Catching On

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Catching On
by Warren DeLuca

Note: This is sixth in a series of college prospect profiles in preparation for the 2005 NFL Draft next April. This time, we take a look at the top five prospects at wide receiver and tight end.

Even though the Texans have already spent two high picks on wide receivers, they may look for another in next year’s draft. Andre Johnson has given every indication of becoming one of the franchise’s cornerstones, but Corey Bradford, the other starter, is in the last year of his contract.

Former second-rounder Jabar Gaffney and Derick Armstrong could step up this season but need to be more consistent. Rookies Sloan Thomas and Kendrick Starling have also flashed promise but have yet to even make the final cut. The Texans may have to look to the draft for a complement to Johnson if none of these receivers emerges as the answer.

Houston Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer prefers wide receivers that can stretch the field, so the Texans definitely look favorably upon those with pure speed. This trait may be even more in demand if the NFL’s tightening up of pass interference calls opens up more opportunities for offenses to throw deep.

While seven wide receivers may not be selected in the first round of the 2005 draft as there were this year, this upcoming class of wideouts is not short on talent. The top five consists of Braylon Edwards of Michigan, Fred Gibson of Georgia, Chris Henry of West Virginia, Craphonso Thorpe of Florida State, and Mike Williams, formerly of Southern Cal.

The status of Bennie Joppru will be a major factor in how high the Texans prioritize the tight end position next offseason. The Texans drafted Joppru in the second round of the 2003 draft to be a blocker capable of opening up holes as well as a weapon as a receiver. But a groin injury has prevented him from making any contribution up to this point. The team is pleased with free agent signee Mark Bruener, but he turns 32 this month and is nearing the end of the road. Billy Miller is a receiving threat but lacks the size to block like the Texans would like. If Joppru cannot rebound from his health problems and show that he is capable of filling the need, the Texans may address the position again early in the draft.

This year’s crop of tight end prospects lacks the star power of a Kellen Winslow but includes some quality players. Joel Dreessen of Colorado State, Kevin Everett of Miami, Matt Herian of Nebraska, Heath Miller of Virginia, and Alex Smith of Stanford are the top five for 2005.

Other wide receivers worth consideration:

Jason Anderson, Wake Forest
Mark Clayton, Oklahoma
Geoff McArthur, California
Terrence Murphy, Texas A&M
Martin Nance, Miami (Ohio)

And tight ends:

Adam Bergen, Lehigh
Brian Casey, Kansas State
Andrew Clarke, Toledo
Dave Kashetta, Boston College
Eric Knott, Michigan State Mike Williams Mike Williams Home

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