ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky was fortunate enough to get a meeting with legendary Colts GM Bill Polian. He also got to talk to Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt. Presumably he would have talked to Texans GM Rick Smith, but Rick Smith didn't want to incriminate himself by saying what he thought about anything, ever.
The topic at hand? Draft hit rates. Polian says you should strive to hit 64% of your picks if you're picking in the top 12, and 57% if you aren't. Polian also counts players that were undrafted free agents, which can artificially increase that number. Reinfeldt was more refreshingly candid, and I liked the way he went over things more:
"If you look historically, teams get 2.3 starters per draft and as a team, I think you need to strive to get three starters per draft, or I should say players worthy of starting. Is Jared Cook a starter? Not really but he's good enough to be a starter in certain situations. Are Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty? Well, in the right situation, probably."
"Even in the first two rounds, you're going to miss 44 percent of the time," Reinfeldt said. "... It's a tough business. There is a lot of exposure to it. I think you need to be realistic and compare historically to what other clubs have done."
Have the Texans done this? Well, Battle Red Blog's Rivers McCown (hey, that's me!) took a looksee at the problem recently, concluding that the Texans have not drafted very well when compared to their idols, the Steelers.
I've been fairly critical of the Texans for not going out and finding free agents to fill their holes. But the reason they have these gaps in the first place is that they don't draft well enough to cover their tracks. Have they been a little unlucky with injuries? Perhaps. But in a world where you need just about three starters per draft to stay competitive with other teams, the Texans have only had one draft since the Kubiak era started--2006--where they've actually managed to do that. Another thing you can't do is flub your first round picks--hello, Amobi Okoye and (so far) Kareem Jackson. What have the Steelers done since 06? Santonio Holmes, Willie Colon, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Rashard Mendenhall. These guys have all been killing it. Not to mention that Maurkice Pouncey (while overrated a bit this year) looks like he has all the tools to continue the tradition.
One pet theory I have that I haven't introduced yet is how much the Texans rely on character in their draft picks. They will rarely draft a kid with attitude questions, and you will often see the words "team captain" attached to their picks.
This works out very well for the Texans in the early rounds. Aiming for safe gets you places when you're looking at the top of your board and the talent level is high regardless. However, once you get to the fourth round or so, emphasizing character could be the difference between a fringe NFL player and a solid contributor. Just look at Tampa Bay's Mike Williams, a classic example of a kid who could play but was perceived as a knucklehead. The Bucs drafted him in the fourth round and he immediately busted onto the scene with a strong rookie season. Look at the past four years of Texans draft picks and you'll see a cacophony of players who either haven't won starting roles or wouldn't have if they weren't on the Texans. The only two starting-caliber players the Texans have from those slots are Glover Quin and James Casey.
So perhaps part of the problem the Texans are having is that their reliance on finding good kids is overriding their need to find talent in the later rounds?