Houston Texans Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post-Scouting Combine

Ben LaymanCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2013

Houston Texans Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post-Scouting Combine

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    With the NFL Scouting Combine in the books, a few more answers to lingering questions have been provided to the Houston Texans and the NFL alike.

    Looking back, the combine again showed us that a workout doesn't always totally match what a player did on the field in college. For better or worse, workouts can expose qualities in a prospect that evaluators might have overlooked before.

    The best approach to the combine is to use it as a reason to do more research on a potential draft target, not as a perfect tool for measuring a player's football abilities.

    Like every year during this time, it takes some effort to not overreact to some of the unbelievable athletic displays put on in Indy. Regardless, what a player has done on the field should ultimately dictate the final draft grade.

    Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith still have plenty of work ahead of them before the draft. All fans can do is guess what's being discussed in the team offices.

    Before pro days shake things up even more, here's a post-scouting combine look at who the Texans could take in every round of the upcoming NFL Draft.

     

    All combine results courtesy of NFL.com

Round 1: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA Bruins

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.80 seconds

    Bench Press: 29 reps

    Vert Jump: 31.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 112 inches

     

    An every-down player with the ability to rush the passer is the kind of complete package you look for in a first-round, front-seven defensive pick.

    Strong, disruptive, quick-twitched and versatile are the most common qualities attributed to the former UCLA Bruin. Since his collegiate career ended, Datone Jones has done everything to confirm what scouts saw from him on the field.

    Datone helped himself well at the scouting combine, adding to a positive showing during Senior Bowl week just a few weeks before. As he aces the draft process, his name will continue to climb NFL draft boards.

    Fans should be most excited about the former Pac-12 standout's upside and ability to make plays in the backfield. They should also like the advanced pass-rush moves he already possesses, as well as his motivation to continue expanding his repertoire.

    While there's more pressing needs on the Texans' roster, an opportunity to draft a front-seven difference maker like Jones is something they should take advantage of.

    Jones' upside stems from his ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line at the next level. This will give his defensive coordinator more ways to attack opposing offenses. He doesn't have ridiculous college sack production like you might expect from a first-round pick, but evaluators see this as his best days being ahead of him.

    Teams like the Texans will love the speed advantage he'll pose when lined up over guards on passing downs, which is how they already use J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. He isn't just a third-down player, however, and could fit in as a 3-4 defensive end in Houston's base 3-4.

    When doing the final checklist for potential first-round picks, intangibles become a factor. NEPatriotsDraft.com noted a few on Jones:

    + High character individual, extremely hard worker who has overcome very tough surroundings
    + Well spoken and football savvy, knew about each teams needs, personnel and where he would fit
    + In conversation, Jones was able to break down each position he played and the responsibilities
    + Passionate about the game of football, willing to do what it takes to be successful

    When everything is factored in, Jones seems to fit exactly what Houston looks for in early-round picks. He should be on the Texans' list of potential first rounders, and he could be the best player on the board when it's their time to pick.

Round 2: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Volunteers

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.44 seconds

    Vert Jump: 39.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 136 inches

    20-Yard Shuttle: 4.33 seconds

     

    Houston's search for a difference maker opposite Andre Johnson could come to an end with this wideout from Tennessee.

    Justin Hunter may not have scouts oozing at his potential like his former Volunteer teammate, Cordarrelle Patterson, but he still has the all the talent needed to be a big-play receiver in the NFL.

    A massive catch radius is one of the first attributes you'll hear about when discussing Hunter. He shows the ability to adjust to throws and make awkward catches with a plus wingspan (33 1/4" arms) and outstanding hops (see his vert and broad jump). His catch radius should translate well to the NFL, but he'll need to improve his consistency catching and securing the ball.

    There are also questions about Hunter's physicality, and it doesn't help having a slender frame and small hips. He could get beat up on the line of scrimmage with press coverage early in his career.

    At 6'4" and 196 pounds, he can still grow into his frame. He reportedly dropped his weight for the combine with the intention of putting up better speed times, a common practice for prospects. Regardless, he still fits what the Texans look for in terms of length from an edge receiver. His body type is comparable to A.J. Green.

