The Mario Scenario

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The Mario Scenario
by Warren DeLuca

The Texans made easily the most controversial move of the draft when they bypassed USC running back Reggie Bush for North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams. Opinions on the move have not exactly been in short supply, but we wanted to hear what a professional had to say about the pick so we asked draft analyst Rob Rang of for his thoughts on the Williams choice, as well as the rest of the Texans’ draft.

HPF: In your opinion, did the Texans make a choice between two closely-rated players or did they leave value on the table when they selected Williams over Bush?

Rang: We had Reggie Bush and Mario Williams ranked as the best and second best prospects in this draft, just as every team I spoke to had. Therefore, there is a valid point behind the rationale that the Texans simply chose the better fit for their team among two “closely-rated players.” That said, I know of no team, other than Houston, who had anyone rated above Reggie Bush. Therefore, I believe the team did leave value on the board when they selected Williams with the first pick. However, with few teams expressing any interest in giving up the picks it would require to move up to #1, the Texans were in a bind and ultimately selected the player they obviously felt would improve their team the most.

HPF: How quickly do you think Williams can make the transition and play at a high level in the NFL?

Rang: Immediately. The comparisons to Julius Peppers and Richard Seymour are legitimate in terms of Williams’ talent. He has an extraordinary blend of size, speed, and strength that could make him one of the league’s best defensive linemen. The question will be how hungry he is after signing such a huge contract and how well he’ll handle the scrutiny of being “the guy picked ahead of Reggie Bush.” Unfortunately, a slow start from Williams could easily snowball into a media frenzy and become a distraction.

HPF: With all of the excitement over the Williams pick, DeMeco Ryans hasn’t received much ink considering that he was the 33rd overall selection. What kind of impact should Ryans have on the Houston defense?

Rang: Ryans could make the most immediate impact of Houston’s draft day additions. His athleticism and dependability will quickly make him a favorite of the coaching staff and fans, alike. I expect Ryans to emerge as one of Houston’s top defenders within his first few seasons.

HPF: The Texans plan on trying Charles Spencer first at left tackle. How well-suited for that spot do you think he is, considering that he was widely considered a better prospect as a guard?

Rang: We ranked Spencer as a guard prospect, which obviously indicates where we feel he fits best at the NFL level. That said, I was stunned by Spencer’s quick feet while scouting him up close at the Senior Bowl. Also, it is important to note that Spencer is only two years removed from playing defensive tackle, and has only one year of experience at left tackle, so he is far from a finished product. I certainly feel that Spencer has the athleticism to eventually handle the left tackle position. That said, he’ll likely have to drop considerable weight. He struggled against speed rushers throughout his senior season and wasn’t used at left tackle during the Senior Bowl. In my mind, I feel his best chance at success would have him starting off at guard and being groomed into a left tackle.

HPF: Eric Winston will start off at right tackle. Early in his junior year, he was a highly-regarded tackle but then he injured his knee, had a sub par senior season, and his stock dropped. Did the Texans get a bargain due to the injury or is he just not as good as his earlier press clippings indicated?

Rang: A little of both. Winston is a solid prospect, but the hype around Miami players often causes them to be a little overrated. I felt that he was a solid second round selection and was surprised to see him fall to the third round. The concern with Winston is that he is considered by some to be a bit of a ‘tweener. Winston didn’t appear to have the foot quickness and balance this past season to play the left tackle position. He relies on athleticism and technique, rather than brute strength, in his run blocking, so teams question if he can be a traditional power right tackle. With another year removed from the surgery I expect to see Winston regain some of his athleticism. Also, with Kubiak’s focus on athleticism and positioning over strength in the running game, I believe Winston is a great match for this scheme.

HPF: How does Owen Daniels fit the job description for a tight end/H-back in Gary Kubiak’s offense?

Rang: Perfectly. There were many teams who saw Daniels as one of the real gems of the second day. Every time I spoke to teams about Daniels in the weeks leading up to the draft, his stock seemed to rise. He is a bit undersized for the traditional tight end position, but fits in well in Kubiak’s scheme.

HPF: How does Wali Lundy compare to the late-round running backs that the Broncos struck gold with while Kubiak was the offensive coordinator — Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, and Mike Anderson?

Rang: Like the Davis, Gary, and Anderson, Lundy is a versatile performer who showed ability when given opportunity, but for one reason or another, split time as the feature back in college. I believe Lundy can be quite effective in this scheme, as he has the quick feet, patience, vision, and ability as both a receiver and blocker.

HPF: David Anderson is too small and too slow, but was very productive at Colorado State. What kind of shot does he have of making the roster?

Rang: Better than most think. As you stated, Anderson is too small and too slow for most. However, I’ve long been a fan of Anderson’s and felt that he was just as effective at the East-West Shrine Game as the more highly touted Oregon State’s Mike Hass, 2005’s Biletnikof Winner as the nation’s top wide receiver. Anderson runs very good routes and has excellent hands. He is also a ferocious downfield blocker. I believe he can develop into a formidable weapon as a slot receiver.

HPF: The Texans signed 10 undrafted free agents: QB Matt Baker (North Carolina), RBs Damien Rhodes (Syracuse) and Chris Taylor (Indiana), FB Quadtrine Hill (Miami), WR Richie Ross (Nebraska-Kearney), OGs Mike Brisiel (Colorado State) and Kelvin Chaisson (Oklahoma), DEs Philip Alexander (Duke) and Jeff Charleston (Idaho State), and CB John Walker (USC). Do any of these guys have potential to be more than bodies for training camp?

Rang: Four players in my mind, stick out from this group. The two players I view as the most talented and likeliest to make the team because of how their skills translate to the Texans’ schemes are RB Damien Rhodes and FB Quadtrine Hill. Rhodes is a natural runner, but has struggled with ball security, at times. Hill is a natural runner, himself, but played fullback for the ‘Canes as a way of getting on the field and performed too well at the position to ever move back. He could surprise. Certainly the athleticism shown by Philip Alexander and John Walker is intriguing, as well.

HPF: With Kubiak coming aboard and Charley Casserly rumored to be on the way out, did you notice any differences in how the Texans approached and conducted this draft as compared to the franchise’s first four?

Rang: The most obvious change was an obvious focus on adding players who filled needs and fit the scheme. Coming into the draft defensive end and offensive tackle were arguably the team’s biggest two needs and the club spent three of their first four picks addressing these positions.

While it wouldn’t be fair to characterize picks from recent drafts as being “reaches” or potential busts, there was somewhat of a sense that the team was adding players to positions that weren’t necessarily good fits for the particular scheme. The drafting of three players — Travis Johnson, Jason Babin, Antwan Peek — expected to play huge roles in Houston’s 3-4 alignment, for example, were noteworthy in that none had previous experience at the position they would be playing for the Texans. This year, however, the prospects drafted seem to perfectly fit the prototype required for Gary Kubiak’s scheme. While the Mario Williams selection is one that will potentially raise eyebrows for years to come, defensive end was clearly more of a need for the Texans than a running back. Similarly, Eric Winston, Owen Daniels, and Wali Lundy are players who might be viewed as ‘tweeners for some clubs, but have the necessary traits to be successful in Kubiak’s alignments.

Rob “Boomer” Rang built a reputation as one of the top independent scouts in the industry before joining as a Senior Analyst. His contributions to that organization include player rankings, mock drafts, feature articles, all-star game coverage, and interview requests.

Thanks to Rob Rang once again for his insights.

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