Houston Texans 2012 Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick

Matt Goldstein@mattgoldstein5Contributor IIApril 30, 2012

Houston Texans 2012 Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick

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    As the NFL draft has finally concluded, the newest members of the Texans will pack their bags and fly to Houston. They will be expected to contribute, compete and help push the Texans to the top.

    Did the Texans make the right decisions on their selections? Will the players they drafted become a major part of the reigning AFC South champions?

    Will Whitney Mercilus become an integral part of one of the most dominant pass rushes in the NFL? How much will DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin succeed in the Texans play-action scheme?

    Most of all, did the Houston Texans make the right picks in the right situations?

    Grades of every draft pick are inside.

Round 1: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

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    Whitney Mercilus is an extremely athletic and skilled football player who can get to the quarterback at will. His combined speed and strength are a trait that many pass-rushers envy, while he is also more developed in the skills department than a lot of other rookies coming into the NFL.

    In the press conference following the selection of Mercilus, Wade Phillips claimed that he is just as athletic as Brooks Reed, the rookie sensation for the Texans last season, and he is also more skilled with pass-rush moves and his hands.

    The Texans already have an exceptional pass rush, and the addition of Mercilus makes it even more deadly. Although he will not be a starter on the Texans when the season starts, Mercilus will receive significant playing time in a three-man outside linebacker rotation with Reed and Connor Barwin. 

    On third-down passing situations, Mercilus and the multitude of other Texan pass-rushers will make it a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. 

    Mercilus was an excellent pick for the Texans, and he will make a stellar defense even more dangerous.

    Draft Grade: A

Round 3: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State

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    DeVier Posey could be a huge sleeper for the Houston Texans, or he might be a disappointing bust. In his second and third seasons at Ohio State, Posey was an elite receiver for the Buckeyes. He was an excellent playmaker, and his speed, hands and route-running ability made him seem like a potential first-round draft choice.

    In his final season, however, Posey received two suspensions for a total of 10 games for his part in the Ohio State scandal, and he did not impress in his last three games.

    He was rusty from not playing the whole season, but it was evident that there was also several other problems. In all his seasons at Ohio State, it was clear that a corner who was capable of pressing a wide receiver well was able to take Posey out of the game. Posey struggled at times against defensive backs good at pressing, and the talent level in the secondary will only improve in the NFL.

    Also, while Posey shows great toughness when he blocks, a trait that the Texans desire in their wide receivers, he does not show the same when receiving the ball. He is fearful of taking a big hit over the middle, and his otherwise great pass-catching hands fail him in those situations. 

    Posey has a great talent, and he can certainly be an effective receiver in the NFL. He must, however, develop his game in order to become a true threat.

    Draft Grade: B-

Round 3: Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami (OH)

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    Brandon Brooks is what some would call a freak of nature. At 6'5" and 343 pounds, he is a giant wall of strength and power.

    When he engages defensive linemen on running plays, his technique is so tuned and he is so strong that it is nearly impossible for them to disengage. Furthermore, Brooks not only possesses a rare size and strength, he is also surprisingly quick and agile. He is able to get to the second level and dispose of opposing linebackers with ease.

    That very surprising quickness is what will allow him to succeed in Houston's zone-blocking scheme. The Texans normally use smaller, quicker offensive linemen, as their blocking scheme is very difficult for slow, lumbering and large linemen to excel in. However, despite Brooks' size, he is not just a space eater. His size makes him an incredible run blocker, and his agility will allow him to keep up with the zone-blocking scheme.

    The only major problem with Brooks is during pass-blocking situations. If he is going against a strong and powerful defensive lineman, he will have no problem. The issue is when he is facing off with defensive players who use their speed to their advantage. He is sometimes slow getting from his three-point stance to a pass-blocking stance, and this allows faster defensive linemen to run right past him. 

    Houston's passing offense is largely based on play action, which is very long developing, and it kills the play if a defensive lineman breaks through right away. If Brooks could just work out this one small kink in his game, he will surely be a starter on the Texans offensive line in the near future.