    The combine was good to the former SEC standout, as he finished as a top performer at his position in the vert and broad jump. He was solid in on-field drills, but didn't stand out from the pack either. Still, his athleticism was on full display in Indy and you could see the Julio Jones comparisons in this regard.

    With names like Robert Woods and Quinton Patton likely gone well into the second round, Hunter could be the best of the bunch when the Texans are on the clock. Trading up shouldn't be ruled out, but it's not something to count on given the current regime's history on draft day.

    Hunter may not be the first-round wideout dream target for most fans, but if he develops into a starting edge receiver, whether he's drafted at 27th or 57th overall shouldn't matter.

Round 3: Jon Bostic, MLB, Florida Gators

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.61 seconds

    Bench Press: 22 reps

    Vert Jump: 32.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 118 inches

    3-Cone Drill: 6.99 seconds

    20-Yard Shuttle: 4.24 seconds

     

    The majority of fans may prefer one of the big-three brand name middle linebackers at the top of the draft, but there are plenty of quality mid-round options like Jon Bostic.

    Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com had this to say about Bostic following his combine showing:

    Jon Bostic (Florida) came to the combine as a fourth-round type but he ran 4.50 while Manti Te'o (Notre Dame) had a 4.8 on many watches. Bostic had over 60 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles for loss and was one of the best players on a good defense. Teams like Seattle want fast people on their defense and so do many other coaches. Bostic looked smoother in drills than most of the linebackers ranked ahead of him coming into the combine.

    If he came in as a fourth rounder on most boards, he likely tested himself well into late third-round discussion at worst.

    Solid, but not flashy, production at Florida had Bostic's buzz relatively low, but his combine showed there's more to find out about him. He finished with the best times in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle amongst inside linebackers. All this should show evaluators is that he can run with the top middle 'backers in the draft.

    Diagnosing and reacting to what you see on the field is far more important, but that shouldn't be anything to hold Bostic back. The former Gator had a reputation for having a great understanding of the defense he played in at Florida. He was frequently seen lining up other teammates that were out of position.

    Leadership like that impresses coaching staffs and front offices far more than it does fans, and it will hold weight in the final evaluation.

    Think of Bostic as a poor man's Alec Ogletree, but without the off-field issues. He may not have the ceiling of Ogletree or the other top inside linebackers, but his floor is good enough to project him as a potential starter in Houston's 3-4 defense possibly from day one.

Round 4: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.37

    Bench Press: 31 reps

    Vert Jump: 33.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 121 inches

    3-Cone Drill: 6.96 seconds

    20-Yard Shuttle: 4.38 seconds

     

    Forget about the fact that running back isn't on the list of major needs for the Texans. If Knile Davis is still on the board in the fourth round when Houston picks, it would be an absolute steal.

    Davis will be listed as a combine warrior after wowing the NFL in Indy. He put up the best 40-yard dash time and most bench reps for running backs. However, his speed numbers shouldn't come as a surprise given the flashes he showed at Arkansas.

    Against the Texas A&M Aggies, Davis caught a swing pass in the flat and took it 70 yards for a touchdown. He made linebacker Sean Porter miss in space and outran the rest of the Aggies' defense. Long speed and elusiveness in small spaces isn't new for the former Razorback.

    At 5'10" and 227 pounds, he offers good size for the position and would fit right in with Arian Foster and Ben Tate in that regard. From an upside and measurables standpoint, Davis more than passes the test.

    Unfortunately, he'll have to answer questions over his notable injury history throughout the draft process. At a position that already takes a beating, Knile's stock will take a hit because of a possible low shelf life in the league. Injuries have plagued the back going back to high school.

    The scouting combine was great to the former SEC running back. His results should alleviate those injury concerns for the time being. The long-term questions will linger, but he showed he'll be ready to contribute right away if you draft him.

    Davis could end up being one of those players who ends up being more productive as a pro. He ran out of spread shotgun formations with no fullback often in college. Houston's one-cut zone running scheme combined with a fullback leading the way at times could be a major boon for him as an NFL runner.

    Like many of the top running backs in the league, he'll have to find his way as a mid-round pick at best. Houston is one of the better team fits for him.

Round 5: Cornelius Washington, LB, Georgia Bulldogs

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.55 seconds

    Bench Press: 36 reps

    Vert Jump: 39 inches

    Broad Jump: 128 inches

     

    One of a dozen Georgia Bulldog draft prospects this year, Cornelius Washington continues to tantalize the NFL following a quiet collegiate career.

