Checklist Charley

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April 7, 2004
Checklist Charley

by Bob Hulsey

We’ve had mock draft and "what if" scenarios flying around Post Patterns for two months and it’s time for my official weigh-in. This year’s mock will be a little different since so much of what happens depends on what the Texans will do with the #10 selection in the first round.

While I plead every year to trade down in the first round and get more players, this may be the year the Texans actually do it. Then again, they could also trade up.

So let’s break down a checklist for Charley Casserly to see why, unlike 2002 and 2003, there likely will be no sure thing until the Texans are on the clock.

The first item would be Robert Gallery, massive LT from Iowa and perhaps the surest pick out there. Debate centers on which of the top four in the order will choose him, yet all appear to be looking elsewhere. If all four pass (pass being the operative word since they are likely to select quarterbacks and receivers if they don’t opt for Gallery), this would open up the possibility for Casserly to trade up with Washington to take him in the fifth position.

The Skins already have a solid LT and have stated their desire to move down, having traded away their picks in the second and third rounds. While such a deal would probably cost us our #10 pick and our #40 pick, it could well be worth it.

A franchise left tackle, while still young and relatively cheap, allows the Texans to move Chester Pitts back to the LG position they originally drafted him to play and would probably keep the front wall that protects David Carr settled for several years.

The only other player the Texans might trade up to obtain is Miami (FL) FS Sean Taylor, a heavy hitter with quick feet who is drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame DB Ronnie Lott. Some scenarios have Taylor falling to the Texans without having to move up but, if Casserly really wants him, he might be tempted to trade up as high as with the Browns and the seventh pick. That’s Item 2 for the checklist. For the short move up, we might be able to talk the Browns into taking our third-rounder or a second-rounder in 2005 as well as giving them the #10.

The chances of either Gallery or Taylor being available so low are unlikely. That leaves Houston standing pat in the tenth slot.

Or does it? If either Miami (OH) QB Ben Roethlisberger or Oregon St. RB Steven Jackson are still on the board, there could be some interest in teams wishing to take them before the Pittsburgh Steelers get their chance at #11. If so, the Texans might be willing to trade down for extra picks. This becomes Item 3 on the checklist.

This would be a smart thing to do in such a deep draft, but it depends on who is offering what and how far the Texans are willing to move down. I can see potential deals with the Jets (#12), Buffalo (#13), Chicago (#14), San Francisco (#16), New Orleans (#18), Miami (#20) and New England (#21 and #32). These should all be strictly deals for draft choices except with the Jets. New York has mentioned that RB Lamont Jordan might be available and this was a player the Texans tried to get last year before signing Stacey Mack. Jordan could provide an inside running game to complement the speed of Domanick Davis and Tony Hollings. A swap of first-rounders with the Jets for Jordan could be possible if the Jets have a particular WR or CB in mind that they don’t want to risk losing.

Part of Casserly’s decision at #10 also depends on who is on their short list and how many of them could still be there if they move down. I think there are four players Casserly is most likely to draft if he stays at #10. Make these Items 4-7 on the checklist.

Item 4 is DT Tommie Harris of Oklahoma, a disruptive interior player with a quick first step that I think would be expected to play DE in the 3-4 defensive scheme of Dom Capers. He lacks a bit of bulk and is not known as a sackmaster, but he was often double-teamed in college which made life easier for the rest of the defense. Casserly speaks glowingly of him. While he wouldn’t be my personal pick, I think Casserly rates him as a Top Five player.

Next comes CB DeAngelo Hall from Virginia Tech. While he doesn’t play a position where Houston has a glaring hole, men of his rare speed and skills aren’t easy to find. He can return kicks and appear in nickel situations this year and make it easier for the Texans to move Marcus Coleman over or out for 2005.

Item 6 is Miami (FL) DT Vince Wilfork, the sort of dancing bear that occupies blockers in the middle and makes the occasional big play. Weight is a concern with him and fears that he takes too many plays off. At his best, though, he would be a prototypical 3-4 NT who can rotate with Seth Payne or take over completely if Payne doesn’t fully recover from last year’s injuries.

The last guy on the short list is Texas WR Roy Williams. Given how badly Casserly wanted to see him come out last year when he was picking third, it’s hard to imagine Charley not giving him a glance if he was there at #10. Pairing him with Andre Johnson would give defensive coordinators cold sweats for years to come. Williams’ stock fell during the season put appears to be back up after some outstanding workouts. Like the others, there’s a good chance he could be gone before the Texans are on the clock.

I don’t really see the Texans selecting anyone else at this spot although some might add USC DE Kenechi Udeze or Ohio St. DE Will Smith to the list. I’m not sure they would be as valuable to the Texans as they would teams that run a 4-3 base defense. One local source is touting interest in Miami (FL) tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. and South Carolina CB Dunta Robinson, but I’m not buying into either idea.

If the Texans move down, possibilities include Maryland DT Randy Starks, Ohio St. CB Chris Gamble, USC CB Will Poole, Robinson and a pair of Miami (FL) LBs, Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams. Clearly, whoever the Texans choose will have an impact on who they take in the following rounds.

