Lucky 13

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April 8, 2002
Lucky 13

by Bob Hulsey

With the NFL Draft still two weeks away, it’s time to pull out the crystal ball and take a shot at what the Texans will be selecting on April 20th and 21st.

In some ways, this draft will be an even greater testament to the scouting acumen that has been assembled by owner Bob McNair and GM Charley Casserly than the Expansion Draft because these college seniors (and a few juniors) represent what the club will be in five years far more than the 27+ year-olds who were the primary folks selected in February. We won’t know the answer to how Casserly did anytime soon but opinions will no doubt appear frequently right here on this very station.

For this exercise, I’m not attempting to project any trades by the Texans although that may well happen. If they do, I’m less inclined to believe the Texans will trade up for players as much as they will trade down to acquire more choices. This is an expansion team and depth is the key ingredient that will be missing early on. A great draft is generally when half your choices make the team and a third become starters. Texan draftees have a better chance than most to get a fair look and the top three choices could even get penciled into the starting lineup from the beginning of training camp. That’s how important this draft is.

FIRST CHOICE: First Round #1 (1st overall)
David Carr, QB, Fresno St. (6′ 3", 228).

At least I’m guaranteed to get one pick right this year. Before the Texans made it official, this was the worst-kept secret since Rosie O’Donnell outted herself. Carr rose out of obscurity during the 2001 season to become the top pick overall. He stepped up big time in major college upsets of Colorado, Wisconsin and Oregon St. to put the Bulldogs in the national rankings. He has typical size and speed for the position, a quick release, a strong arm, a sharp mind and leadership skills. Yes, it would be nice if he were an inch taller, threw more overhand and showed more elusiveness in the pocket but he has great NFL potential if he survives the first few years.

McNair wanted to make a splash with the first overall pick in the draft and you can’t get any flashier than taking an All-American Boy quarterback. He’ll no doubt charm the Astrodome throng on draft day and will be guaranteed a great honeymoon in Houston, at least until he throws his first interception. There are comparisons to Troy Aikman but I fancy him to be more like Brett Favre. Here’s a guy that will give everything he has on the football field and may try too hard while the team struggles to find itself out of the expansion wilderness.

(Alternatives: None)

SECOND CHOICE: Second Round #1 (33rd overall)
Larry Tripplett, NT, Washington (6′ 1 1/2", 305)

Dom Capers is a defensive coach and, for his 3-4 defense to be effective, he needs run-stoppers on the defensive line and active linebackers to make the plays. While Tripplett may have fallen to the middle of the round, the Texans don’t take any chances. He is a squatty defensive lineman with an explosive first step that can disrupt blocking schemes. He can hold his own at the point of attack and make the big play on occassion. Tripplett played well against a sturdy Texas line during the Holiday Bowl, showing a combination of size and quickness that made him tough to defend. He will be a pure nose tackle.

(Alternatives: Anthony Weaver, DT, Notre Dame; Brian Thomas, DE, UAB; Ryan Denney, DE, BYU; Jevon Walker, WR, Florida St.; Clinton Portis, RB, Miami)

THIRD CHOICE: Second Round #2 (50th overall)
Cliff Russell, WR, Utah (5′ 11", 183)

Ideally, the Texans would like a speedy linebacker or a defensive end right about here but I don’t see any that really fit at this point of the draft. You may see this pick traded down to the lower second round for an extra pick. If they don’t, the value here is going to be safeties, interior linemen and wide receivers.

David Carr needs targets and Russell will provide one with blazing speed (sub-4.4) who can stretch the field and find openings. A bit of an injury risk but good value.

(Alternatives: Eddie Freeman, DT, UAB; Lamont Thompson, S, Wash. St.; Michael Lewis, S, Colorado; Terrence Metcalf, G, Ole Miss; Robert Thomas, ILB, UCLA; Marquise Walker, WR, Michigan; Jerramy Stevens, TE, Washington)

FOURTH CHOICE: Third Round #1 (66th overall)
Ben Leber, OLB, Kansas St. (6′ 3", 244)

Leber provides the size to support the run and the speed to be effective in strongside coverage. A technician and a solid tackler, he’s not an eye-catching, big-play type but is adequate for most situations and won’t get caught out of position. A little bit stiff and needs to react better. There are guys still on the board with more speed but Leber is the safer pick.

