts of guys that I like that came off the board later than I would have expected.
Lets see how we did this year! 2009 breakdown here.
Round 1, Pick 15
Texans select: Brian Cushing, LB, USC
My selection: Michael Oher, T, Ole Miss
This one is an extremely interesting call now. After the 2009 season, it was clear that Cushing was one of the best picks in the entire draft. Oher did quite well in his limited time as well. Last year? They both fell off dramatically. Cushing was suspended for violating the NFL's drug policy, and looked like a shadow of himself when he came back. Oher struggled protecting against the pass as the Ravens left tackle after Jared Gaither went down for the season with injury.
I think the Texans have won this pick anyway based on Duane Brown's improvement. In my hypothetical world, Brown is a guard, but he improved his pass blocking enough to stick at left tackle, and I was skeptical that he would.
As an overall pick though, this one is very much up in the air. I would give the slight edge to Cushing still, but it's very close.
Other possible picks at this point? Clay Matthews Jr. would look very nice now that the Texans are converting to a 3-4, although we didn't know that at the time. Alex Mack has already made a Pro Bowl, and Hakeem Nicks is knocking on the door as well.
Round 2, Pick 46
Texans select; Connor Barwin, DE, Cincinnati
My selection: same.
Barwin missed almost the entire season after he blew out his ankle in a sickening injury against the Colts in Week One. He had a very nice rookie year as a defensive end, but now he'll be asked to transition into an OLB in Wade Phillips' new scheme, Of all the players on the current roster, Barwin is probably the one with the most volatility as far as the results could go next season. He could be a total bust or a superstar and I don't think I'd be surprised either way.
I think it's pretty clear that the Texans and I both missed the boat on Utah S/CB Sean Smith here, who would look real nice as the Texans No. 1 cornerback right now. Sebastian Vollmer turned into a real nice tackle for the Patriots, and Terrance Knighton would look nice on a team that has no actual nose tackle right now.
Round 3, Pick 77
Texans select: Antoine Caldwell, C, Alabama
My selection: Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama
It's hard to tell what the Cardinals have in Johnson at this point. Instead of turning over the position to him once Antrell Rolle left, they traded for Jets S Kerry Rhodes. Adrian Wilson has been a mainstay at SS for Arizona as well, leaving Johnson little chance to actually get on to the field asides from special teams. I'd say that it's definitely a negative that they didn't trust him with the starting job though, and I'm not expecting Johnson to suddenly become a contributor.
On the other hand, Caldwell was bumped out of the starting lineup by the acquisition of Wade Smith, and looked extremely bad when he subbed for Mike Brisiel in the last few weeks of the season. He's purely a guard at this point, and one that can't pass-protect to save his life. Still, that's better than what the Cardinals are getting out of Johnson, even if he might've been the Texans best safety last season.
Other players that we both missed out on : Steelers WR Mike Wallace, Colts CB Jerraud Powers, Ravens CB LaDarius Webb.
Round 4, Pick 112
Texans Select: CB/S Glover Quin, New Mexico
My selection: S Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest
Vaughn has spent two seasons in the NFL being completely banged up and looks like a lost cause. Quin, while not a great cornerback, has been a very solid No. 2 and has easily been the better pick. This one is no contest.
Most of the actual good prospects at this point are wide receivers: Austin Collie, Johnny Knox, and Louis Murphy to name three.
Round 4, Pick 122
Texans Select: TE Anthony Hill, North Carolina State
My selection: RB Andre Brown, North Carolina State
This one is a total TKO: neither player has played but a handful of NFL snaps due to injury. Nobody wins!
Round 5, Pick 152
Texans Select: TE James Casey, Rice
My selection: TE James Casey, Rice
Not much better value left on the board here. Casey would probably be an adequate-to-good starter already if the Texans would just let him play. But with Owen Daniels re-signed, it looks like he'll have to settle for being the backup for now.
There weren't many picks between this pick and the Texans sixth round pick that panned out as well as Casey. Zach Miller (Jaguars version) has played a little more. I think you could argue that Miami safety Chris Clemons has been about as valuable as well. Other than those two, it's hard to craft an argument for anyone besides Casey.
Round 6, Pick 188
Texans Select: CB Brice McCain, Utah
My selection: C AQ Shipley, Penn State
Shipley, continuing a late-round pick trend of mine, has yet to play in the NFL. On the other hand, Brice McCain was so bad last year that he managed to get buried on the depth chart by a mid-season street free agent (Jason Allen) and was embarrassingly bad when asked to do anything other than run in a straight line.
Quite a few players could have been better picks for the Texans, starting with Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn. Tennesee CB Jason McCourty would also look much nicer, as would Rams WR Brandon Gibson.
Round 7, Pick 223
Texans Select: S Troy Nolan, Arizona State
My selection: DT Chris Baker, Hampton
Nolan is the latest in a long line of Texans safety prospects that have no business being anointed starters, and should be a key problem for the Texans next season if they don't wise up and do something about it. He mixed in terrific ball skills with zero range in limited snaps last season, managing to be better than Eugene Wilson. I guess that's something.
Baker has been a part of the Broncos roster off-and-on for the past two years, but has appeared in zero games. The smarter choices? Julian Edelman and Rashad Jennings.
Overall I think the Texans did a better job in this draft, and if Barwin hadn't spent last year injured, I'd say that Rick Smith would look a lot smarter in the eyes of the fans than he does now. We're heading into the make-or-break year with this crop, and I'd say the Texans found four players who could start. Not a terrible haul at all.