Round and round we go, who they’ll pick nobody knows. Nevertheless, it sure is fun to speculate.
Next to the Super Bowl, no single event on the calendar draws as much interest as the draft. The cattle call known as the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine commences on February 20 in Indianapolis. Prospects will be measured, clocked, interviewed, wined, dined and “Wonderliced” to see if they are worthy of joining the fraternity.
Prior to that, we can try to determine which direction the Houston Texans will take when it is their time to decide. Whether you believe it was the offense or defense that caused their postseason dreams to go down in flames, there will be important selections made for each unit.
Those who have been following the Texans’ personnel needs will notice a quarterback is not among the picks in this mock draft. The best candidate, E. J. Manuel, has been on the rise since his MVP showing in the Senior Bowl. Unless Houston goes for him in the first round, Manuel will be off the board by the time its second-round selection arrives.
All the other QBs available in the second round on down are either lacking in arm strength or athleticism. That huge chunk of the fanbase yearning for the antidote to Matt Schaub will have to wait another year.
This draft scenario will take a defense-first approach. Starting NT Shaun Cody was injured for a good portion of 2012, which did not improve his chances for a new contract.
When thinking about the man who anchors the middle of a 3-4 defensive line, visions of 340-pound Haloti Ngata or 325-pound Vince Wilfork come to mind. The fact that the former is more of a defensive end these days and the other plays in a 4-3 is beside the point.
Most fans think the Texans’ 3-4 would benefit from some mammoth roadblock as its anchor. That would be true in a two-gap system, where the nose tackle is supposed to occupy two blockers.
But Wade Phillips prefers a one-gap role for this position. If the NT beats his man, he has a chance to penetrate the backfield and do some damage.
Cody and his partner Earl Mitchell did not make a habit of defeating offensive linemen or wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Williams has played both tackle and end in the 3-4, just the kind of versatility that could create confusion for the blocking assignments of the opposing offense.
By the end of last season, J.J. Watt was getting double-teamed on a regular basis. A player with size (6'4", 320), a 4.94 in the 40, and the confidence to shoot for the bench-press record at the combine could create opportunities for everyone concerned.
There is a school of thought that believes the Texans offense started to suffer when the defense took a step all the way back to 2010. If the first selection is devoted to addressing that problem, then the second must resolve the lack of weaponry for the passing game.
Andre Johnson caught passes like a No. 1 receiver, with 112 receptions for almost 1600 yards. But he scored like a No. 2, with just four touchdowns.
This team is dying for someone who can take the rock to the house. Who better to get it done than the NCAA leader in receiving yardage for 2012?
The knock on Williams is he is just a go-and-throw type of player, someone who grabs the ball on the fly and heads for open spaces. So what if he is not a disciplined route-runner with sticky hands who gets the tough yards and blocks for the running game?
Houston’s roster already has several residents who fit that description, including Johnson, Kevin Walter, Garret Graham and James Casey. Williams' primary skill should compensate for those he lacks. It's a skill that no one currently on the team is capable of filling.
One of Houston’s two picks in the third may have to be packaged with its selection at No. 54 in the second round to snatch Williams. The first would be the anticipated compensatory pick from Buffalo that cannot be traded. The Texans would have to let go of their own choice at No. 81, but it might be well worth it.
Skov has been off the radar of many draft watchers, partly because he missed all of 2011 with a knee injury. He came back to lead Stanford with 72 total tackles in 2012.
He looks like he is cut out of the same mold as Brian Cushing: excellent size, strong upper body, deadly tackler and lots of intensity. Not exactly a carbon copy, as he comes up short on overall speed and coverage ability.
Special teams would be a great start for him, along with some two-down work in selective situations. The Texans must hope the former Cardinal does not attract too much attention in Indianapolis. Here’s hoping he is still around when the Texans’ name is called in Round 3.
Though Amerson was a cornerback in college, some scouts wonder if he is fluid enough to cope with the swifter receivers of the NFL. No one doubts his hands because he used them to snag 13 interceptions in 2011, the second most in NCAA annals.
His flaws in quickness and agility project him as more of a free safety than full-time cover man. If this sounds a bit like Glover Quin, maybe he could be integrated into the Houston defense as the same type of hybrid player.
In dime packages, Amerson could use his length (6’3”) to double those taller receivers that overwhelm defensive backs like Brice McCain and Danieal Manning. The Texans need an infusion of size in the secondary and somebody who can put the hurt on anyone who dares come over the middle.
David Quessenberry, No. 76
Now that we have ventured into the depths of Saturday draft day, your picks cannot afford to be too picky.
The lean Queesenberry (6’6”, 291) has not quite filled out yet, but that could make him well-suited to adapt to the ins and outs of zone blocking. Too much bulk can get in the way of all the side-to-side movements that must be mastered.
His reputation as a blocker is one with a nasty disposition who gives his all throughout the entire play. The question is whether his physique will get to the level it needs to be.
If he cannot adapt to the lateral intricacies of playing tackle, his ability to launch himself forward and keep going to the second level may mean a career at guard is the better option.
If Houston is unable to locate an attack dog for the secondary in earlier rounds, Wilcox could end up being the steal of the day with a compensatory pick.
He spent his first three seasons at Georgia Southern on offense as a slot receiver. After he switched over to defense for his final season, his play was so exceptional he was invited to the Senior Bowl.
Athletic enough to run routes (4.54 in the 40), with the hands to go after the ball, and big enough (6’0”, 215) to make his presence felt, he could be a fine consolation prize if David Amerson is not a Texan by this juncture.
If Lawrence played for someone other than lowly Mississippi State, perhaps he would be more highly regarded.
One look at his eye-popping statistics would have to get a scout’s attention. Back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, 10 tackles for loss his senior year and the kind of sideline-to-sideline pursuit that implies football speed.
A lack of size (6’3”, 233) leaves him unsuited for inside linebacker, and his 4.69 in the 40 is less than ideal for an outside pass-rusher in a 3-4. One look at the film on this guy shows he has a place in the NFL on special teams at the very least.
Anyone who watched the Texans get shredded on kick coverage in 2012 knows they need all the help they can get in that department.
The domination of spread offenses in college has all but eliminated the role of the old-school fullback. The need for a hardheaded wide-body to lead the way for some shifty running back is almost as dated as the T-formation.
That makes someone like Tutogi quite rare. In addition to filling that traditional fullback role for Arizona, the Wildcats did permit him to run and catch the ball.
When it comes to lead blocking, he is not the second coming of Vonta Leach. But NFL.com compared him to Lawrence Vickers. Which can be considered high praise if the Texans favored the more productive version of Arian Foster from 2011, when Vickers blocked for Foster on short-yardage and passing downs.