Texans Draft Recap: Six Things We Learned
Goodbye Jacoby Jones.
Few things are sillier in sports analysis than "draft grades" given before players have taken their first steps onto a professional field.
Texan fans know this quite well, considering the abundance of Fs given to them by analysts in 2006 for having the gall to choose Mario Williams over the anointed Reggie Bush and Vince Young. Somehow, the franchise ended up just fine.
So while picks like first-round linebacker Whitney Mercilus and third-rounders DeVier Posey (receiver) and Brandon Brooks (guard) look good on paper, the tale won't begin to be told until they report to Houston training camp in late July.
On the other hand, immediate conclusions can be drawn based on the strategy used in targeting certain positions. Here's a look at what the 2012 draft choices of general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak tell us about the Texans.
6. No concerns with Schaub or Yates The team never expressed any doubt on Schaub's recovery from the Lisfranc injury (and subsequent surgery) that ended his 2011, simply saying that he'd be ready by training camp. But a handful of bloggers and medical experts were worried that Schaub might not recover in the nine-month timetable between surgery and the 2012 opener. Moreover, some questioned if he'd ever return to his pre-injury form. The Texans, notoriously vague and quiet with injuries, never gave specifics regarding Schaub's fracture, so rumors were hard to disprove.
Not anymore. The 2012 draft class was a deep one at quarterback, and the Texans had every chance to take a QB. Kirk Cousins, who many pegged as a second-rounder, was available as late as the Texans' initial fourth-round spot. But the Texans passed on Cousins as well as most other drafted QBs -- something they wouldn't have done if there were a serious chance for T.J. Yates to be the only healthy quarterback on the roster in September. Along the same lines, the lack of a QB choice indicates the Texans are quite happy (as they should be) with Yates as their developmental prospect at the position.
They did sign Houston's Case Keenum as an undrafted free agent, but that's mostly to fill out the roster and bring another arm to training camp. The team would have put more resources into the position if there were any serious apprehension.
5. Garrett Graham gets his chance The Texans didn't just turn down Stanford tight end Coby Fleener with their first-round pick. They passed on tight ends for the entire draft, despite losing Joel Dreessen in the offseason. That reflects confidence in Graham, a 2010 fourth-round choice from Wisconsin with similar pre-NFL credentials to current starter Owen Daniels.
The Texans feature quite a few two tight-end sets, with Dreessen playing in 66 percent of the team's offensive snaps in 2011. That likely means a much heavier workload for Graham, who caught just one pass last season. But the Texans have watched him closely in practices, and Kubiak seems to believe Graham is up for the challenge.
4. Jacoby Jones will soon be released The writing was on the wall once the Texans selected former Ohio State receiver Posey in the third round and leaked word that Jones was on the trade block. They hammered the point home Saturday by taking Michigan State's Keshawn Martin in the fourth round. Martin, like Jones, is both a receiver and a kick-return specialist. They weren't able to move Jones for a draft choice over the weekend, so it stands to reason that he'll be outright released in the weeks ahead.
3. Kicker position set for years The worst-kept secret of the Texans' draft became a reality when the club used a fifth-round pick on Texas A&M's Randy Bullock. It's the first time the franchise has ever drafted a placekicker, but the fit with Bullock was too good to pass up, particularly given the struggles former kicker Neil Rackers had from beyond 40 yards. Special teams coordinator Joe Marciano met twice with Bullock prior to the draft, including a private workout in Houston. Some questioned if a fifth-round draft pick was too high an investment, but the fact that two other kickers went in the first five picks of the sixth round indicated that Bullock wouldn't have lasted until their next pick.
A Houston-area native from Klein High School, Bullock was an outstanding 12-of-14 from 40-to-49 yards in his senior season at A&M. Also unlike Rackers, he has the leg to regularly boot the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. With Bullock on board, the Texans should be set at kicker for years to come. Better yet, Kubiak and Schaub can feel secure that all trips inside the 35 should result in points.
2. Offensive line gets reinforcements The Texans had suitable starting replacements for departing linemen Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel in Rashad Butler and Antoine Caldwell. The question was if the unit would be as successful without the depth security that the latter two provided. The Texans clearly had an emphasis on rebuilding that depth through the 2012 draft. Of the team's eight choices, three went to the offensive line with Miami-Ohio's Brooks, Georgia center (and possible guard) Ben Jones and Purdue tackle Nick Mondek.
1. Defense goes value-first The Texans had the league's No. 2 defense in 2011 with most significant contributors returning, so there were no glaring needs. But when defensive coordinator Wade Phillips saw value, he and the Texans pounced, regardless of position. Whitney Mercilus, the outside linebacker chosen No. 26 overall, was projected as high as No. 7 by ESPN analysts. Fourth-rounder Jared Crick, a defensive lineman out of Nebraska, was labeled a first-round talent before a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2011 and limited his opportunities to play in front of scouts.
Crick is said to be ideal as a 3-4 end, and he'll have an opportunity in Houston to develop behind starters Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt. In a year or two, he could have a chance for a starting role if Smith, a high-paid veteran, becomes a cap casualty along the lines of Williams and DeMeco Ryans.
Draft grade: Wait until 2014.
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