Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Houston Texans

This draft was an opportunity for the Houston Texans to solidify a few holes in an effort to make a deep playoff run in 2012. And despite spending just one pick in the first two rounds, the Texans did a decent job addressing needs without reaching to fill those holes.

Whitney Mercilus will help ease the pain of losing Mario Williams, and should excel in Wade Phillips’ defense. At this stage in his career, Mercilus is a pure pass rusher, but that’s all the Texans need from him in 2012. He’ll share time with Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin and may only be used in pass rush situations early in his career.

DeVier Posey was a forgotten man in the draft process, mainly due to the fact he missed much of the 2011 season due his suspensions at Ohio State. But Posey is a fairly polished product and has the potential to step into the third receiver role in Houston.

Brandon Brooks is a massive interior lineman who has the potential to be a dominant run blocker. However, he’s still very raw and has limited experience against top competition. Additionally, his weight has always been an issue, so the Texans will have to monitor his development closely.

Ben Jones played center at Georgia, but I have to wonder if the Texans plan to move him to guard. The Texans recently signed Chris Myers to a four-year contract extension, giving little hope to Jones of stealing away the starting job anytime soon.

Keshawn Martin fits perfectly in Houston as a slot receiver, and should see fairly significant playing time in three and four wide receiver sets.

Jared Crick could be a steal for the Texans. He’s a prototypical 3-4 end and should excel in the Texans defensive scheme. He could steal a starting job from Antonio Smith sooner rather than later.

I don’t have a problem with taking a kicker in the 5th round, but Randy Bullock should not have been the first kicker off the board. Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein were ranked ahead of Bullock on every board I saw, including my own. Bullock was my 7th-rated kicker.

Nick Mondek offers little value other than as a backup. The Texans will hope he can demonstrate enough versatility in training camp to win a job, but he’ll have to compete with Derek Newton for a roster spot.

Overall, this was a very solid haul for the Texans. They should get immediate productive from Mercilus and Posey, and have some solid developmental prospects in Brooks, Jones and Crick. This could prove to be one of Rick Smith’s stronger draft classes.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Texans Comments Off

Houston Texans select Whitney Mercilus, Grade B

Whitney Mercilus is a decent value pick for the Houston Texans here, but I don’t think it was the home run they needed to improve their chances of competing for the Super Bowl in 2012.

The Texans already had solid outside linebackers in Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, so Mercilus will only be part of the rotation early on. He’s definitely a nice piece to the puzzle, but there were some guys on the board, such as Cordy Glenn, who would have made a bigger impact in 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Texans Comments Off

Texans looking to upgrade secondary

The Houston Texans typically don’t use their pre-draft visits on highly rated players, so there’s usually very little we can learn from their list of visits. However, an interesting trend seems to be developing this year.

Of the Texans 10 visits/workouts we’ve learned of, six of the players are defensive backs (three corners, three safeties).

None of the prospects will be 1st-round picks, with the highest rated player likely being Boise State safety George Iloka, but it’s likely more than just coincidence that the Texans are studying up on so many defensive backs.

Given this trend, and the Texans recent struggles with their secondary, it’s hard to imagine them not addressing the position at some point on draft day. And while none of the reported visits will be 1st-round targets, it’s worth considering the possibility that they may address that need early in the draft, possibly with strong safety Mark Barron in the 1st round.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Texans Comments Off

Draft Needs: Houston Texans

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Houston Texans [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Texans were the most solid all-around team in 2011. The defense made a huge jump under coordinator Wade Phillips while switching to the 3-4, improving from 30th to 2nd in total yards allowed. Everything looked to be in place for a serious Super Bowl run, but the injury bug hit, and it hit very hard. First, All-Pro OLB Mario Williams was lost for the year after the 5th game. All-Pro WR Andre Johnson missed nine games. Pro-Bowl QB Matt Schaub was lost in week 10, forcing the Texans to start fifth-rounder and third-string QB T.J. Yates for the final six games. The Texans still managed to make the playoffs and win the first round, but simply didn’t have enough to get past the Ravens in the divisional round. Look for the Texans to come back healthy and dangerous in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson is one of the best WR’s in the game, but there isn’t much of a threat next to him. It’s time for the Texans to fix this problem and go out and grab a legit number two option. Houston should target Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle, or Mohamed Sanu in round one.

