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Houston Texans Draft Preview

After a busier free agency than expected, the Houston Texans will be looking toward improving their team in this weekend’s NFL Draft with smart and efficient draft picks. The AFC South has only become better this offseason, and the Texans have been trying to keep up in order to improve their standings in their tough division and conference. So far this offseason, the Texans have acquired players like RB Chris Brown, C/G Chris Myers, CB Jacques Reeves and two FA linebackers that will make a difference on the field this season. They’ve released C Steve McKinney and won’t see RB Ron Dayne or WR/KR Jerome Mathis again. Stud CB Dunta Robinson will most likely miss the first six weeks of the season, but it’s not all that bad as Ray Rhodes will have a special coaching influence over our zone style secondary. There’s good and there’s bad to the Texans’ offseason, but there’s nothing better that can finish it off than a high draft grade. Thus, let’s get to the draft talk…

GM Rick Smith and HC Gary Kubiak will be on the clock this weekend with the 18th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. The Texans have four more selections thereafter (Rounds 3, 4, 5, & 7) while heading into this year’s draft with a much deeper team than they had last year. The Texans needs are wide spread, but with five picks this weekend, the Texans should be looking to add a talented cornerback, an offensive tackle and guard, a pass rushing defensive end, and a running back or playmaking receiver.

CB

The Texans will be going into next season starting cornerbacks Jacques Reeves and Fred Bennett in the secondary. They’ll also plan to play Jamar Fletcher at the nickel corner and Demarcus Faggins at the dime corner. The problem is that Fletcher is best playing the dime corner position while Faggins is best at nickel if anything, but in reality he’s best off the field and on his soon to be designated bench spot. This should give reason for the Texans to draft one of this draft’s prominent corners to take the nickel spot, or more appropriately take Jacques Reeves’ starting job. On Reeves, the Cowboys didn’t want him and passed on signing him back. They knew something, and so does the majority of critical and average Dallas fans on the Cowboys message boards. The Texans will draft a corner, check out this post to check out the Texans list of corners who may be available when the Texans are on the clock with the 18th pick overall. Personally, if Kansas’s Aqib Talib or South Florida’s Mike Jenkins is there at 18, I take them unless Vanderbilt LT Chris Williams is there.

OT

Gary Kubiak said it best about left tackles, “(t)hey’re a special breed…that is a must position in this league.” Historically, the Texans haven’t had a “special” left tackle since the day of their inception. They’ve dealt with loss and folly while never quite finding the offensive tackle to save their franchise…or quarterback. This draft will have four tackles who can make a difference for the Texans in 2008, but one’s already off the board with Miami agreeing with LT Jake Long as the number one pick in the draft. There’s a rare chance Boise States’ Ryan Clady, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Otah or Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams will be there before 18. USC OT Sam Baker or even Kansas LT Anthony Collins, Nebraska’s OT Carl Nicks might be a stretch but I can see Collins and Nicks developing into good offensive tackles in the NFL. Beyond them the Texans should look at tackles and guards in the third, fourth or fifth round that will fit into new assistant coach Alex Gibbs’ zone blocking system. If the Texans select a corner in Round 1 then I’d hope for 6’8″ 308lbs. LT Thaddeus Coleman out of Mississippi State falls to Kubiak. The guy might not be Kubiak or Gibbs desired mold of a zone blocking left tackle, but there’s no doubt that if this guy pans out he’ll be great in any offensive system and definitely a premier NFL left tackle.

RB

The Texans have four running backs on their roster right now after dismissing Ron Dayne from his services, signing Chris Brown, re-signing Darius Walker and Chris Taylor. Here’s a video of what Chris Brown did in his sophomore year at Colorado against Nebraska so many injuries ago, but in Gibbs’ created zone blocking system. The re-signing of Darius Walker brings back our latest rusher who began blazing the field against opponents before the season ended. Chris Taylor’s re-signing brings back a good back that was impressive at the end of 2006 and has recovered from knee surgery stinting from a knee injury early in 2007. Then of course, the starter Ahman Green will be ready to roll as he’s healthy and presumably in shape for the season ahead. Four running backs that could take the field on any given day. Expect Kubiak to suit two to three on game day like he did last season, especially if their injuries start amounting with three out of four backs that have had NFL related surgeries in 2008. Thus, the Houston media is calling for a young back. I’d expect Arkansas RB Darren McFadden gone in the top 10 overall picks and that may leave one of Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart or Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall. If they’re gone then the best backs available for the first round are the speedy Texas RB Jamaal Charles or Eastern Carolina RB Chris Johnson. Arkansas RB Felix Jones might not be worth the 18th overall pick. If the Texans don’t go running back in the first round, then I expect them to draft one in their last two rounds. Houston RB Anthony Aldridge could be a late round pick that could help the Texans with his blazing speed. HC Gary Kubiak has had a history of drafting good backs in the later rounds and getting great productivity out of them. Later round probables are Toledo RB Jalen Parmele or Mississippi RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis. If not late or too early, then Central Florida RB Kevin Smith, West Virginia RB Steve Slaton, Michigan RB Mike Hart, Oklahoma RB Allen Patrick or Oklahoma State RB Dantrell Savage might be available in the third round for the Texans.

OG

The Houston Texans may most likely draft an offensive guard in the first round if Virginia OG Branden Albert is available. If not, I can see the Texans spending a day two pick on a guard to add depth to their offensive line. The drafted guard would also be a noticeably physical fit into Gibbs’ zone system. As of now, the Texans have LG Chester Pitts and RG Mike Brisiel and G Kasey Studdard while the Texans have yet to call back RG Fred Weary for another stint with the team. On April 22, Lance Zierlein posted some great values in the draft. He wrote this on one guard who’s moving up on the draft boards:

“OG: Chad Rinehart – Northern Iowa: Rinehart played tackle in college but will move to guard in the pros. While his teammate, OT Brandon Keith is getting plenty of attention, Rinehart is a steady player with long arms and good explosion at the point of attack.

Expected to be drafted in…. 4th/5th Round”

DE

If the Houston Texans select a cornerback or offensive lineman on the first day of the draft, then they’ll be looking at undersized defensive ends on day two. The Texans should be looking to add depth behind LE Anthony Weaver with a better-on-the-field pass rushing DE who can take the spot light that Weaver seems to not want. NFLDraftCountdown.com put out a good ranking list of defensive ends in this year’s draft, and it looks to me that the top 14 DEs will be gone by the Texans third round selection. Everyone below 14 are undersized and may not make the impact desired from the drafting team. I do like Tommy Blake‘s college play, but there are definite questions to his NFL potential and motivation. The Texans right now would start RE Mario Williams and LE Weaver with RE Earl Cochran and LE N.D. Kalu as depth. Look for the Texans to find a jewel in the rough on day two as they’ve done before (i.e. TE Owen Daniels).

Now its just time to see what picks 18, 79, 118, 151 and 223 brings the Texans…


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