Second Helpings

June 4, 2002
Second Helpings
by Keith Weiland

With the 2002 NFL Draft quickly becoming a distant memory, the Texans’ college scouts can now narrow their focus to the 2003 version of the draft. Though we’re still months away from the kickoff to the 2002 season, it’s never too early to pick out which players to scout as potential future Texans.

So let’s first consider the top priorities the Texans may want to fill. The team would love to find a big running back to carry the offense and take pressure off QB David Carr, but for the second year in a row, the top of the board is very thin, even if a few of the top underclassmen declare. The Texans could also use a tight end, but there won’t be one of those worth drafting in the top half of the first round, either. The Texans did prove in the 2002 draft that they aren’t afraid to take an offensive lineman if he’s the guy they like, but there doesn’t appear to be a can’t-miss stud and physical freak like Mike Williams or Bryant McKinnie this time around.

That leaves the wide receivers and quarterbacks, both of whom will make the 2003 draft stand out. Making a few key assumptions on which wideouts will forego their remaining college eligibility after the season is over, the Texans could have their pick of the litter next spring. Two names headline that list: Roy Williams of Texas and Charles Rogers of Michigan State. Though Williams is a little bigger, both have prototypical size. Along with that size, what separates them as the top of their class is their breakaway speed.

Williams and Rogers will have company early in the draft, too. Kelley Washington of Tennessee figures to play just one more season, and he will be the primary target for the Volunteers since Donte Stallworth left to play for the Saints. Miami’s Andre Johnson put on a show in the Rose Bowl and will be one to watch this fall, too. A common thread amongst all four of these outstanding prospects is that each of them has a capable gunslinger throwing at them.

But don’t look for the Texans to give much thought to drafting those quarterbacks. If they do, then something will have gone disastrously wrong between now and next spring. So let’s skip over that impressive upcoming class, one that includes Byron Leftwich, Chris Simms, and Dave Ragone, among several others. Since a couple of those players will likely get drafted very early, Texans fans won’t have to fret about draft positioning when Houston steals a late win during the season. (hint, hint, Titans! I’m talking about you!)

The Texans will have several needs on defense. As Gary Walker’s recent mini-camp injury points out, those most pressing of those needs are especially evident in the trenches. Tackles William Joseph of Miami and Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State could be high on Dom Capers’ wish list. Both are tall enough, and Kennedy tips the scales at 330 pounds to Joseph’s 295. Defensive ends like DeWayne White of Louisville, Cory Redding of Texas, and Jerome McDougle of Miami will get a lot of press this fall, but there is some question as to whether they’re big enough to man the line in a 3-4 scheme.

Capers has said he likes to use veterans to build with and operate in his defense, but Maryland’s E.J. Henderson could be an intriguing prospect to him. Might he be the one to pair with Jamie Sharper up the middle? It seems unlikely that the Texans would use an early first round pick on a defensive back, but CB Dennis Weathersby of Oregon State and safety Mike Doss of Ohio State should be available.

So which players should Texans fans keep a keen eye on in 2002? Again, with fingers crossed and passing over a premier class of QB’s, one that even warrants comparison to the groups of 1983 and 1999, here’s the top ten prospects I’ll be watching this fall (* indicates underclassman):

1. Roy Williams*, WR, Texas – 6’4″ 215
2. Charles Rogers*, WR, Michigan State – 6’4″ 205
3. William Joseph, DL, Miami – 6’4″ 295
4. Jimmy Kennedy, DL, Penn State – 6’4″ 330
5. Kelley Washington*, WR, Tennessee – 6’3″ 215
6. E.J. Henderson, LB, Maryland 6’2″ 240
7. Andre Johnson*, WR, Miami – 6’3″ 220
8. Dennis Weathersby, CB, Oregon State – 6’1″ 180
9. Bernard Berrian, WR, Fresno State – 6’2″ 190
10. Darnell Dockett, DL, Florida State – 6’4″ 285

No running back cracked my top ten, at least not yet. Since it will possibly be a big need for the Texans, one that might be addressed with a second round pick, here’s my list of players I’ll keep an eye on to see if they improve:

1. Lee Suggs*, RB, Virginia Tech – 6’0″ 215 (coming off ACL injury)
2. Clarence Farmer*, RB, Arizona – 6’0″ 225
3. Dahrran Diedrick, RB Nebraska – 6’0″ 220
4. Chris Brown*, RB, Colorado – 6’2″ 225
5. Earnest Graham, RB, Florida State – 5’9″ 215

Keith Weiland is now accepting donations to gas up the RV for a family trip to sunny Mobile, Alabama in 2003. He would like to remind readers that it is only coincidence that Mobile also hosts the Senior Bowl.