(Alternatives: Seth McKinney, C, Texas A&M; Tyreo Harrison, ILB, Notre Dame; Kenyon Coleman, DE, UCLA; Ron Johnson, WR, Minnesota; Jonathan Wells, RB, Ohio St.; Joseph Jefferson, CB, W. Kentucky)

FIFTH CHOICE: Third Round #2 (83rd overall)
Maurice Morris, RB, Oregon (5′ 11 1/2", 202)

Morris is a little back in a bigger body. Good quickness and decent hands with the speed to turn the corner, yet has enough size to run the ball inside if needed. Morris is a capable blocker in blitz pick-up, too. A solid all-around back with few standout qualities.

(Alternatives: Ladell Betts, RB, Iowa; Antwaan Randle El, WR, Indiana; Doug Jolley, TE, BYU; David Thornton, OLB, N. Carolina; Eric Heitman, G, Stanford; Mike Echols, CB, Wisconsin; Lenny Walls, S, Boston Coll.)

The second day. The Texans will get to hear overnight about anybody who fell through the first day unexpectedly and the temptation will be to grab one of those guys. Since I have no clue who those will be, I’ll proceed as if the quality guys have all been taken, leaving the no-names that usually fill the later rounds. At this point, I’ll also stop speculating on alternatives since it’s hard to forecast who is and isn’t available by this point.

SIXTH CHOICE: Fourth Round #1 (99th overall)
Andre Lott, CB, Tennessee (5′ 10", 190)

This guy has first-round talent but a sixth-round head. Tremendous cover skills but makes bad decisions and is sometimes beaten. Lott lacks size to cover taller wideouts. He’s a good second-day gamble if he falls this far which is about 50-50. If Rocky Calmus (Oklahoma LB) drops this far, the Texans may take a chance with him instead. I’m guessing Calmus and Heisman-winner Eric Crouch will be the guys the media will be talking up on Sunday morning.

SEVENTH CHOICE: Fourth Round #2 (116th overall)
Justin Bannan, DT, Colorado (6′ 2 1/2", 300)

Particularly if the Texans don’t get Tripplett, Bannan is the type that could excel at the nose. Frankly, the guy is a grand piano. He takes up space and is hard to move. You can’t expect much from him as a pass rusher which is why he falls this far, but he has the wingspan and muscle to occupy two linemen and thwart running plays.

EIGHTH CHOICE: Fifth Round #1 (136th overall)
Coy Wire, S, Stanford (5′ 11 1/2", 209)

Converted linebacker with size and punch to play strong safety. Not great coverage skills but impressed in some post-season action and might not fall this far. Should be solid in run support.

NINTH CHOICE: Fifth Round #2 (153rd overall)
Grant Irons, DE, Notre Dame (6′ 5 1/2", 267)

Somebody’s going to make a mistake with this guy and it might as well be us. He looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane but maybe coming home to Texas will light a fire under him. Irons has NFL bloodlines and impressive size and speed. Maybe Jerry Wisne (another Golden Domer) will know how to press his buttons.

TENTH CHOICE: Sixth Round #1 (173rd overall)
Keith Heinrich, TE, Sam Houston St. (6′ 5", 255)

He should get a passport because he’s headed to NFL Europe. Heinrich has excellent size, big soft hands, and is a decent blocker. He has little experience and is still learning the position. He played only one year of high school ball – and that was at quarterback. Maybe he’ll develop into an outstanding NFL tight end. Maybe.

ELEVENTH CHOICE: Sixth Round #2 (190th overall)
De’Andre (D.D.) Lewis, ILB, Texas (6′ 0 1/2", 235)

This guy may find a home in the 3-4. Lewis lacks the size to be a true MLB and lacks the speed to play outside but he is a hustler who makes plays and sticks his nose in the pile. He’s adequate in pass coverage and can play in space. He’ll contribute on special teams as he learns.

TWELFTH CHOICE: Seventh Round #1 (229th overall)
Joe Hall, FB, Kansas St. (6′ 1", 310)

I must admit a weakness for fullbacks who look like sumo wrestlers. I can only imagine the expletives that safeties (and even linebackers) must utter when they see Big Joe lining up in the backfield. Hall can hit and move the pile which is all you need on third and a few inches. And if Hall eats his way out of the job, we’ve got somebody else to put on the depth chart at nose tackle.

THIRTEENTH CHOICE: Seventh Round #2 (261st and final overall, aka "Mr. Irrelevent")
Patrick Crummey, OG, Youngstown St. (6′ 3", 285)

Enjoy your fifteen minutes, pal.

Bob Hulsey wants to assure his readers that his draft picks will be more accurate than his choices in the stock market. He really didn’t expect and Global Crossing to go belly up the way they did and he sincerely regrets that anyone took his advice.

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