NFL Draft 2011: Prospects for the Houston Texans on Day 2 of the Draft

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NFL Draft 2011:  Prospects for the Houston Texans on Day 2 of the Draft
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The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft is in the books, and the newest member of the Houston Texans is J.J. Watt. 

Last night, my initial reaction was mixed.  I felt that there was a potential difference maker at OLB with Robert Quinn, and a slightly better five-technique in Cameron Jordan.

After sleeping on it, I feel much better about the pick.  I still will say that I favor Robert Quinn, but the silver lining is that there are still a ton of great outside linebacker candidates on the board.  The depth for defensive ends after Round 1 drops dramatically, so it is probably better value.

While I still prefer Jordan to Watt, the difference is minuscule and Watt is a terrific end for the 3-4. 

He very well might be the best five-technique when things are said and done.  With Watt’s character and commitment to football, he fits the bill of what the Texans love in a prospect.

For those of you that don’t know Watt’s story, he started out as a tight end at Central Michigan, but transferred to Wisconsin because he wanted to play defense. 

He took a year off and delivered pizzas so he could save up money to pay for school because he was not initially a scholarship player for the Badgers.  A few years later, he was a Second Team All-American.

What will make or break this pick though, is what the second and third rounds look like for the Texans. 

Wade Phillips dropped hints that picking Watt gives him flexibility to stand up Mario Williams occasionally to rush off the edge and a four-man front in passing downs of Watt, Williams, Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin.

While I think that Watt and Williams are shoe-ins for those roles, Smith and Barwin’s roles are now in doubt. 

Barwin is coming off a nasty ankle dislocation and his health is still in doubt, and Smith seems to be the odd man out in the front seven no matter how I add things up in my head.

The positions that must be added to make Wade’s mad scientist scheming work is outside linebacker and nose tackle.  When I say OLB, I mean a true linebacker that already knows how to play the position rather than a defensive end conversion type. 

Additionally, if you are going to feature a four-man front in passing downs that involves Watt, Barwin and Williams, you need someone stout in the middle. 

Phillips can try to sell the “Shaun Cody/Earl Mitchell are sufficient at nose tackle” bag, but I’m not buying.

Not to mention the fact that the Texans have maybe the worst secondary in the league, to include no starting safeties.  Rick Smith might want to look into that as well.

Having said all that, I would say that preferred option No. 1 for the No. 42 pick tonight would be to trade down. 

There are so many talented players that fill a need, and if you go down far enough you can pick up a valuable third round pick.  There are still a lot of wide receivers and quarterbacks on the board that could incite a trade partner.

Whether there is a trade to be made or not, here are the prospects that intrigue me in the second round:

1. Stephen Paea/DT/Oregon State:  Anyone that reads my regular writing here at b/r knows that I love me some Stephen Paea. I halfway expected him to be taken at the tail end of the first round, and I really would not be surprised at all to see him get scooped up early tonight (probably Denver), but if he’s there he’s my first choice.

Paea is amazingly strong at the point of attack, but still has the quickness to match with that strength to collapse pockets in Wade’s defense. 

He is labeled as only a three-technique by many draft analysts, but I think he could be special as a nose tackle in Phillips’ brand of the 3-4.

2. Akeem Ayers/OLB/Green Bay:  I really thought that Green Bay was going to snatch up Ayers at the end of the first round, but I understand the Sherrod pick.  Ayers has the makings of a Bill Belichick pick, however, and might very well be the first pick tonight in the second round.

If he somehow makes it down to No. 42 though, I think he has to be near the top of Rick Smith’s list.  He can rush off the edge, but is also athletic enough to cover and play the run. 

Ayers is also the originator of my favorite quote of the draft season.  When asked about his poor Combine workout, specifically the 40 yard dash, Ayers replied “I don’t run track.  I play football.”

3. Bruce Carter/OLB/North Carolina:  Carter was a dark horse to be picked on Thursday Night, but that would have admittedly been a little early for someone who suffered a season ending ACL tear in December.  Carter certainly has the athleticism to warrant that high of a grade.

Carter would be great opposite Barwin or Williams who will not have the athleticism to drop and will be pass rushers almost exclusively. 

I don’t care if Carter won’t be 100 percent at the start of camp either; he can do a combination of rushing the passer, playing the run and covering better than any linebacker left.

4. Brandon Harris/CB/Miami:  Harris is also another favorite of mine this draft season.  Harris is ideal for the slot, and when paired with Kareem Jackson as the CB2 and a free agent signee to be as CB1 (you hear that Rick?), it would allow the Texans to move Glover Quin to free safety, a more ideal position for him.

Harris’ track record at Miami was very impressive, and he was a son of a coach and a team captain in college, both of which are traits that the Texans love. 

Harris would give the Texans a corner who could cover the receivers and tight ends in the division like Dallas Clark and Mike Thomas that have always given the Texans fits.

5. Aaron Williams/CB–FS/Texas:  Williams is slated as a cornerback, but many assume that he will make the switch to safety in the NFL, myself included. 

I think that Williams has the tools to be the best safety in this draft class, but still has the coverage skills to match up with receivers in the slot.

Williams has a very decent chance of coming off the board before No. 42, but I still have him rated lower than the previous four because I think OLB and NT are such crucial needs for the Texans, and because I think Harris is better. 

Still, Williams would bring much needed talent and versatility to the Texans secondary.

6. Rahim Moore/FS/UCLA:  Draft a safety before the fifth round?  Inconceivable!  Remember when I said we didn’t have a single starting safety on the roster, of which there are two spots?  That might warrant taking a safety earlier than Rick Smith normally likes taking one.

Moore is the best safety in this year’s class, and he is also athletic enough to drop down and cover in the slot when you need him to. 

He would immediately be the best safety on the roster by far, and maybe even the best in franchise history, which says a lot more about the franchise.

7.  Ras-I Dowling/CB/Virginia: Dowling answered questions about his speed by running a 4.4 40 at the Combine, but created more questions about his injury history by pulling his oft injured hamstring while running said 40.  If it wasn’t for the injury concerns, Dowling would have been picked last night.

Dowling is a tall, physical corner who, according to many familiar with both, is better than former Virginia and current Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook. 

If the Texans feel comfortable about the risk versus reward of Dowlings’ talent and injury risk, he could be a sneaky pick in the second.

8.  Chris Carter/OLB/Fresno State:  I’m breaking my own rule here of no collegiate defensive ends to outside linebacker, but I feel of all of those “tweener” types left, Carter is the only one I feel very comfortable about making the switch.

Also, many assume that Carter is more of a third round consideration, but I don’t think that he will make it that far.  Carter has shown an adeptness at dropping in coverage in linebacker workouts, and I don’t think that all of those 3-4 teams at the bottom of the second round will let him get by.

 

 

Those are my picks for the second round.  Some of the notable omissions are Jabaal Sheard (tweener), Brooks Reed (tweener/overrated), Marvin Austin (character), Kenrick Ellis (character). 

Who else did I leave off that should be considered in your opinion?  Let me know in the comments or on twitter (@JakeBRB).

Hope everyone enjoys Day Two of the 2011 NFL Draft.  The picks that are made tonight will help determine whether picking a player in the first round at a position of less need was a smart decision or not.  For this reason, tonight might be even more important than opening night of the draft.

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