2. Offensive Guard: Mike Brisiel signed with Oakland and 2011 starter Wade Smith is not that good. The Texans have to find at least one new starter at the guard position. Kevin Zeitler would fit in the zone-blocking scheme and could be had at pick 26.

3. Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans wasn’t a good fit in the 3-4 and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Brain Cushing is entrenched at one ILB spot, leaving a question mark at the other. I don’t believe Darryl Sharpton is worthy of a starting job; he is better suited as special teams, depth type player. If the Texans pass on acquiring a WR in the first round, a player like Dont’a Hightower comes to mind. Hightower would complete the Texans defense for years to come.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Texans Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Houston Texans

This draft was all about defense for the Houston Texans – and it needed to be. However, they failed to address their biggest need (the secondary) early in the draft and instead opted to wait until the mid rounds of the draft to fill those holes. They added some instant-impact players early, but if their young secondary doesn’t improve it won’t matter in the short run.

I like J.J. Watt, and I can’t argue with the value he presented at No. 11. However, I had Prince Amukamara rated higher and he filled a much bigger hole in Houston. Watt will start immediately, but at what cost? Mario Williams will be moved to linebacker where he may or may not be as dominant as he was in recent seasons. He isn’t a prototypical 3-4 rush linebacker so there’s no guarantee that he’ll return to his Pro Bowl form. So while I like Watt, it’s hard to get excited about him in Houston. The selection forces them to move their best player and they passed on a more talented prospect who could have filled their biggest hole – not a wise move.

Brooks Reed is a steal in the 2nd round and should immediately excel in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense. He’ll need to be part of a rotation because he isn’t experienced in coverage and may lack the athleticism to ever excel in that area of the game, but he can get after the quarterback. He is definitely a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Brandon Harris was a solid late 2nd-round pick. He was vastly overrated by many in the media who considered him a possible 1st round pick – so I don’t think they got a steal – but he was worth the 60th overall selection. He could win a starting job this year, but down the road is probably best suited to play nickel corner.

Rashad “Roc” Carmichael was a slight reach in the 4th round but should see immediate playing time in Houston. And due to their inept returning starters he could have an outside shot at winning a starting job.

Shiloh Keo is vastly overrated. He was a playmaker at Idaho, but many safeties are on a bad defense. He’s a hard hitter and could develop into a reliable special teams player, but has little upside as a safety in my opinion. He simply lacks the athleticism.

I was surprised the Texans took a quarterback as early as the 5th round. T.J. Yates has some upside as a developmental prospect, but it was too early for a team like the Texans to roll the dice.

I like Derek Newton in the 7th round. He can play tackle or guard and his versatility will make him a valuable backup. The Texans don’t have a ton of depth on the line, so he should be able to win a roster spot.

Mr. Irrelevant Cheta Ozougwu will be converted to outside linebacker. He’s raw, but has the athleticism to develop into a quality pass rusher. However, the Texans are fairly deep at the position due to the move of Mario Williams and the selection of Brooks Reed, which may make it difficult for Ozougwu to earn a spot on the roster.

Overall, I like the players the Texans added but I just don’t like what they sacrificed. As much as I like Watt, there were too many questions raised by his selection to make it worthwhile. If Prince Amukamara develops into a star in New York, they’re going to regret the decision to pass on him – regardless of what Watt does for their defensive line. Even if Carmichael and Harrs improve the secondary, it will still be a weakness and likely will prevent them from making their first trip to the playoffs once again.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Texans Comments Off

Rahim Moore could be one of most coveted prospects in 2011 Draft

UCLA junior safety Rahim Moore has announced that he will enter the draft.

The casual football fan has probably never heard of him, as UCLA hasn’t exactly grabbed national headlines over the past few seasons, but Moore may be the one of the most highly sought after prospects in this year’s draft.

Moore could come off the board as high as No. 11 to the Texans

In a typical year Moore would probably be a late 1st round to mid 2nd-round pick. Due to a lack of talent at safety in this year’s draft class, however, Moore could come off the board in the top 15.

The Texans, who own the 11th pick in the draft, may be his best-case scenario. He likely won’t be the 11th-best player on anyone’s draft board, but he fills a huge need in Houston and there is a significant gap between him and the next best option.

Moore is an ideal fit at free safety, and could supplant Eugene Wilson as the starter in Houston. If they see him as a strong safety, he could replace free agent Bernard Pollard.

Other teams such as the Ravens (looking for Ed Reed’s eventual replacement) and the Colts (insurance behind Bob Sanders) could also target Moore.