    After standing out during Senior Bowl week, the former Bulldog went to Indy and made an even bigger name for himself.

    Rushing as a defensive end in the Senior Bowl, Washington flashed with surprising burst and violent hand usage. He was disruptive in the game and played with a little bit of nasty to go with a noticeable motor. He also held his own in one-on-one drills with some of the top senior offensive linemen during the week.

    The former Bulldog matched that positive showing with outstanding workout numbers in Indianapolis. After finishing as one of the top performers at his position in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vert and broad jump, he had a good showing in the on-field drills as well. As one defensive coordinator said to Pat Kirwan via CBSsports, "this is the kind of guy I came to Indy to find."

    You won't find any gaudy statistics or flashy tape of Washington, which should be reason for pause when looking at his combine and Senior Bowl. However, the defense he played on was loaded with talent, and it's easy to see how he could get lost in the shuffle with those players.

    Washington was also reduced to a third-down role during his time at Georgia, which also contributed to his minimal production and low profile.

    He shares many similar qualities to the outside linebackers already on Houston's roster. Free agency, in the end, will dictate how aggressively the Texans approach this position in the draft. Washington could be a late-round steal.

Round 6: Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 4.50

    Bench Press: 18 reps

    Vert Jump: 37.5 inches

    Broad Jump: 125 inches

    3-Cone Drill: 7.08 seconds

    20-Yard Shuttle: 4.51 seconds

     

    As one of the stars of the first day of workouts at the combine, Chris Gragg put on a show in Indy, finishing as the top tight end performer in multiple drills.

    He tested much better than his unheralded Arkansas career would suggest, but that doesn't mean he should be dismissed.

    The most important thing to take away from his combine is that the knee injury that bothered him in 2012 is clearly behind him. It caused him to miss most of the season and he wasn't the same player in 2012 as he was the year before.

    The former Razorback projects to be a fullback who can threaten defenses in the passing game, much like Houston's current starting fullback (and pending free agent) James Casey. He isn't great at it, but shows a willingness to block and his size (6'3" 244 pounds) should be more of a strength for him at fullback.

    The Texans will like his versatility because he could handle second or third tight end duties if asked. Houston isn't afraid to line up Owen Daniels and Casey on the line of scrimmage, and they're around the same size as Gragg. Both of those current Texans also entered the league with questions over their blocking, and the offensive staff coached them up in that regard.

    For an offense that prominently features the fullback position, the Texans should continue to find ways to expand the position like they've done with James Casey.

Round 7: T.J. Barnes, DT, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Combine Results

    40-Yard Dash: 5.30 seconds

    Bench Press: 25 reps

    Vert Jump: 22 inches

    Broad Jump: 97 inches

     

    The 2013 NFL Draft is rich with nose tackle prospects and some of the late-round prospects still offer some intrigue.

    T.J. Barnes is one of the biggest players in the draft. At 6'6" and 369 pounds, he offers ridiculous size at the nose tackle position. He's only a two-down player at best and was a backup for most of his career at Georgia Tech. The NFL should find more use for his large frame and run-stuffing ability.

    The giant former Yellow Jacket flew down the 40-yard dash line with surprising ease at the scouting combine. It's clear he has more movement skills than one would expect from a man his size. The bigger defensive linemen tend to be heavy-ankled and lumber down the line, but Barnes was more fluid than expected.

    Barnes left the combine with a faster 40 than several players weighing significantly less and obviously not nearly his size. Not that it's significant to football, but it shows the caliber of athlete he is at 6'6" and almost 370 pounds.

    Defensive tackle is a position that offers NFL contributors late into the draft every year. Jay Ratliff (seventh round), Ahtyba Rubin (sixth round), Ropati Pitoitua (undrafted), Kyle Love (undrafted) and Cam Thomas (fifth round) have all had varying degrees of success in the NFL as overlooked, late-round nose tackle prospects.

    The Texans will likely address one of their major needs (LB, WR, NT) through free agency in some capacity.

    Plugging the position via free agency would allow the team to address nose tackle less aggressively in the draft with a late-round developmental pick like this.