The Houston Texans had their best season ever in 2011, finishing with a 10-6 record and earning their first playoff berth. They did that even without their best pass-rusher, Mario Williams, whose season ended early because of a torn pectoral.
That said, when Williams left for the Buffalo Bills as a free agent this offseason, it made pursuing another hybrid pass-rusher early in the 2012 NFL Draft something to truly consider. The Texans did exactly that, drafting Illinois’s Whitney Mercilus with their first-round draft pick.
The Texans had one of the best defenses last year with two talented young outside linebackers in Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin, so was Mercilus the right selection and did the Texans effectively draft the rest of the way? Read through the following slides to find out.
Round 1, Pick 26: Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE, Illinois
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 24
Mercilus only started for one season at Illinois, but it was a remarkable season in which he led the NCAA in sacks. Mercilus’s season was no fluke; he is a skilled pass-rusher who has a very explosive burst off the line of scrimmage.
He needs to develop as a run defender, but he has as much upside as any pass rusher in this draft class. He has a perfect combination of size and athletic ability to convert to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Round 3, Pick 68: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 179
Posey is a gifted talent to play wide receiver, but he has problems with dropping passes and needs to become more consistent. He was suspended for 10 games as a senior season, and played only three games in which he caught 12 passes. He has the potential to be a legitimate No. 2 wideout if he has moved past the mistakes he made at Ohio State, and can become a more consistent performer.
Round 3, Pick 76: Brandon Brooks, G, Miami
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 92
Brooks is a massive and very strong guard with very good athleticism for his size. He was often dominant against MAC competition, and his stock really rose following a tremendous Shrine Game performance. He is a powerful run-blocker who has the potential to be a quality starter.
Round 4, Pick 99: Ben Jones, C, Georgia
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 50
Jones is a well-rounded, solid center who was a productive and consistent presence in the SEC. He could struggle against bigger, explosive defensive tackles, but he has the game to be a quality starting center or kick out to play guard.
Round 4, Pick 121: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 233
Martin is a small but solid receiver. He is a very good athlete who runs good routes and has good hands. He has the skill set to be a solid fourth or fifth receiver and play special teams.
Round 4, Pick 126: Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 82
Crick is a good fit to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. He is not a spectacular athlete, but he is a solid interior penetrator who is strong and solid against the run. He was productive when he was on the field at Nebraska, but injuries plagued his career. He should be a rotational player who can split reps with Antonio Smith.
Round 5, Pick 161: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 299
Bullock is the best field-goal kicker in the draft class. He can step in and take on the Texans’ placekicker role immediately. As a senior, he won the Lou Groza Award and was a consensus first-team All-American.
Round 6, Pick 195: Nick Mondek, OT, Purdue
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Raw offensive line prospect who was a surprising draft selection. Only played two seasons on the offensive line after moving from the defensive line, and played both right tackle and guard, but projects best as a right tackle.
Mondek has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism, and is a solid pass blocker with good feet. He needs to become more polished as a run blocker. Has potential as a developmental right tackle, but may end up as a practice-squad player.
The Texans traded Round 2, Pick 58 and Round 7, Pick 233 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Round 3, Pick 68 and Round 4, Pick 126.
The Texans got great value in this trade down. By moving down only ten spots, the Texans picked up a fourth-round selection while only giving up a very late pick. This trade made sense for them.
The Texans traded inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans and Round 3, Pick 88 to the Philadelphia Eagles for Round 3, Pick 76 and Round 4, Pick 99.
The Texans did not get the value they should have for Ryans, one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL. The Texans swapped third-round picks and received a fourth-round pick.
Ryans’s value was down after a disappointing 2011 season, but he was coming off a torn Achilles, and if he returns to form in the 2012 season, the Eagles got a real steal. While the Texans were unlikely to get more for him given his post-injury concerns, but they should have just kept him in the fold.
The Texans got quality value with their first-round selection of Mercilus, who could end up being the best pure pass-rusher to come out of this draft class and was worth a late first-round pick.
The Texans’ best value of the draft was being able to draft Ben Jones, the second-best center in the draft class, in Round 4. Crick was also very good value late in Round 4.
On the other hand, the Texans reached on both of their wide receiver selections, Posey and Martin. Posey’s talent may have warranted the third-round pick, but it was a surprise that he was selected that early coming off of his troubled senior season. Martin is a solid talent, but he should have been a late-round selection, especially with better wide receivers including Wisconsin’s Nick Toon still available.
Bullock was solid value in Round 5, as he was the clear-cut top placekicker in the draft class. Mondek was a surprise draft selection who should have been an undrafted signing.
With Reed and Barwin, adding a pass-rushing outside linebacker was not necessarily a need, but it was certainly a good idea. The loss of Mario Williams is significant, but the addition of Mercilus gives the Texans a young and very athletic pass-rushing trio to be feared by all opponents.
The Texans were looking for an upgrade at the No. 2 wideout who could emerge as a legitimate downfield weapon across from Andre Johnson. While Posey may not have been the best option available, he has the skill set to develop into that player they need.
The Texans’ biggest need may have been to upgrade at guard and add a right tackle to replace Eric Winston. Mondek is unlikely to be the right tackle they need to replace Winston, so that still remains a point of weakness. The Texans did a good job upgrading at guard, however, adding two potential starters in Brooks and Jones. Jones is likely to play guard with center Chris Myers having signed a four-year deal this offseason.
The Texans also needed a placekicker to replace Neil Rackers, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent, and they filled that need by drafting Bullock. Depth at defensive end was another need, which they addressed by selecting Crick.
One need that the Texans failed to address was nose tackle, where they lack a player worthy of being a long-term starter at the position. Two other areas that the Texans would have been smart to address were to add depth at tight end and draft another safety. That said, they came into the draft with few major needs, and mostly did a good job of addressing the positions where they needed to upgrade.
The Texans added an impact player to their defense in Whitney Mercilus, two potential playmakers at wide receiver in DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin and built up their offensive line with the selections of Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones and Nick Mondek. All in all, this was what the Texans needed to do most with their 2012 draft class.
The Texans got good value with their selections of Mercilus, Brooks, Jones and Jared Crick, but did not get the best value with Posey, Martin and Mondek. They also failed to get the needed upgrades at nose tackle and right tackle.
Mercilus was the right pick in the first round, and Posey and Brooks are players who could really help out the Texans. Randy Bullock filled their need of a placekicker. The Texans could have gotten better value with some picks and left some areas unaddressed, but they had a solid overall draft that should help their team continue to contend.
Thanks for reading!
Throughout the month of May, I am reviewing one team’s draft each day, following the original 2012 NFL draft order.
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