Should he slide past Houston, it is possible that one of these teams with a late 1st-round pick will trade up in an effort to land Moore, who may be the only safety with a consensus 1st-round grade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Colts, Ravens, Texans Comments Off

A quick “what if Luck stays in school” mock draft

It seems like every day a new reporter finds “sources” to tell him that Andrew Luck is leaning toward staying in school. I’m inclined to call “BS” on anyone who says Luck is leaning towards staying at Stanford, especially since it sounds as though Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. But I’ll humor those who think he’s staying for a moment and throw together a quick mock draft based on the scenario that he stays. Here’s the top 10 of the “what if Luck stays” mock draft…

1. Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Panthers don’t need a quarterback, so they won’t take one unless Luck is there. Their pass rush was abysmal this season, and they missed Julius Peppers even more than anyone could have anticipated. Bowers is coming off a monster year and should be an instant-impact pass rusher at the next level.

2. Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
With Josh McDaniels gone, the Broncos may be ready to give up on Tim Tebow after just three games. However, I don’t think they’ll reach for someone like Newton or Mallett with the second pick. The safe bet is to take Peterson, the best available player. Champ Bailiey may not return, and even if he does he’s on the downswing of his career.

3. Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
One of the biggest decisions any team has to make this offseason is the Bengals’ looming decision about Carson Palmer. They could cut him loose and draft a new franchise quarterback here. I don’t think they’re willing to give up yet, however. A.J. Green is an elite talent and could be the young receiver Palmer needs to get the offense back on track.

4. Bills – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
The Bills need a quarterback to build around and should be able to get one in this year’s draft. But who will it be? Mallett, Locker and Newton are all worth considering. It’s pure speculation at this point, but I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will lean toward the strong-armed Mallett.

5. Cardinals – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Cardinals are another team in need of a quarterback, but I expect Ken Whisenhunt to push for them to bring in a veteran.  As a result, they’ll turn their attention to the defense in the draft, landing either Amukamara, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley here.

6. 49ers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Until a GM and a coach are in place it’s tough to predict how the 49ers will handle the draft. But one thing is certain: they need a quarterback. If they need to make a decision between Newton and Locker, expect Newton to be their guy.

7. Cowboys – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jordan isn’t nearly the most well-known of the top 3-4 defensive ends, but I believe he is the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will be looking to improve the defense, making Jordan a strong possibility here.

8. Texans – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
The Texans need to address their secondary, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they must turn their attention to the defensive line. Fairley is an elite pass-rushing interior lineman who reminds me of Ndamukong Suh.

9. Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Lions offense is progressing, but the defense still has some holes. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t worked out and the Lions will likely look to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Quinn may be the best pass-rushing end available in this draft class.

10. Browns – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns are now committed to Colt McCoy, but now they need to supply him with some weapons. Jones, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin and Torrey Smith could all be options depending on who leaves early for the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Panthers, Texans 1 Comment

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

10 Observations From Week 1

1. Arian Foster is the answer to all of the Texans problems. They’ve been looking for a feature back since entering the league. Jonathan Wells, Domanick Davis Williams, Ahman Green, Steve Slaton and many others have tried and failed to fill that hole. Now Foster looks like the real deal.

2. I missed the end of the Cowboys-Redskins game, but when I heard the game ended on a holding penalty the name Alex Barron immediately popped into my head. Sure enough, it was Barron who blew the game for the Cowboys. He may be the least disciplined player in the game – regardless of position. He’ll lose his starting job, and maybe his job altogether, as soon as Marc Colombo is healthy.

3. But I shouldn’t put all the blame on Barron. Tony Romo and Tashard Choice, what were you thinking at the end of the first half?! A shovel pass is possibly the last thing that should have happened on that play. Throw a hail mary, throw it out of bounds, or just take a sack! Anything is better than a shovel pass. That was destined to fail.

4. The Steelers are in serious trouble if Max Starks doesn’t get healthy soon. Jonathan Scott replaced Starks on Sunday and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, allowed three quarterback pressures on the 10 pass plays in which he was on the field. Tony Hillis is also an option to replace Starks at left tackle. And if they get really desperate, rookie Kyle Jolly is on the practice squad.

New York Jets Braylon Edwards is called for running into the kicker on Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff in the second quarter on Monday Night Football in week 1 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on September 13, 2010.    UPI /John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Braylon Edwards commits one of the Jets 14 penalties, running into Billy Cundiff on a FG attempt.

