Charley’s Farewell Draft?

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April 13, 2006
Charley’s Farewell Draft?

by Bob Hulsey

Depending on what rumors you believe, this could be General Manager Charley Casserly’s final draft with the Houston Texans. It could be that he’ll jump to a position within the league offices or he might be let go as the turnover from the expansion era continues.

It’s usually not a good sign when the five-year plan has you drafting from the first overall position in Year Five but that’s where the Texans are. With a new head coach, a new defensive alignment and a new offense to install, a lot of changes are in store.

No doubt whomever the Texans get with the first pick is going to be a major factor in where the Texans go from here, and he will be paid handsomely to do so. The Texans have several holes that free agency hasn’t filled and some depth issues in other places so fans should pay attention beyond the first hour on Saturday.

If history is a teacher, here are some of the trends I expect to see from the Texans on draft day:

1. Expect the Texans to draft a running back.

Okay, that sounds like a "well duh" statement, but if you look at the first four drafts, the Texans have always taken a running back (Jonathan Wells in ’02, Domanick Davis in ’03, Tony Hollings with an ’04 pick, Vernand Morency in ’05). So, even if the Texans pass on Reggie Bush, expect the Texans to find somebody to run with the football.

New coach Gary Kubiak also comes from a team that drafts running backs each year even when the depth chart looks full. The running game sets up everything else in the Broncos offense, and backs are football’s most injury-prone position. A supply of healthy runners is always a must in the NFL.

2. Don’t expect Vince Young, or any other Longhorn, to be drafted.

Other than one seventh rounder on Sloan Thomas, the Texans seem totally disinterested in the product that comes from Austin, in spite of the yearly trek to their Pro Day workouts.

In fact, none of the major Texas colleges get much love from the Texans. To date, they have used college draft selections on one Longhorn (Thomas), one Aggie (LS Chance Pearce) and one Red Raider (QB B.J. Symons), all seventh-rounders. No Bears, no Cougars, no Owls, no Horned Frogs, not even a Lumberjack or a Javelina. They’ve drafted more players from Louisiana and Florida schools than they have Texas schools.

As for Young, his fate with Houston was probably sealed when the contract option was picked up on David Carr. It would probably cost too much to have Young as a backup and there’s little point in drafting him unless you plan on letting Carr go at some point. That would undermine several other decisions made this offseason. However…

3. Don’t be shocked to see a quarterback drafted.

Carr is clearly Number One but the newly-signed Sage Rosenfels is nothing but a placeholder. I’m sure the Texans want somebody with actual game experience should Carr go down and Rosenfels is a bright lad who can do his best impression of Danny Kanell backing up Jake Plummer. It’s hard to guess what the Texans think of third-stringer Dave Ragone or why they seem so unwilling to give him snaps. If he has any future at all with the Texans, they need to decide that by next winter when he’ll become a free agent.

One of Casserly’s stated dictums is that "you can never have too many quarerbacks". If you count Jammal Lord and Drew Henson, the Texans have drafted five so far. A second-day pick this year would seem more reasonable.

4. Expect a trade, probably with a future pick thrown in.

Every season, the Texans have made one trade which netted a future year’s pick (’02 with Atlanta, ’03 with Oakland, ’04 with Dallas using Drew Henson and ’05 with New Orleans). So far, they’ve netted us Ragone, Hollings and Morency. Casserly traded down once and got Bennie Joppru and Seth Wand. He traded up once to get Jason Babin and he traded out once to get Philip Buchanon. He also made one second-day trade in ’04 that netted a pocketful of 6ths and 7ths.

Trading isn’t necessarily a bad move but the choices made with those trades may be the singlemost reason Casserly’s job is in jeopardy. There’s been very little return on those investments.

While many would love to see the Texans trade down from the #1 overall, it doesn’t appear as if the stars will align for that to happen. The most likely spot to see a trade would be the start of the third round where the Texans have back-to-back picks or perhaps the top of the fourth round since they dealt the fifth-round choice to acquire Eric Moulds.

Personally, this is the year I’d rather mortgage part of the future than trade out of the present. This is a very deep draft and many juniors left early fearing the uncertainty of the then-unresolved labor impasse. 2007’s crop looks like it will be as thin as this one is bountiful. Rather than having an extra pick next year, I’d prefer to see us dealing next year’s picks for ones this year.

5. Expect a player nobody has heard of.

Charley’s scouts seem to find somebody every year who is from Witness Protection Tech or some small program. You should see the staff scramble like quail around Dick Cheney to find anything on players like C.C. Brown and Charlie Anderson who weren’t in even the deepest draft guides when those names were called. Keith, in particular, breathed a sigh of relief when the Texans surrendered their seventh-rounder this year for signing Kevin Walter. But the anxiety attacks began again when Houston was awarded a non-tradable compensation pick near the end of the seventh. It’s pick #251 if you are bored Sunday night.

While the bottom of the barrel would be the most obvious time to see a name pulled out of the hat, Casserly can spring his surprise in the sixth (Brown) or even the third round (Wand). There is always a "WTF moment" every draft. Count on it.

6. Don’t expect a corner who can start right away.

First of all, you don’t normally find cornerbacks like that outside of the first round and there’s nobody ranked high enough in the first round to be worthy of trading down for. Even if one is chosen in the second round, expect some time for grooming before he is put on the island.

I’m sure most of you would like an instant replacement for Buchanon, but I don’t think you’re going to see it. Demarcus Faggins regressed last year, and Lewis Sanders is more of a nickel back. The Texans have only taken three corners (Faggins, Dunta Robinson and Vontez Duff) in their first four drafts and one was taken more for his kick return skills. In Buchanon’s defense, he did save the Cleveland game with a last-second deflection that demonstrated the potential everyone sees in him. Not many people can say they made the critical stop last year to save a Houston victory. Buchanon will get another chance to justify why he was acquired.

7. Expect an offensive lineman among the first five picks.

Alright, this is more of a hope than a trend although it became true in three of the first four drafts. The fact is, the Texans have still done little to address the most obvious weakness the team has. Assuming they pass on an offensive lineman in the first round, the Texans need to take advantage of a deep field of line candidates to fill some holes and put new blood along the front wall.

The Broncos have had success with some low-round choices (Tom Nalen) and even undrafted players (Matt Lepsis) to build their offensive line, but the Texans don’t seem to have much luck with that. The best skill players in the world won’t accomplish much if the guys up front don’t do their jobs. It’s even more critical when you understand the timing involved in the Broncos’ zone blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak and Mike Sherman will likely employ. A solid investment in the offensive line is a big priority so we can stop watching Carr getting peeled off the Reliant Stadium turf.

8. Expect Bob Hulsey to be manic, frantic, devastated, deflated, elated and heavily sedated during various stages of this year’s draft. It’s happened every year since 2002.

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