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2011 NFL Mock Draft: A Rick Smith-like Houston Texans Mock Draft

Last week, I teased that it was time for another "realistic" Texans mock draft, and I’m here to deliver on that. Of course, there was a tweak to Houston’s draft class last week as the Texans were given a seventh round compensatory pick.

As we sit a month away from the draft, I firmly believe that Houston’s draft board is more or less finalized as the collegiate pro days are almost complete. Sure, there are teams who are now doing private workouts, but those are often a misdirection smokescreen to keep teams, and the media, guessing. 

Before we get to the realistic Texans mock, let’s do a quick refresh of what makes a Texans draft pick. You can click here for a full summary, but I’ll break it down for those wanting a quick read: Houston drafts based on need for the first three rounds before switching to a pseudo-best talent available model for the late round picks and ending with a high-ceiling project or two. Texans draft picks have typically been captains of their college teams and have experience playing within similar schemes. The Texans traditionally double dip at one position in the draft (having done that six of nine drafts). Rick Smith wise, he favors players from southeastern and west coast colleges as they combine for 21 of his 31 picks.

One big rule I forgot about in the initial post was that the Texans usually won’t draft someone whose name has been attached to them in the draft process. 

Let’s put on our Rick Smith cap and get mocking…trying to stick as close to the formula as possible.

Round 1: The easy mock pick has been North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn to land in Houston, so that’s part of why it won’t happen. Looking at the formula, Quinn also doesn’t have the captain’s patch or schematic fit part down. Even if he has the talent, it hasn’t been demonstrated on the game film consistently or against quality opponents, yet more reasons why this pick won’t happen. The Texans may make surprise picks, but they don’t tend to take players with a lot of red flags in his profile. 

I would slot Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara here, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be available at 11, especially with San Francisco and Dallas ahead of them – also in need of a cornerback. 

Keeping in mind that I’m acting as Rick Smith, there has to be a first round pick that catches everyone off guard but can be justified as well. The 2011 surprise pick comes in the form of Miami (FL) CB Brandon Harris. Harris has been mocked everywhere from 14th to the mid-40s. That range comes from the fact that A) some teams have more pressing needs at other positions and B) he hasn’t had a dynamic pre-draft season to rise like other players. Ignoring those two things for a second, Harris is a really good talent and coming off a season where he was a key component for one of the nation’s best secondaries. 

Why would the Texans like him? Well, he’s another player from The U (they had six on roster at the end of last season), described as a coachable leader, willing and able to support the run, has good recovery speed, and very comfortable playing man-to-man (something that will be needed more since Wade puts a premium on getting after the passer). His only faults come in playing zone defense and jamming, but that, theoretically, could be corrected with coaching and experience. Taking Harris would also, when combined with signing a veteran free agent cornerback, allow the Texans to move Glover Quin to free safety.

Round 2: Having gone cornerback in round one, that means this pick needs to be at outside linebacker. The problem? There isn’t anyone worth that pick that provides value here. A guy like Penn State C/G Stefen Wisniewski interests me, but I’ve got the Smith cap on today. 

We turn our attention to safety where a guy like Oklahoma S Quinton Carter could be the pick. Carter played both free and strong safety in Norman, something that Wade Phillips likes in his safeties. Carter’s probably more of a strong safety in the NFL, but he’s able to support the run, play centerfield, or slide down into the slot - which also sounds like Glover Quin. Back to Carter, his versatility at need positions makes him a schematic fit, very attractive to Wade and the pick in round two. 

Round 3: The OLB position is something I can’t ignore any longer. While Dontay Moch would fit well with the Texans’ history of raw projects in round three, I expect him to land in New York or Pittsburgh at the end of round two. The guy who, while still raw, has helped his stock out lately is Fresno State OLB/DE Chris Carter. 

Carter, the 2010 WAC defensive player of the year, was quietly a force for the Bulldogs. As a DE/LB hybrid, he had 55 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, and 11 sacks (seventh in the nation). At the Combine, he had an incredible 10-yard split (a sign of burst and acceleration) of 1.59 seconds to go along with 27 reps, and a strong display in the three-cone drill (tests change of direction). Carter would be a nice fit on the linebacking corps and could make an impact early with his pass rushing abilities -either standing up or putting his hand on the ground when Wade mixes his defenses up.

Round 4: It’s the fourth round which means I must fight the urge to draft a Wisconsin tight end, Lance Kendricks is this year’s model, and attempt to fill more holes. Arizona State DE/DT Lawrence Guy can fill a hole or two. 

There’s not a lot of depth along the lines for Houston because of the 3-4 transition. Guy has a nice burst of quickness and has upper body strength to clog some lanes. He could fit in at either the nose or defensive end in Wade’s one-gap scheme and could even factor in when Houston switches to a four-man front. A versatile defensive lineman would be a fantastic value pick in the middle of the draft. 

Round 5: The Texans need more quality depth at cornerback behind Kareem Jackson and a veteran CB (the rumored, targeted free agent) especially if they move Quin to free safety. Harris, our earlier pick, would occupy the nickel until he was ready to start, but the Texans need someone to supplant Brice McCain. This is where speedy University of Tennessee-Chattanooga CB Buster Skrine, who had as good a Combine day as any cornerback, comes in. He and Sherrick McManis can compete for the dime with the loser being a top special team contributor and someone the fans talk about moving to free safety some day. 

Round 6: The Texans need to grab another 3-4 OLB and have yet to grab another player from the Virginia/Virginia Tech/West Virginia region that they love so much. Virginia Tech OLB Steven Friday would allow them to check all of that off their draft list. Friday is a solid choice, but I wouldn’t expect him to be anything more than solid depth. This year’s class is thinner than your average year, so I really don’t expect much out of the latter round guys.

Round 7 (1): The Texans have added depth across the board, but one position that could use another body is inside linebacker. California ILB Mike Mohamed’s played in the 3-4 and played well, so he should, at the very least, make a decent special teamer/depth for the Texans. 

Round 7 (2): The Texans aren’t thrilled with the development of Dan Orlovsky, as evidenced by the continued retention of Matt Leinart, and it’s been a while since Coach Kubiak had a project quarterback to develop. 

A&M QB Jerrod Johnson has seen his stock go south due to injury and not having a great 2010 season. His name has been mentioned a few times to Kubiak, and I can see the Texans using this pick to make Johnson a Texan as opposed to letting him hit the rookie free agent market. The Texans could then cut Dan O, make Johnson the third-stringer and develop him behind Matt Schaub and Leinart. 

There you have it, a Rick Smith-think draft. No picks are really splashy, but they’re all some combination of scheme fits, leaders, character guys, fill needs, and could, hypothetically, contribute early. While they could make an impact, the ceilings are definitely not as high as some of the frequently mocked names. That’s really the biggest trait a Houston draft pick has when you think about it. 

Next week, I’ll break down the mock pick made for Houston made during Battle Red Blog’s first round mock. I’ll also, time permitting, break out my own full first-round mock since we’re less than a month away from the 2011 NFL Draft.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.