5. The Jets might be the least disciplined team in football, and I’m not at all surprised. What do you expect when you put that many egos one roster, led by a coach that has little control over his players. Rex Ryan is a hell of coach, but he isn’t real big on discipline and it shows on the field. The Jets committed 14 penalties for 125 yards, 10 of which came in the 1st half. For a team that isn’t expecting much out of its offense, that’s simply unacceptable.

6. What happened to the Dolphins offense? Surely the Bills defense, in their first game running a 3-4 system, didn’t improve dramatically from a season ago. The Dolphins didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the clock for over 36 minutes and yet only put 13 points on the board (the other two points came on a safety). Here’s one idea to jump start the offense: get more than two receivers involved. Brandon Marshall and Davon Bess were the only wide receivers with a catch on Sunday. They need to find away to get Brian Hartline involved. He’s their Wes Welker.

7. The Bucs and Browns may be the two worst teams in football. The Bills were in the discussion, but they actually looked better than expected on Sunday, at least on defense. The Rams were also in the mix, but nearly pulled off a win over the Cardinals. But the Browns and Bucs played a nearly unwatchable game this weekend. That game very well may have decided the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jake Locker, pack your bags for Cleveland.

8. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 59 times on Sunday and was sacked, hit or pressured on 25 of those plays. That’s a remarkable 42.5 percent of his pass plays. That’s bad news for the Colts offensive line, but it also calls attention to just how freaking amazing Manning is at playing this sport. Despite all that pressure he didn’t throw an interception and completed over 70 percent of his passes.

9. The Falcons offense couldn’t have been more predictable. Hand off to Michael Turner, pass to Roddy White, hand off to Michael Turner… and so on. They need to get others involved in the offense if they’re going to improve upon Sunday’s pitiful showing. The Steelers defense is good, but not that good. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularky played right into the Steelers hands with a terribly uncreative game plan.

10. And finally, I’m not even sure what to say about Calvin Johnson’s touchdown that wasn’t. Clearly he caught the ball. The NFL needs to do away with these nonsense rules that throw common sense out the window.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, Lions, Steelers, Texans 1 Comment

Potential landing spots for Matt Leinart

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart stretches during warmups before a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on August 28, 2010.   UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

It sounds like Leinart may be done in Arizona

Alright, maybe this is a little premature. The Cardinals haven’t cut Matt Leinart yet. Heck, they haven’t even announced who their starting quarterback will be. But its fun to look ahead and wonder where the former top-10 pick may end up. Here are the five most likely destinations:

5. Bills – They already have four incredibly mediocre quarterbacks on the roster, so why take on another? Well they’ve already seen Fitzpatrick, Brohm and Edwards in action and none of them have shown much upside. Perhaps bringing Leinart to Buffalo – the NFL’s Siberia – would get him out of the hot tub and into the film room.

4. Jaguars – Jack Del Rio isn’t particularly fond of David Garrard. Luke McCown is the current backup and appears to have played well enough this summer to make the Jaguars comfortable with him as an option if Garrard went down. But that doesn’t mean Del Rio wouldn’t make a push for the team to sign Leinart, a fellow USC alum, to add another body to the mix fighting Garrard for a starting spot.

3. Texans – Matt Schaub is on the verge of stardom, so Leinart wouldn’t be competing for playing time in Houston. However, Dan Orlovsky is the current backup and Schaub has a fairly extensive injury history. At worst Leinart would be a slight upgrade.

2. Giants – With Jim Sorgi headed to the IR, the Giants are left with Rhett Bomar as their backup. Bomar is a developmental prospect who likely isn’t ready to see an NFL field. Leinart would be a significant upgrade and give them adequate insurance behind Manning.

1. Bears – The Bears have asked (and begged) every available veteran quarterback to come replace Caleb Hanie as Jay Cutler’s backup. Perhaps Leinart will finally be the man for the job.

What? No Seahawks? Here’s my reasoning: who knows Leinart better than any coach other than Ken Whisenhunt? Pete Carroll. He is all too well aware of the lifestyle that Leinart leads and knows that that isn’t what it takes to win the NFL. He’s content with his combo of Hasselbeck and Whitehurst. It’s unlikely that they would bring Leinart aboard just to compete for a backup job which wouldn’t even be guaranteed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Cardinals, Giants, Jaguars, Seahawks, Texans Comments Off