For fans who wondered why the Texans didn’t draft a nose tackle or a defensive back early on in the draft, Wade Phillips seems to be happy with nose tackles Earl Mitchell and Shaun Cody. But the defensive back not being drafted early was beyond the realm of fathomable. Especially considering a few valid points.
One point being that both Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith were still on the board when the Texans picked. Jimmy Smith came with baggage but on the right team and situation Smith will be a very good player once he gets acclimated to the NFL game. It seems the Texans may have felt like the team didn’t have a strong enough supporting cast in place that could keep Smith in line and out of trouble. On top of that the 11th spot would have been a bit early for Jimmy Smith to be drafted.
Second point being that at the time the Texans picked, Nick Fairley was still on the board which the Detroit Lions eventually picked with the 13th overall pick and everyone praised them. The praise of the Lions had more to do with pairing Fairley and Ndamukong Suh together in the middle of the defensive but Fairley would have still been great value when the Texans picked.
Last point is that maybe the Texans finally played it safe this year. Instead of grabbing another cornerback in the first round this year much like they did in last years draft where many felt like they reached for Kareem Jackson with the 20th overall pick.
The Texans, a team that, ranked 32nd in pass defense last year decided to instead go with J.J. Watt with pick eleven. In an effort toward optimism fans are hoping that this five technique D-lineman can help a defensive line get to an opposing quarterback quicker in turn forcing more errant throws which would allow Wade Phillips’ read & react secondary to make more plays on the ball….at least that’s what us fans are hoping was the thought process. Since 2004 the Texans have choosen 3 defensive ends and 2 defensive tackles in the first round of each years draft except for 2008. In 2009 they picked DE Connor Barwin in the second round. So that gives them a total of six defensive linemen in the first two rounds since 04. Only Mario Williams has really paid off of those picks so lets hope J.J. Watt actually pays off this time as well.
1. First Round, 11th overall: J.J. Watt -DE, Wisconsin
Watt is an ideal fit as a strong side 4-3 defensive end but the Texans like him more as a 3-4 end. A hard-working, intelligent, relentless player. Uses his hands extremely well to get off blocks both rushing the passer and against the run. Doesn’t possess great initial quickness but closes hard and fast on the quarterback and has enough straight-lined speed to pursue from the backside. Good height, fast hands and great anticipation allow him to bat down a ton of passes. Watt will give you everything he’s got and is certainly a first-round selection. J.J. is fundamentally sound and active on the field. He’s got a great swim move. Along with the ability to “smash down” away from the ball. J.J. had this to say, “Job one for me is to disrupt,” he said. “I want to absolutely demolish anyone in front of me, hopefully knock off a couple more blockers so other guys can make tackles. When J.J. gets into piles, he tends to thrash around quite effectively, looking to slow a ballcarrier or take up a couple blockers. He doesn’t mind being the guy on the bottom of a pile that stopped a runner for two yards.
Pick Grade B-: They didn’t not feel a primary need in the secondary however they did get a very nice player in Watt.
2nd Round, 42nd overall: Brooks Reed, DE-Arizona
They drafted Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed (6-3, 263), who will play strongside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense. Reed only enhanced that probability with a 4.65 40, which was faster than 18 of the 24 linebackers tested at the NFL combine. That included a position-best 1.54-second 10-yard split among defensive linemen, showing his explosive first step. Reed isn’t quite as athletic as Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews, but he does change directions with fluidity and impressed in positional drills at the Senior Bowl. The three-year starter closed his career with 114 tackles and 17 sacks and was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2010.
Pick Grade B: Not the top need of the Houston Texans but they did need to add more linbackers in order to move from a 4-3 defense to Wade’s 3-4 style of defense.
2nd Round, 60th overall: Brandon Harris, DB- Miami
After drafting a defensive end and linebacker with their first two picks, the Texans couldn’t wait until the third round to address their secondary. General manager Rick Smith traded with the New England Patriots to move back into the second round and draft Harris. The Texans gave the Patriots their third- (73rd overall) and fifth-round picks (138th overall) in the deal. Harris was expected by most to be off the board by now so their was definite value in this pick and finally addressing the teams most glaring need.
draft pick grade B+: A for effort but with them passing up DB’s in the first lands them a B+ due to the value here.
4th Round, 127th overall: Rashad “Roc” Carmichael, DB- Virginai Tech
At 5’11″ 186lbs. Carmichael was the leader of a secondary that ranked second in the country in total interceptions. Started and played in 12 games, recording 35 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Had four interceptions and seven pass breakups. Once again the Texans addressed need. and with Glover Quin moving to safety theres an outside chance this kid could come in and compete for playing time most likely in nickel situations. Should end up playing some special teams.
Draft grade B: Addressed need and added depth.
Round 5, 144th overall: Shiloh Keo, S- Idaho
At 5’11″ & 216lbs. Keo Led the Vandals with three interceptions and five passes defensed in addition to recording 61 tackles (45 solo, 16 assists) – fifth best on the team. With the Texans having very few quality safeties Keo could find him pushing for some playing time in the next year or so. Look for Keo to make his contribution on special teams early on. Keo is known as a big hitter.
Draft grade B+: Like the pick and this guys physical nature plus they added depth to a position of need.
Round 5, 152nd overall: T.J. Yates, QB- North Carolina
Yates is 6’4″ & 220lbs. Prototypical size for a NFL QB. Yates currently holds the school records for total career passing yards, single-season passing yards and single-season total offense. Started 44 games, including 29 consecutive to close out his career. Matt Leinart could be on his way out so look for Yates to end up the Texans third QB.
Draft grade C-: Could have gotten Yates much later in my opinion but a reach late is better than a reach early.
Round 7, 214th overall: Derek Newton, OT- Arkansas St.
Newton stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 311lbs. Clearly Newton was the best “value” pick by the Texans. Though the Texans would love to re-sign swing tackle Rashad Butler, he isn’t likely to return to Houston so in comes Newton.
Draft grade A: filled a huge need once Butler is gone and got great value with this pick
Round 7, 254th overall: Cheta Ozougwu, OLB- Rice
At 6’2″ 247lbs., welcome in Mr. Irrelevant 2011. Ozougwu graduated from Alief Taylor High School in Houston. He played college football at Rice while amassing 197 total tackles and 11 sacks. This kid may be tabbed as Mr. Irrelevant in this years draft but he will be anything but with whatever he decides to do in life. Ozougwu is already a contributor in the Houston community and looks to possibly be an immediate contributor on special teams. Houston definitely got faster on special teams and with this kid. May end up on the practice squad his first year but could make the team as a special teamer.
Draft Grade B+: Hometown kid with a quality personality. You love to have kids like this on your team.
Overall the Texans receive a “B+” grade for the NFL 2011 draft but only time will tell what grade they truly deserve. I almost wanted to give them an “A” but didnt want to factor the hometown bias into the equation. Only after two to three years is when a teams draft should really be evaluated. Time permitting this NFL offseason we will examine the Texans 2008 NFL draft and grade them accordingly. Until then have fun with the grades and reasoning behind each graded value.