The Houston Texans did very well with their first few picks. They needed a wide receiver, offensive line depth, and a safety, and addressed all of those with the first three picks.
Their third-round compensatory pick, however, was a lot more jarring. Rick Smith, the GM who highly values character, took Sam Montgomery, the talented DE/OLB whose character questions caused him to freefall in the draft.
Is Montgomery a steal due to his talent or was this a whiff on the Texans' part?
Role and roster fit
Unlike the first three picks for the Texans, this is a more difficult fit to make. The team needs pass-rushers, but it has J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith locked down. Jared Crick provides solid depth, so is Montgomery going to be the fourth defensive end?
In short, no. The plan, at least to start, is to convert him to an outside linebacker. That position is a stronger need. Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus have the starting positions locked in, but after Bryan Braman there's no one.
Using him as a hybrid is not out of the question to start off, since there's not a lot of depth at either spot. The plan is officially to use him as a SAM linebacker, however, and see how he works in that role.
Montgomery has to work on moving off the snap more quickly in the pros, though playing alongside Watt and others will help him in that regard, since teams will be looking at them first.
There are a lot of question marks about his work ethic, but here's how I see it: If he took off against weaker teams in college, then that's in the past.
In the NFL, there are no weak teams. If you sleep on one team, they will know it and feast on you. If that is Montgomery's only issue, he should be able to snap out of it once he realizes that there are no weeks off in the NFL.
Time will tell if he can get past that, but one thing is certain. He has found himself in a great position without all that much pressure, but it's also somewhere he will have to work to be known.
On the field, Montgomery is very talented, with all the tools to be a force in the NFL. As such, he is a true boom-or-bust prospect. Unlike the other day-two picks who will be developed over time, Montgomery needs to contribute early and often.
He will start off as a backup, and the plan, according to Texans linebacker coach Reggie Herring, is to use him as a SAM linebacker. He will provide pass-rushing at times, which he can do well, but he will be dropping in coverage as well.
The fact that he will be used that way in a 3-4 tells me the Texans already had a plan for him and know how to get the most out of his strengths. If he succeeds, then he will firmly be in the rotation along with Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus.
Should he fail to make that transition, then that's where it will be tough to utilize him. Perhaps he will be a situational run-stopper or pass-rusher, but he would not be a three-down player.
Montgomery should be able to get three sacks and 25 tackles in his first year while building into his situational role, though ideally he will be a force immediately and will blow those numbers out of the water.
In short, Montgomery has to make the most of what the Texans give him. If he doesn't put in the effort, he'll be out of the league in two years. If he does, this could be a steal for Houston.
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