With their first three picks, I expect the Texans to take a defensive lineman and a defensive back, with the other being another defensive player, an offensive lineman or a wide receiver to tap into the mother lode of that position in this year’s offerings.

Since I can’t anticipate trades, I’ll play the draft order straight up as it is now in making my mock projections although I expect and hope to see some moving around for draft position.

FIRST CHOICE: First Round #1 (10th Overall)
DeAngelo Hall, CB-KR, Virginia Tech (5’10", 202)

In the dicey situation explained above, Hall is the fifth option but barring a trade up or a trade down, he may be the best option left. I think Harris and Williams will already be gone and the choice at the tenth slot will come down to Hall or Wilfork. Hall is the safer of the two picks.

Dude has some first-class jets beneath him and has moves like a waterbug. He is also a playmaker on defense who can make the pick or strip the ball. If he were two inches taller, he’d be a sure Top Five pick the way Terrence Newman was last year.

Hall is not a polished product as he played only two years on the corner as a Hokie before turning pro. He can be beaten in coverage and needs to improve his tackling but DeAngelo is very confident and lightning quick. He also adds speed to the return game if Capers chooses to put him back there. Hall averaged over 14 yards per punt return last season, taking three back to paydirt. He can be a Darrell Green type of player for the next 15 years. Some are knocking his attitude but I don’t see that as a hindrance at all.

(Alternatives: Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma; Vince Wilfork, DT, Miami (FL); Roy Williams, WR, Texas; Reggie Williams, WR, Washington; Chris Gamble, CB, Ohio St.)

SECOND CHOICE: Second Round #1 (would be 33rd Overall)
Tony Hollings, RB, Georgia Tech (5’10", 216)

This choice has already been made, of course. Hollings was claimed in the supplemental draft last summer with a pick acquired from Oakland. Back then, everyone assumed this draft slot would be at the bottom of the second round, not at the top. Nonetheless, the choice should be factored when grading the 2004 draft class since that’s what was used to claim him. 2003 was supposed to be a "get acquainted" year for Hollings while he recovered from knee surgery. Judging his value as a draft pick actually begins this August.

THIRD CHOICE: Second Round #2 (40th Overall)
Isaac Sopoaga, DT, Hawaii (6’2", 317)

Some may think this is a bit of a reach but there’s been a lot of buzz about this player and he certainly won’t be around to be taken in the third round. Sopoaga is a true nose tackle who possesses awesome brute strength and will be a two-gap defender that can anchor the middle of the defensive line. He has a thick, squat body that could add even more weight and not lose effectiveness. He isn’t much of a pass-rusher and still has a lot to learn about shedding blockers and identifying plays but he will be a beast if he applies himself. In a rotation at NT, Isaac will be able to supply a burst of energy that will disrupt what opposing offenses can do in the middle of the field. There are some other nose tackle candidates around such as Dwan Edwards, Marcus Tubbs and Igor Olshansky but Sopoaga appears to be the best fit and he did attend the Senior Bowl, which was a common denominator to some of Casserly’s mid-round picks last year. Of course, the Texans will look elsewhere if Wilfork is their choice in the first round.

(Alternatives: Marcus Tubbs, DT, Texas; Dwan Edwards, DT, Oregon St.; Igor Olshansky, DT, Oregon; Sean Jones, S, Georgia; Matt Ware, CB-S, UCLA; Michael Jenkins, WR, Ohio St.; Keith Smith, CB, McNeese St.)

FOURTH CHOICE: Third Round #1 (71st Overall)
Courtney Watson, ILB, Notre Dame (6’1", 240)

There’s a LOT of possibilities here and some of it depends on what Houston selects before him and how much Casserly is willing to roll the dice on a project (remember Seth Wand?). I, on the other hand, tend to go with safer choices and this is one.

Watson played offense in high school, OLB early in college and MLB his final season so he still needs to be groomed at the LB position but he has a good mix of inside and outside skills that make him a solid NFL backup who can eventually take the place of Jay Foreman. At this point, he may be a better athlete than a linebacker.

Courtney has the speed to compare with an average outside backer and the size to fight through traffic as an inside backer. The scouts say he’s not great in pass coverage but he did have two picks last year and ran an interception back for a touchdown the year before so he can’t be that awful. By the way, Watson was also a Senior Bowler.

(Alternatives: Bernard Berrian, WR, Fresno St.; Keary Colbert, WR USC; Derrick Hamilton, WR, Clemson; Travelle Wharton, OG, South Carolina; Nathan Vasher, CB, Texas; Joey Thomas, CB, Montana St.; *Travis Laboy, OLB, Hawaii, *Shaun Phillips, OLB, Purdue, *Isaac Hilton, OLB, Hampton; Stuart Schweigert, S, Purdue; Jason Shivers, S, Arizona St.; * – note that all the OLBs listed are college DEs who would project to LB in a 3-4 scheme but lack LB experience.)

