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2011 NFL Mock Draft: One Last Houston Texans Mock Draft

With the 2011 NFL Draft taking place this Thursday tomorrow through Saturday, it's time for my last Houston Texans-centric mock draft. As with the other mocks I have done, I use a combination of sites to, more or less, give me an idea of who will be available and when. This time, I'm saying who I would draft if I ran the Texans with who I think will be drafted by Rick Smith.

If you've been following this thread then you know that I'm more "best talent available" with an eye on need while the Texans tend to think in terms of need and schematic fit. This is why only one name is the same between the two lists. I also am eschewing any rumors about trading up. The roster has too many holes and question marks to warrant sending too many picks away. I think giving up the rumored three-five picks in this year's draft is a move for a team who truly is one or two players away. That team isn't Houston. With that said, let's go to the mock draft. 

Round 1, pick 11 - WANT: Alabama WR Julio Jones; THINK: California DE Cameron Jordan
I assume the best talent available at 11 would be Jones. With the loss of Leach and the potential hit to the running game, I'd really go out of my way to ensure that the receiving corps had that second viable threat to keep it chugging along.

I think Houston will go Jordan though. I have a feeling Robert Quinn (thankfully) and Prince Amukamara will both be off the draft boards. Aldon Smith may be as well, but I don't think Rick Smith is really interested in him - especially as more mockers try to link Smith to Houston. I’ve been saying J.J Watt would be the pick over the last week, but Jordan beats Watt in one area Houston loves – schematic fit. The Texans love to find players who have scheme experience and Cal plays in the 3-4. Do not be surprised if the Texans nab a player or two from schools who run the 3-4. Those schools would be Alabama, BYU, California, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Notre Dame, SMU, Stanford, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Round 2, pick 42 - WANT: Miami (FL) CB Brandon Harris; THINK: Arizona OLB Brooks Reed
In my draft, I hope to land Harris. Brandon's got decent size and speed, but, above all, he brings experience of taking on some of the country's best receivers. He led a superb Miami secondary and this move would push Glover Quin to free safety. Need further proof that Harris is good? Charley Casserly doesn’t want to draft him thus, since Casserly only grabs busts, Harris should have a nice pro career.

I think Houston wants to walk out of the first two rounds with an outside linebacker and Reed fills that hole. Reed’s 1.54 10-yard split at the Combine was the fastest of any pass rusher and was outstanding at the Senior Bowl. I really think he offers much better value here than Quinn/Smith would at 11.

Round 3, pick 73 - WANT: Oklahoma S Quinton Carter; THINK: Carter
There's a time where value, need, and schematic fit match up. This is one of those times. Quinton Carter would be a perfect safety in Wade's scheme since he’s good in coverage, competent in dropping into the slot, and an able and willing tackle. Placing him back there with Quin would turn safety from a glaring weakness into a total strength.

Round 4, pick 105 - WANT: Fresno State OLB Chris Carter; THINK: Colorado CB Jalil Brown
I take my OLB in round four with Carter who had one of the Combine's top 10-yard dash times (an indicator of initial burst) and had an impressive season of harassing the quarterback for the Bulldogs.

The Texans want to grab a cornerback and Brown would be nice value here. Jimmy Smith gets all of the attention, but Brown has gone nearly unnoticed. He’s a big kid (6’1’’, 210 pounds) who can make plays on the ball (averaged two interceptions and 7 passes defensed per season at Colorado) and offers support on the run. I nearly put DeMarcus Van Dyke here since the Texans like their players from The U, but his run support isn’t what the Texans traditionally like. Brown could man the nickel behind the presumed free agent cornerback and Kareem Jackson.

Round 5, pick 138 - WANT: Stanford DT Sione Fua; THINK: Stanford FB Owen Marecic
I don't think Houston will take a nose tackle early, but there will be some nice late-round guys who provide nice value and upside like Fua. Fua comes from a 3-4 defense and is a stout run-stuffer.

With the signs that Vonta Leach won't be resigned, the Texans should be thinking about grabbing the draft's best fullback. Marecic has been described as a bulldozer. He also provides significant special teams value as he also started at linebacker for the Cardinal. The guy is a physical football player who would be providing tremendous value for a fifth round talent. I love Leach, but this would be a very nice replacement.

Round 6, pick 178 - WANT: Nebraska P/K Alex Henery; THINK: Notre Dame NT Ian Williams
Matt Turk is a 43-year old free agent coming off a terrible season. Henery possesses the best leg in the draft. Henery could handle punts and long-range field goals, at the minimum. At maximum, Henery’s booming leg could handle both roles of kicker and punter and be a weapon for the Texans.

I believe the Texans will take a nose tackle late to add a body to the position. Williams in round six would do just that. He can hold the point of attack and clog the middle, but that’s about it.

Round 7, pick 214 - WANT: Boise State S: Jeron Johnson; THINK: California OLB Michael Mohamed
I’m not enamored with either Dominique Barber or Troy Nolan. Also, Johnson provides too much value here. He’s a smart football player with solid fundamentals. At worst, he’s a great special teams contributor and able to fill in at SS from time to time.

Mohamed’s the second OLB drafted and really just done to add depth to the position. He played in the 3-4 at Cal, so he has that experience going for him.

Round 7, pick 254 - WANT: Virginia DE Zane Parr; THINK: Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson
I just needed a DE for my draft and Parr projected to be the best available 3-4 DE with this pick. He’s got decent size and speed.

We all know Gary Kubiak needs a quarterback project and Johnson would be that while Dan Orlovsky thinks about his next job.

With my draft, I’m happy with the talent and think I’ve got next season starters and contributors all the way through the Johnson pick. I feel like the value returned on each pick would be outstanding. Still, I am dependent on getting a top-shelf cornerback to solidify that unit and am thin at the outside linebacker position. Of course, that's how I believe a draft should be run: find talent and fill in any remaining holes with veterans as opposed to trying to fill all holes with young options.

With Houston’s draft, or at least what I think they’ll draft, they’ll fill out the defensive roster and try to hit all their needs. They’re still dependent on the free agent cornerback, but they’ve got starters and depth at every level. The Marecic pick is the least likely of the mock picks to happen, but he’s the kind of player the Texans would like because of his versatility and ability to help out on special teams. I’m also assuming that Rick Smith has already made up his mind about not resigning Mr. Leach. Johnson’s their idea of a luxury pick given Kubiak’s penchant to be a home for reclamation project quarterbacks.

Tomorrow: The real 2011 NFL Draft begins to show how wrong mock drafts often are. Check back with SB Nation Houston and Battle Red Blog for all the Texans news, rumors, and analysis.

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