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July 10, 2003
Summer Session
by Warren DeLuca

The Texans will get a chance to select six players in Thursday’s supplemental draft, each of whom, for various reasons, lost their college eligibility after the deadline to apply for the April draft had passed.

This year’s supplemental draft will lack the star power that it might have had if some of the rumors had proven true and a couple of the big names had petitioned the NFL to be included. Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning supposedly considered coming out, and would have been eligible since he recently received his bachelor’s degree. However, he elected to enroll in graduate school and use his last year of eligibility. Arizona running back Clarence Farmer was also rumored to have considered entering the supplemental draft after missing the Wildcats’ spring practice due to academic issues, but he too decided to return to school after raising his grades enough to be reinstated to the team.

The NFL determines the selection order for all seven rounds of a supplemental draft with three weighted lotteries. The first lottery, which establishes the order for the top of each round, includes the seven teams that finished the 2002 season with less than seven wins each. The Bengals’ name will be in the hat 32 times since they had the worst record, followed by 31 for the Lions, 30 for the Texans, on down to 26 for the Jaguars. The Texans have about a 15% chance of winning the top spot in each round and in no case will pick worse than seventh. Spots eight through 20 will then be filled with a similar lottery among the remaining non-playoff teams. The rest of the order will be determined by a third lottery among the teams that made the playoffs.

The supplemental draft is essentially a sealed-bid auction conducted by e-mail. Each team that wishes to select any of the eligible players sends the NFL office the pick that it would like to use on each player. The team that submits the highest pick on a particular player drafts the rights to that player and loses its pick in the corresponding round of the 2004 draft. A pick that has already been traded belongs to the team that received it, so the Texans will have the option of "bidding" the Raiders’ second rounder (which will be somewhere in the last dozen picks) and the Colts’ fourth rounder (in the middle of the round).

Charley Casserly selected Florida State guard Milford Brown in the sixth round of last year’s supplemental draft. Most considered that be a shrewd move both at the time, as Brown was generally deemed to have been a fourth-round value, and now, as Brown should contend for a starting position in the upcoming training camp. The Texans enjoyed an advantage in that draft, though, since it was not held until after the NFL season had already started due to Brown’s appeal to the NCAA for another season of college eligibility. Unlike every other team at that early point in the season, the Texans were more focused on the long-term than on 2002. Few other teams could afford to "waste" a roster spot on a guard who had missed his rookie training camp, especially since so few offensive linemen are ready to contribute in their first NFL season even after getting initiated to pro football in two-a-days and preseason games.

The six players who are eligible to be selected in the supplemental draft are:

Tony Hollings, RB, Georgia Tech Hollings’ claim to fame is that he led the nation in rushing through four games last season, at which point his season was ended by a tear to his ACL and lateral meniscus. However, the four defenses against which he put up the gaudy numbers (Vanderbilt, UConn, Clemson, and BYU) weren’t exactly the Monsters of the Midway – none of them finished in the top half of the Division I-A rush defense rankings. Still, Hollings evidently impressed the BLESTO and National combine scouts enough for each to rank him as the second best senior running back, even after his injury and despite the fact that those four games are his only ones as a college running back. Holling was a defensive back and special teamer as a freshman and sophomore. He had surgery last October and is expected to be ready for training camp, although he did not run at a recent workout for scouts. Hollings decided to turn pro after he was declared academically ineligible in the spring. A recommendation for Hollings from Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey may carry some extra weight with Dom Capers, since the two coached together on Bill Cowher’s staff in Pittsburgh and share a belief in establishing the run. The running back-hungry Texans, Cowboys, Bears, Patriots, and Bucs reportedly have shown the most interest in him. Most expect Hollings to be gone before the fifth round.

Donovan Morgan, WR, Mississippi Morgan spent the first two seasons of his college career at Louisiana-Lafayette, only playing in the second one due to the NCAA’s rule for partial qualifiers. He then moved on to Pearl River Community College where he blossomed into a junior college All-American receiver and was recruited by several major programs. Morgan signed with Mississippi last February but did not qualify academically and opted for the supplemental draft. His greatest asset is his size (6’4", 200 lbs.). He should be a late-rounder or free agent.

Brad Pyatt, WR, Northern Colorado Pyatt started seven games as a true freshman in Kentucky’s spread offense. He suffered a foot injury as a sophomore that forced him to miss ten games that year and four the next. Pyatt also had more than his share of off-the-field problems in Lexington, leaving the team three times, including twice involuntarily. He transferred to Division I-AA Northern Colorado and played for a year as a receiver and return man before running into academic problems. Pyatt is an impressive athlete but a raw receiver and a problem child. His speed should get him drafted in the middle to late rounds.

Jason Cedeño, DT, Northeastern State Cedeño signed with Kansas State out of Baytown Lee High School but failed to qualify academically. He had an all-conference couple of seasons at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana before moving to Northeastern State, a Division II school in Oklahoma. Academic, rather than athletic, shortcomings might have prevented him from going to a Division I-A program. Cedeño played in only five games at the school in 2001 and none last season. He is not expected to be drafted, but at 6’4", 300 lbs., he fits the Texans’ physical profile for a defensive lineman. They may want to bring the local boy in for a tryout.

Earl Cochran, OLB, Alabama State Cochran started the last three years as an undersized (6’4", 224 lbs.) 4-3 defensive end at Alabama State. He was very productive and one of the better pass rushers in the SWAC during that period. He finds himself forced into the supplemental draft after the NCAA ruled that he played too much (four games) as a true freshman to claim that as a redshirt season, meaning that 2002 was his senior season. Cochran has reportedly bulked up into the 240-250 lb. range since he last played. He may be able to play down in a 4-3 but would be an outside linebacker for the Texans. Cochran should be selected in the middle rounds.

Noah Happe, OLB, Oregon State Happe walked on to the Oregon State team and earned a scholarship after his redshirt freshman season. He contributed at linebacker early in his college career before moving to rush end, where he was the starter for the last two seasons. Happe also served as the Beaver’s long snapper on punts and placekicks. He’s a tall, rangy (6’5", 235 lbs.) player with some pass rushing ability and the frame to be able to carry more weight as he develops. Happe had to enter the supplemental draft after he found himself academically ineligible before what was to be his final season at Oregon State. He would be an outside linebacker in a 3-4, and may be tried at either linebacker or situational end in a 4-3 until he adds some bulk. Happe could be a late round pick and may be valued more for his deep snapping ability than anything else.

Odds are against the Texans ending up with any of these players, but at the very least the supplemental draft partially fills the vast void that is the dead part of the offseason.

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