    Draft Grade: A

Round 4: Ben Jones, C, Georgia

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    Ben Jones is an outstanding center. His skills are very similar to that of Chris Myers, the Pro Bowl-caliber center that the Texans currently utilize. 

    Jones is not the most athletic player, nor is he the most skilled. He struggles with many aspects of his game, including his footwork. The difference between Jones and other offensive linemen who have the same difficulties as him, however, is that he knows and recognizes his strengths and weaknesses. He uses this to his advantage, and he is able to minimize the consequences of the poorer aspects of his game. For example, Jones is not very strong and he is unsuccessful against blocking bull-rushing defensive linemen. Jones, therefore, takes early position against bull-rushers, and he never allows them to get their move going.

    Jones, like Myers, is very effective in zone-blocking schemes. His skill set allows him to excel in them. He is great at sealing off his assignments and opening up holes for the running back. 

    Also, Jones is a leader on the offensive line, and he makes sure that his teammates are always in position and that they know what they are supposed to be doing.

    The one problem with the Jones pick is that he is very much a center. And with Chris Myers on the line, he will not be a starting center for the Texans any time soon. Therefore, the Texans will attempt to transition him to a tackle or guard, and keep him as the primary backup center in case Myers gets hurt.

    If he cannot successfully alter his skills to become another position on the line, then this pick may have been a slight waste. There were plenty of needs the Texans could have filled at this pick, and center was certainly not one of them.

    Draft Grade: B

Round 4: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State

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    Keshawn Martin is an explosive wide receiver. The Texans are hoping that he can transfer that explosiveness to the return game. 

    After reports surfaced that the Texans were attempting to deal wide receiver Jacoby Jones, a player marred for his dropped catches and his muffed punt in the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, it became obvious that the Texans would need to find a new punt/kick returner.

    While Martin is fast and has playmaking ability, he has several kinks that will probably prevent him from cracking the starting lineup. His size and skills project him to play in the slot position in the Texans offense, but Martin might not be the most effective slot receiver.

    He is fearful of going over the middle, and this is reflected in the amount of dropped passes that he has in the middle of the field. Not only is Martin afraid of going over the middle; he is also affected by having defenders close in on him before he catches the ball. Unless he is wide open, he is not a reliable pass catcher. 

    Therefore, the Texans might primarily make him a returner. At Michigan State, Martin returned two punts and one kick return for touchdowns in his career. He showed that he was a playmaker with the ball in his hands in the open field, and he has the potential to become a dangerous returning threat.

    Furthermore, the Texans current kick returner, Danieal Manning, is an integral part of the defense. Every time he returns the ball, he is exposed to the risk of serious injury. If that was to happen, it would certainly hurt the Texans defense. Going by that, Martin might not only replace Jacoby Jones as the punt returner, he might also become the team's kick returner as well.

    If it is true that the Texans picked Martin to primarily be a returner, then it is a bit of a risky pick. There were plenty of players that the Texans could have picked in later rounds, or even signed in the undrafted free-agent market that could be effective returners. The Texans needed to fill the need at the wide receiver position, and Martin will not be that guy until he improves several aspects of his game.

    Draft Grade: C

Round 4: Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska

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    This is possibly the best selection made by Houston in the entire draft. If it were not for his torn pectoral muscle injury that kept him out for the majority of his senior season, Jared Crick would have been considered a first-round pick.

    Crick is an able pass-rusher, totaling 9.5 sacks in his junior season. He showed great work with his hands, and that combined with his pure strength allowed him to shed blocks quite easily. He is a consistent, dependable pass-rusher.

    Crick, however, is much more skilled against the run than the pass. At Nebraska, he was a stout run defender, and he showed great instincts at getting to the ball-carrier. His size made it nearly impossible for college offensive linemen to move him backwards, and he was able to wrap up the running back with the ball whenever one ran near him. Also, Crick displayed that he had the ability to shed offensive linemen who were run blocking him, and be able to chase down the running back from behind.