{By now, some of you might be thinking, "say, didn’t we see some polls in your forum where Hall was the consensus first-round choice and Sopoaga was the consensus second-rounder?" Yes, you did. But I’m not putting them up here for any other reason that they seem the most sensible choices among those I think will be around when the Texans are on the clock. I look at who projects to be there and then pick among them. And I tend to be a bit overly negative on who will be available to offset my optimism at selecting certain players. That helps to keep the mock realistic. I try not to select players so good that they’ll be gone long before I’ve slotted them.}

Second Day. At this point, I stop listing alternatives because it becomes a crapshoot and nobody knows who will suddenly be left behind from the first day. Since we have two choices in the fourth round, this would be the most likely spot to see Casserly trade one for a third-rounder in 2005 but since he already has an extra one from the Drew Henson deal, this might not occur. He might also package one of his fourth-rounders with another lower pick in order to move up into the third round this year. If so, I’d like that option.

FIFTH CHOICE: Fourth Round #1 (103rd overall)
Roderick Green, OLB, Central Missouri St. (6’2", 245)

Projected by some into the third round, Green compares with Antwan Peek but from a smaller program, which is why I think he’ll last this far. He has an explosive first step and a good motor who, unlike several of the other tweeners that project to 3-4 OLBs, has some limited experience in pass coverage. He has good closing speed. Green can possibly be a rush lineman on passing downs but lacks size to be an every down player and doesn’t have the skill set to be a 4-3 LB. Green is a raw prospect who needs time to develop but the tools are there.

SIXTH CHOICE: Fourth Round #2 (122nd overall)
Rashad Washington, S, Kansas St. (6’1", 215)

A converted running back, Washington has good size and speed for the position. He is sometimes overaggressive and a sloppy tackler but can develop into a better player than he was in college. He will do well on special teams while he’s learning. Projects to strong safety.

SEVENTH CHOICE: Fifth Round #1 (138th overall)
Brandon Miree, RB, Pittsburgh (5’11", 235)

If the Texans don’t re-sign Mack and don’t acquire Jordan, Miree can be the sort of short-yardage back that can move the chains. He’s strictly an inside runner. He seems to get the most out of his running style though, which is pushing ahead and plowing through tacklers. Scouts disagree on his blocking and receiving potential. He is known as a hard worker and a tough guy.

EIGHTH CHOICE: Sixth Round #1 (170th overall)
Maurice Jones, ILB, South Florida (6’0", 245)

Jones is another LB that could play inside or outside. He has a good burst, is fast enough to stay with most tight ends, and displays above average skills in pursuit. The trouble is that he is not disciplined and will be a work in progress. He’s also a tad short for an NFL backer and that’s why he’ll fall this far. Still, if he hangs around long enough to figure out what he’s doing, the light could turn on and he could become a late-round steal.

NINTH CHOICE: Sixth Round #2 (200th overall)
Chad Pugh, DT, TCU (6’2" 315)

Since there are no third basemen to draft this year, here’s another fire hydrant to stick at the nose and dare people to move him out of the way. He has good lower body strength that can tie up the middle but lacks much in terms of a pass rush. A good man to rotate in on running downs and, judging from the first two seasons, you just can’t have enough depth at this position.

TENTH CHOICE: Seventh Round #1 (211th overall)
Jammal Lord, RB, Nebraska (6’2", 215)

Yeah, call me crazy but this guy is a better athlete than past Cornhusker QBs Scott Frost and Eric Crouch and he’ll still be there to pluck in the seventh round. He’s not a very good passer but he is an outstanding runner who finishes off his runs when he gets his momentum going. Lord can give us a trick play option and serve many roles on practice and scout teams as well as being an emergency QB. Who knows if he can adapt to a running back position or free safety but, by this round, that would all be gravy. The seventh round is for longshots, right?

ELEVENTH CHOICE: Seventh Round #2 (248th overall)
Patrick Kabongo, DT, Nebraska (6’5", 320)

Something to bang on during practice. No, actually this product of Zaire won the Brook Berringer Memorial Scholarship while at Nebraska for his volunteer work. A good guy the Texans should be proud to have. He also has the size to try out at RT if he doesn’t catch on as a defensive lineman. Kabongo just pawn in game of life.

Note that many of these picks will be able to contribute on special teams as they learn the NFL trade.

Many of you may notice that, after all my blather in the forum about taking a wide receiver, I didn’t select one in my mock. Here’s why. If the Texans are going to invest in a WR, it will need to be somebody special – someone who represents an upgrade from Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford. The Texans might be sorely tempted to take one if an outstanding receiver fell to them in one of the first two rounds but, otherwise, I don’t think taking one upgrades the position from what they already have. The receiving corps is already deep and doesn’t need rookies to develop, although I could see adding Texas Tech’s Wes Welker as a post-draft free agent who can return kicks and be an option as a slot receiver.

Bob Hulsey is thinking of renaming his annual mock in honor of Chance Pearce, the Aggie long snapper he jokingly made his last choice in 2003’s mock ("give Pearce a chance") only to see the Texans actually select him there, giving this exercise some street cred it wouldn’t have otherwise. Pearce made the season opener before losing his job to Bryan Pittman. If the Texans choose Kabongo this year, Bob may leave his job to become a full-time draft guru.

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