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Posted on: April 24, 2011 4:28 pm

Houston Texans Draft Preview


   2010 record: 6-10, third place AFC South

2011 draft rundown

   Eight total picks (round): 11 (1), 42 (2), 73 (3), 105 (4), 138 (5), 178 (6), 214 (7), 254 (7)\ 

Top needs:

   Outside linebacker: The Texans must find a weak-side outside linebacker that can rush the quarterback in their new 3-4 scheme. They have Connor Barwin for the strong side and DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing inside. The perfect prospect is Texas A&M's Von Miller, but they'd have to pay dearly to move up high enough to get him. If they stay at 11, other first-round candidates are North Carolina's Robert Quinn and Missouri's Aldon Smith. Georgia's Justin Houston is a candidate if they trade down. If they waited until the second round, Nevada's Dontay Moch or Texas' Sam Acho will be considered.

   Cornerback: In a perfect world, the Texans would use free agency to fill their second-biggest need. Because of the labor unrest, free agency might not happen anytime soon, so the Texans will need to get a corner in one of the first two rounds. If Prince Amukamara is available in the first round, they won't be able to pass him up.

   Free safety: Because starter Eugene Wilson was released after a terrible season, this became a priority. Ideally, the Texans will get a starting cornerback and move their best corner, Glover Quin, to free safety. If they don't get a corner and Quin stays at home for his third season, they could use a second-round pick on Rahim Moore of UCLA.

   Strong safety: Bernard Pollard, the team's leading tackler, wasn't tendered. He was told he didn't fit into Wade Phillips' system. They have Troy Nolan and Dominique Barber as veterans for this position, but neither is a big-time playmaker like Phillips wants. 

First round focus

   11th overall

   --New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have a big say in this draft because of the dire needs on that side of the ball--maybe a larger say than he did while he was head coach in Dallas. The move to the 3-4 scheme portends the addition of a rush linebacker and nose tackle, with the primary value at 13 being in converting an athletic defensive end to the position. Their secondary has major issues, as well, so selecting a cornerback in back-to-back years is not out of the question if Prince Amukamara is available.

Five names on Texans' board
  --OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
  --OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri
  --CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
  --OLB Akeem Ayers, UCAL
  --DE Cameron Jordan, California 

--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter

Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Houston, Texans
Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:41 pm

Don't sleep on First Rd DTs after Dareus, Fairley

Many in the media have lauded this year's defensive end class as one of the best in recent years.

While that may be true, I'd argue that the defensive tackle group is not only more talented at the top, it is deeper as well.

Like last year, when attention on the defensive tackles centered around the top two players Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, this crop of run-stuffers is largely described elsewhere as Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and a bunch of other guys.

Those other guys may not wind up as top ten picks like Dareus and Fairley, but draft fans may wind up surprised by how high the next three defensive tackles could go.

I've spoken to representatives of teams operating out of the 4-3 and 3-4 that see the next three defensive tackles -- Illinois' Corey Liuget , Baylor's Phil Taylo r and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson -- as all potential Top 20 picks.

To put that in perspective, the last time there were five defensive tackles drafted within the Top 20 was ten years. Teams can only hope this year's crop winds up as good as 2001, when Richard Seymour (No. 6, Marcus Stroud (No. 13) and Casey Hampton (No. 19) began their standout careers. Unfortunately, the first defensive tackle in 2001 -- Gerard Warren -- was the most disappointing of the group, especially considering his high draft selection. Damione Lewis (No. 12) never panned out for the Rams, either.

I've written before about the raving reviews I've heard of Liuget . As a classic penetrating three-technique defensive tackle, he could hear his name called as early as No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. I'd be surprised to see him get past the trio of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle with picks No. 23-25.

Unlike Liuget, who could play in the 3-4, but projects best inside in a four-man front, Taylor is more scheme versatile. He's the unquestioned top nose guard prospect in this draft at 6-4, 337 pounds, but has the rare athleticism at that size to also split gaps and remain at defensive tackle. Most teams operating out of the 3-4 alignment will tell you that the toughest part of fielding a 3-4 defense is finding a nose guard. That fact could boost Taylor's stock much higher than most believe. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 and Houston Texans at No. 11 could be intrigued by Taylor's ability to immediately improve their interior run defense. I'd be surprised to see Taylor fall out of the first round with the Jets at No. 30 in need of reinforcements behind oft-injured NG Kris Jenkins.

Like Taylor, Wilkerson is scheme-versatile. He's also position-versatile, having starred at defensive tackle at Temple and having the long frame (6-5, 305) and strength (27 reps) to handle the conversion outside as a five-technique defensive end. Wilkerson had the widest wingspan (85 1/4") of all the defensive tackles measured at the Combine and second among all defensive linemen (Oklahoma State DE Ugo Chinasa measured 86 1/8").

That position and scheme versatility, coupled with his impressive production at Temple (70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks) could see Wilkerson drafted as high as the Patriots' No. 17 overall pick. The fact that Wilkerson's production came against questionable competition in the MAC could be enough to push him into the mid or late 20s, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers or Packers with the final two picks of the first round, respectively, didn't pounce on his upside should he fall into their laps, respectively.

Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 2:36 pm

OT Joel Bell, CB Brian McCain Flying up boards

Each year there are relative unknown players whose eye-popping workouts in February and March force scouts back into the film room. Many times scouts are quick to acknowledge the impressive athleticism of prospects to local media covering the event, but once they review the players on film, realize that the speed, agility and strength shown on the track or weight room doesn't translate onto the field. 

And then, sometimes, there are players whose workouts go well and scouts return to the film room to discover that perhaps they had simply overlooked or undervalued the prospects. Two such players moving up the charts this year are Furman offensive tackle Joel Bell and Utah cornerback Brian McCain.

Bell, a three-time all-conference selection at left tackle, was invited to the Combine and put forth one of the more impressive all-around workouts, earning top-ten marks in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle at a shade under 6-7, 315 pounds. His workout was good enough that he didn't need to workout at Furman's Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills. 

Indianapolis Colts' scout Bob Guarini put Bell through a 20 minute workout while the other team scouts' watched. Besides the Colts, the teams represented were the Eagles, Titans, Saints, Jaguars, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Texans, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, and the Packers.

Like Bell, Utah's McCain is hardly just a workout wonder, though the workout he put forth at the Ute's Pro Day could technically classify him as one. McCain was clocked in the low 4.3s and the buzz around scouting circles is that he's been timed even faster before. McCain's 20-yard shuttle (3.99) and 3-cone (6.74) drill times would have ranked among the best among the cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis. McCain, however, was not invited to the Combine, despite earning All-Mountain West accolades each of the past three seasons. While fellow defensive Sean Smith has the size scouts covet, McCain is the more athletic of the duo and has the rare speed and agility for man to man coverage. Among the estimated two dozen teams represented at McCain's workout were the Panthers, Lions, Dolphins and Seahawks. Considering the lack of speed shown by this year's cornerback class, some believe McCain could continue to rise as the draft approaches -- perhaps all the way to the 5th round.




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