    Crick is already drawing comparisons to J.J. Watt, the Texans defensive end who made a run at winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, who displayed many of the same abilities as Crick coming out of college. Unlike Crick, Watt was selected with the 11th overall pick in the draft.

    One of the main issues with Crick that caused his draft stock to fall, other than his injury history, is his struggle against double-teams. When Ndamukong Suh left Nebraska, Crick was exposed to more double-teams than he was accustomed to, and he struggled to put up the same numbers that he did in previous seasons.

    On the Texans, however, Crick will rarely, if ever, draw double-teams. The Texans posses a bevy of pass-rushers, and opposing offensive linemen would not dare double-team Crick, for Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Antonio Smith and possibly Whitney Mercilus can all get at the quarterback very effectively.

    If Crick can remain healthy, he will become a key pickup for the Texans in the fourth round, and he could very well become a starter for the defense that was ranked No. 2 in the league last season.

    Draft Grade: A-

Round 5: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M

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    With this selection, the Texans made sure one of their needs would be filled for a very long time. After a lackluster performance in 2011, the Texans decided to not re-sign their kicker, Neil Rackers. While they did send him an offer, it was clearly a discounted one and Rackers chose to sign with the Washington Redskins instead. 

    Randy Bullock is one of those special placekicker prospects who get picked in the NFL draft. He is an extremely accurate kicker, from short distances as well as long ones. He averaged two field-goals attempts per game in his senior season, and he connected on 87 percent of them, a very impressive statistic for a college field-goal kicker.

    In addition to his accuracy on field goals, Bullock is excellent on kickoffs. He is great at kicking touchbacks, and he should be even more efficient in the NFL when he is kicking off from the 35-yard line, instead of from the 30-yard line in college.

    While Bullock was most likely the best field-goal kicker in the draft, one could ponder if the Texans took him too early.

    The Texans only had one pick left in the draft after this one, and it was very possible that Bullock could have been taken by the time the Texans drafted in the sixth. The Texans did not want to risk that, as they believe Bullock could truly be the future of their team as their kicker.

    While it is possible to find starters in the fifth round—it does happen nearly every year—most picks are mostly for depth in these later rounds. Instead of drafting for depth, the Texans have found a guy who can be their starter for many, many years to come.

    Draft Grade: B

Round 6: Nick Mondek, OT, Purdue

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    This pick for the Texans was purely for depth reason. Nick Mondek has the skills that might transition well to the zone-blocking scheme that the Texans utilize, but he is not developed enough to become a starter in the NFL in the next few seasons. 

    Barring an incredible performance in training camp and preseason, Mondek will most likely end up competing for a roster spot.

    The Texans picked him because they believe he can be an effective blocker in their scheme, and he very well may end up being one. Chris Myers was a sixth-round draft pick back in 2005, and nearly every expert believed he was just a depth pick.

    Myers, however, went on to become a very successful center in the NFL because of his ability to play in the zone-blocking scheme, and it is possible that Mondek might have the same career path as Myers.

    He is as skilled and athletic as many offensive linemen in the draft, and he might just work for the Texans.

    Draft Grade: C

Houston Texans Overall Draft Grade

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    The Houston Texans had a very successful draft. They addressed their major concerns, and also added players that could be huge contributors to their offense and defense.

    While they almost completely filled all their depth concerns and weaknesses, the Texans went on to do even more. With the addition of Whitney Mercilus, the Texans made their defense much more dangerous. Outside linebacker was not necessarily a need the Texans needed to address in the draft, but the Texans realized that adding the best player available could bolster their team much more than selecting a player who would just fill a spot on the depth chart.

    Regardless, the Texans also managed to add players who not only will be major contributors, but also will fill depth needs. Brandon Brooks, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin and Randy Bullock can all become extremely important parts of the Texans offense in their own individual way.

    Jared Crick might be considered one of the biggest steals in this year's draft if he remains healthy and plays at a high level.

    The Houston Texans had a very underrated, exceptional draft, and the players they picked might become huge parts of the Texans in the upcoming years.

    Draft Grade: B+