Was Texans’ Draft a Boomer?

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April 24, 2002
Was Texans’ Draft a Boomer?

On Sunday, the Texans wrapped up their first-ever draft and, depending on who you ask, either did quite well, or screwed the pooch completely.

We decided to ask scout Rob Rang.

Rang’s work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine and been hailed by USA Today, and his site, Boomer’s Draft, has been described by many as the "top independent draft site on the web."

Whether coaching at the high school and collegiate level, scouting talent for the NFL or writing articles for various publications, Rang’s been involved with football nearly his entire life. In other words, he knows his stuff. Here’s what he had to say about the Texans’ draft.

HPF: What was your overall impresssion of the Texans’ first-ever draft?

Rang: The Texans enjoyed a very, very solid draft. There were some picks that I considered to be reaches, but I liked how the club mixed players that can step in and contribute immediately with players who have obvious potential, but need to be groomed a bit. Perhaps best of all, I felt the club drafted quality talent, athleticism and upside deep into the draft. It is pretty easy to draft talent in the 1st and 2nd rounds, but the club also drafted some hidden gem-types in the 6th and 7th round that I’m quite high on.

HPF: Which pick by the Texans really jumped out at you as their most "Wow"-inducing? ("Wow" meaning either "Wow, what an awesome pick!" or "Wow! How did Charley Casserly manage to smuggle an illegal narcotic into the Texans’ War Room?")

Rang: There were four picks, actually, that really stood out to me. Two of the picks because I felt the Texans came away with super players for the position they were selected, and two players I felt were reaches. Jabar Gaffney at #33 and Howard Green at #190 are the two I was pleasantly surprised by. Gaffney has everything you look for in a big-time NFL receiver, and Green is one of the more underrated defensive tackles in the country.

I was a bit surprised the club took Chester Pitts as high as they did, and was shocked by the Charles Hill selection. Both Pitts and Hill have huge upsides, but need a lot of time and refining. I am quite high on Pitts’ upside, but less so with Hill.

HPF: Which of the 12 picks do you see potentially starting for the Texans in 2002?

Rang: Carr could certainly start from day one if the club chooses to allow him to. He has the athleticism, dedication and intelligence to not only digest the NFL playbook being thrown at him, but succeed fairly early. (That said, I still think he should have at least half of the season to sit and watch…).

Gaffney will likely start. Ramon Walker could start. The backfield of Jonathan Wells and Jarrod Baxter could potentially start, though Baxter isn’t the classic lead blocking fullback.

I don’t really expect any of the offensive or defensive linemen selected to start initially, but any of the group could work their way into the starting lineup halfway through the season. I do expect to see Weary, Pitts, Hill, Green and White in the regular rotations.

HPF: Turning our attention to the players, what are your thoughts on David Carr?

Rang: I think David Carr is the perfect #1 choice for the Texans. Not only am I very confident in his physical ability, I’ve been extremely impressed with his composure under all of the scrutiny. He handles the spotlight as well as any player I’ve ever seen. He and his family are class acts, and they will set the tempo of what I’m confident will be an organization built on class and success, both on and off the field.

HPF: What can we realistically expect from Carr in 2002?

Rang: The club is talking like he might start from day one, and if that is the case, you can expect moments of brilliance followed and preceeded by plenty of moments of confusion and/or inexperience. Palmer allowed (Tim) Couch to start from day one, and there are those in Cleveland who feel it stunted his development.

HPF: Jabar Gaffney was considered by many to be a mid first round talent — should Texan fans be concerned or grateful he fell to #33? Also, why have Florida receivers traditionally struggled on the next level, and will Gaffney suffer the same fate?

Rang: Grateful. A lot has been made of the "Florida flops" at receiver over the years, but I see this as a bit unfair.

These receivers are leaving a college passing attack more sophisticated than many of those used in the NFL. They are then drafted into programs looking for them to be the cure to poor passing attacks (New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, etc.) and that is not the type of players they were.

Gaffney is among the best athletes to don a Gator uniform (at receiver, at least) and has among the highest upsides of the receivers in this class. He is an excellent route runner, has great, natural hands, and can make plays after the catch. I am especially excited about his potential with the Texans, because he fell. He’ll come into camp with something to prove, and I think that will help him remain focused.

Having said that, Gaffney will suffer the same fate if the Texans don’t allow him to catch the ball in space. He needs to be able to run after the catch and be used creatively. If they expect him to be a 2-3 catch per game guy and block down the field, he could have some problems. If they use him aggressively, there is no telling what he could do with a quarterback blessed with a legitimate NFL arm.

HPF: OK, everyone’s screaming about the Chester Pitts pick in the second round — if possible, do your best to calm everyone down by telling us what Casserly and company might’ve seen in this big, raw kid to justify the selection.

Rang: Pure athleticism and upside. This is the kind of pick I was referring to earlier when I said that the club did an excellent job of finding players that need some refining but have excellent upsides.

You simply have to appreciate what this kid has been able to accomplish without playing high school football and walking on to the San Diego State program. He showed daily improvement at the Senior Bowl and just needs reps. I do think he was a bit of a reach, but he could be a real, real solid player down the line.

HPF: Would you agree Fred Weary, when healthy, has first round talent, and was his selection at #66 what they call a "value" pick?

First round talent may be stretching things a bit far, but he is a solid, solid talent and good value at #66. Injuries are an element of a player’s stock that must be factored into the equation, which is why he was available at this spot. I can tell you this: only two interior lineman at the Senior Bowl were more consistently effective than Weary: Andre Gurode and LeCharles Bentley, two 2nd round picks.

HPF: Beginning with the first pick of the fourth round, it seems the Texans made three consecutive picks that could pay big dividends: Jonathan Wells, Jarrod Baxter and Ramon Walker. What do you think of those three?

Wells will come in and immediately battle with James Allen to be the starter. He could easily prove to be the biggest statistical contributor to this club in 2003. Baxter isn’t the classic lead blocking fullback, but his running ability and receiving skills out of the backfield will make him an
intriguing weapon for the Texans.

Ramon Walker disappointed many with his speed in workouts and isn’t the most instinctive pass defender in the world at free safety, but his presence against the run and tenacity will certainly help add a sense of physicality and toughness in the Houston secondary. Besides, with cover corners like Coleman and Glenn, the Texans’ don’t necessarily need a great centerfielder, but more of a hitter at deep safety.

HPF: Are we crazy? Greg White seemed to be a big-time defensive playmaker at Minnesota — will he have any impact in 2002?

Greg White is a little bit of a one-dimensional player. He racked up some super stats for the Gophers over his career, including 12 sacks and 25 tackles for loss, despite only being a two year starter. That said, he is undersized and will get pushed off the line often. He will be protected a bit by the size and playmaking ability the Texans’ have inside at tackle, but is more of a situational pass rusher in my eyes than a fulltime performer.

HPF: Finally, never too early to start looking at next year’s draft: who are some top prospects for 2003 that might temp the Texans?

Obviously it is pretty difficult to speculate at this point who or what positions the Texans will be focusing on for next year’s draft. That said, despite addressing the defensive line in the 2002 draft, this will prove to be big team need in the future. There are some intriguing defensive lineman for next year’s draft, not the least of which is Penn State’s Jimmy Kennedy, Miami’s William Joseph, Florida’s Ian Scott, Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, and Texas’ Cory Redding.

Wide receiver shouldn’t be a huge need, but the 2003 draft could be loaded with future stars like Charles Rogers (Michigan State), Kelley Washington (Tennessee), Andre Johnson (Miami), and, of course, Roy Williams (Texas).

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