Third Time’s a Charm

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Third Time’s a Charm
by Warren DeLuca and Keith Weiland

Another autumn, another Top 50. presents its third annual installment of the top five college prospects at each offensive and defensive position for next April’s draft. Our first list back in 2001 included one eventual Texan, Jabar Gaffney. Last year’s group included two, Andre Johnson and Dave Ragone. Dare we hope for three this time?

As should be expected, the Miami Hurricanes dominate the list with seven players. Oklahoma is next with five (all on defense), followed by Auburn and Texas with four representatives each.

Several of these possible future Texans – Clarence Farmer (Houston), Roy Williams (Odessa), Tommie Harris (Killeen), Marcus Tubbs (DeSoto), Derrick Johnson (Waco), Derrick Strait (Austin), Nathan Vasher (Texarkana), and Brandon Everage (Granger) – already hail from the Lone Star State.

Loyal readers may notice a slight change from last year’s format – we’ve lumped all of the down defensive linemen together into one group, and split the linebackers into inside and outside (including college rush ends who project to outside linebacker). We feel that this makes the list more consistent with the Texans’ 3-4 defensive alignment.

After investing most of their early picks the last two years on offense, the Texans are expected to turn their attention to defense in the 2004 draft. At least that’s what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio must hope after watching Charley Casserly spend all of those prime picks on new toys for offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.

The Texans’ defensive line needs another starter and overall depth; Miami’s Vince Wilfork and Oklahoma’s Harris have shown the ability to eat blocks and disrupt opposing offenses. Free safety is a gaping hole in the defense; safeties are rarely selected early but another ‘Cane, Sean Taylor, could prove himself worthy of a high pick.

The Texans may also look to add a young cornerback to groom behind their veteran starters; a super talent like Ohio State’s Chris Gamble could convince them to strengthen that key position. Fangio’s cabinet is reasonably well-stocked at linebacker if Antwan Peek develops as expected, but a team that runs a 3-4 defense needs to always have a promising young ‘backer or two in the pipeline.

On offense, tackle appears to be the greatest position of need unless Chester Pitts and Seth Wand show that they can be the line’s bookends of the future. Iowa’s Robert Gallery could be the best of that group. Casserly already spent a 2004 second rounder on a running back, so Tony Hollings’ progress this season will play a major role in determining how high of a priority that position will be.

The Texans are unlikely to spend early picks on wide receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, guards, or centers unless one that they absolutely cannot pass up falls into their laps. Roy Williams of Texas, Reggie Williams of Washington, and Kellen Winslow of Miami have the best chance of working their way into that category. The Texans won’t be using a high pick on a quarterback…we think. We thought that last year, too, though.

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