With the 2011 NFL Draft approaching, speculation of teams’ desired draft picks is rampant. The last three weeks or so are commonly referred as "Misdirection Season," to put it cleanly. Teams spread rumors in an effort to adjust the draft stock of players that they want to see fall to them, as well as those they don’t.
This makes prognosticating when players will be picked and by whom difficult. Are rumors of a prospect failing a medical re-check and potentially falling on draft boards a legitimate concern? Or are they simply from a team engineering false alarms in hope that the once-unobtainable talent will be in reach?
Projecting draft picks especially difficult with the Houston Texans. Every year, they subscribe to a level of secrecy that would make most government agencies pale in comparison. For instance, all teams are allocated 30 official prospect visits. I know of seven visits, none of which would be considered to be anything close to first-round talent.
In the absence of concrete information, I have to rely on what I know of the Texans and their draft preferences to hypothesize who they might take in the upcoming draft. This is made even more difficult by the fact that Wade Phillips will likely influence this draft heavily.
Despite these factors of uncertainty, I take my best stab at who will have their names called to play with the boys in Steel Blue. Here is my seven-round Mock Draft for the Texans. I would love your feedback either in the comments, or on twitter (@JakeBRB).
In this scenario, I foresee the usual suspects off the board but Robert Quinn as well. Instead of taking Prince Amukamara, as I predicted in my last mock draft, I have the Texans taking Jordan instead.
Jordan does not fulfill a position of immediate need. Both Mario Williams and Antonio Smith are slated to be starters. But I believe he is the best player on the board if Quinn is gone, and that is still true if Julio Jones is still available.
Jordan is talented enough to play at least three positions: five-technique in a three-man front and both defensive end and tackle in a four-man front. Some scouts even swear that he is athletic enough to stand up as an outside linebacker and rush.
As opposed to defensive ends that will have to learn the 3-4 scheme after playing in a 4-3 in college, Jordan had impressive and consistent production as a five-technique for four years in college. His natural pass rush ability and versatility could make him a regular Pro Bowler in Wade Phillips’ defense.
Slot cornerbacks are becoming more and more important to NFL defenses as offenses utilize three-receiver sets more regularly. Harris does not possess the ideal height/speed combination sought after for blue chip corners, but he is perfect for the slot.
Harris is great in press-man coverage and shows adeptness at rerouting receivers. He is also a willing and sure tackler, which is important for a corner that might be used in lieu of a linebacker or a safety.
Harris also shows great intangibles that the Texans will love. He has a reputation as a great teammate, and will earn his degree despite entering the draft as a junior.
Moch is the quintessential “tweener” collegiate prospect. He played almost exclusively at Nevada with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, but Moch is better suited to play outside linebacker in the NFL due to his size (6’1”, 248 lbs) and blazing speed (4.4-second 40-yard dash).
Moch predictably became a media darling at the 2011 Scout Combine because of his speed, but to label Moch as just a workout warrior is not giving him credit. In four years, he tallied 27.5 sacks for Nevada. Coaches lauded him for his work ethic and effort on the field.
Moch is extremely raw as a prospect and will have difficulty adjusting to man coverage in the NFL. However, his upside as a speed rusher off the edge is too tantalizing to pass up. If he can learn the trade of playing linebacker, he would be a huge steal in the third round.
The fourth round selection of Williams is a “reach” by many draft analysts. I, however, don’t see any way he will be on the board for the Texans in the fifth round, which is when he is widely projected to be selected.
Williams’ draft stock has dipped so low for various reasons. For one, he was suspended for four games along with the more notable UNC players in 2010. He also broke his foot, which did not allow him to participate in the Combine or at his pro day.
His best season by far was in 2009, when he notched six interceptions and eight pass breakups. In 2010, he failed to tally a single pick. This was due Head Coach Butch Davis utilizing him as a strong safety in the box — as evidenced by Williams matching his tackle total (47) from the previous season in just eight games.
It is a rarity that Division III football players are invited to the Combine or drafted, but Shorts is a rare talent for that level. Shorts went to a smaller school because of a raw skill set at quarterback, and then switched to his future NFL position of wide receiver.
Shorts would likely be at least a third-round pick if he had played at a bigger school. Hailing from Pierre Garcon’s alma mater helped his legitimacy as an NFL prospect, but scouts still would have preferred to see him against other players that might be of NFL caliber.
Shorts could be the deep threat that the Texans are looking to put opposite of Andre Johnson, and maybe more. Not only is he a threat to burn a defender deep on any play, he is exceptional on routes over the middle and gaining yards after the catch — an essential trait for a receiver in the West Coast offense.
If you watched the NFL Network’s coverage of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, then you already know about Keo. Mike Mayock raved about the strong safety as a football player. By the end of the drills, Deion Sanders was ready to stake his personal reputation on him.
Keo does not have physical attributes that will wow you. He is slow by NFL standards (4.68-second 40-yard dash) and is slightly undersized at 5’11”, 222 lbs. However, he plays the position exactly how you want a safety to. He has amazingly quick feet and is a fearless hitter.
His lack of straight-line speed will get him into trouble at times in the NFL, but he makes up for it with solid angles and good ball skills.
He also excelled in special teams for Idaho. Despite his lack of speed, he was quite successful as a punt returner. Keo represents excellent value this late in the draft.
At 5’11”, 250 lbs, Harvey looks like a dump truck playing middle linebacker. He earned the nickname “Thumper” by using all 250 pounds of his frame to dole out some vicious hits. Despite earning All-Conference USA honors, Harvey was not a Combine invitee.
Harvey showed at his pro day that he probably should have been in attendance at Indianapolis, with a 4.46 40-yard dash, a 32 inch vertical and a 4.19 short shuttle — all of which are extremely impressive given his size.
Harvey has a tendency to over-pursue and take himself out of plays as well as get lost in the chaff.
When Harvey does come on a free release though, he makes sure that ball carriers wish he hadn’t. He may or may not make it in the NFL as a starting inside linebacker, but he will certainly be an excellent special teams player.