Thinking Run? Think Again

September 24, 2002
Thinking Run? Think Again
by Keith Weiland

I’ve got bad news for those of you hoping Charley Casserly and the Houston Texans draft a running back in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Heck, I’ve even got bad news for those of you hoping he takes one in the second round.

In the last ten war rooms Casserly ran as a general manager, nine for the Washington Redskins and one for the Texans, he has yet to take a running back in the first round. Only once did he take one as high as the second, and that was nearly ten years ago.

For the record, here’s a listing of when and who Casserly took his highest running backs by year:

2002: 4th Round (99th overall): Jonathan Wells, Ohio State
1999: No RB Taken
1998: 3rd Round (69): Skip Hicks, UCLA
1997: No RB Taken
1996: 4th Round (102): Stephen Davis, Auburn
1995: 4th Round (103): Larry Jones, Miami
1994: No RB Taken
1993: 2nd Round (45): Reggie Brooks, Notre Dame
1992: No RB Taken
1991: 3rd Round (76): Ricky Ervins, USC

To be fair, the best Redskin running back during the past decade was Terry Allen, a player who always seemed to be a step away from injury or retirement. Allen, to his credit, had great seasons in 1995 (1309 yards, 10 touchdowns) and 1996 (1353-21), but otherwise, the Redskins really needed help at the position on draft day.

Keep in mind, too, that Davis didn’t explode until the ’99 season — after Casserly was ultimately fired by Skins owner, Danny Snyder. It could be interpreted then that Casserly had so much confidence in Davis developing into a Pro Bowl player that he saw the need to draft Hicks the year before.

With the Texans, Casserly has continued his trend of ignoring running backs in the first two rounds, notably passing on UCLA’s DeShaun Foster (once) and Miami’s Clinton Portis (twice) in the second round last April. Don’t forget that Casserly is also the one who passed on Ricky Williams in 1999 to trade down (and later up) for cornerback Champ Bailey.

I don’t intend to argue with Casserly’s logic when it comes to using a top pick on a running back. Casserly wisely believes that the position is the final piece to the championship puzzle in the NFL today. What I mean is this: If the Texans are going to draft a first round RB, and that’s still a BIG if since Casserly hasn’t done it ever, it will be the 2004 draft at the earliest and maybe not until 2005.

While Casserly has ignored the top college running backs over the years, he has taken wide receivers early. Desmond Howard and Michael Westbrook were both #4 overall picks in 1992 and 1995, respectively. Casserly has also invested heavily in offensive linemen with his first and second round picks (Tre’ Johnson in 1994, Corey Raymer in 1995, Andre Johnson in 1996, Jon Jansen in 1999, and Chester Pitts in 2002). Casserly has also used top draft picks to bolster the defensive line and cornerback positions, too.

And I’m not sure how much faith we should have in Casserly when the time comes to select the right running back. Davis was no doubt a stellar pick, but he is the exception here, not the norm. Actually, the same skepticism should apply to the wide receivers, come to think of it. It’s not like Howard or Westbrook ever lived up to their draft status.

So what does this mean for 2003? Think like Casserly will next spring and think first to the wide receiver and defensive line positions for the Texans when breaking out those early mock drafts. That means write down a wide receiver such as Roy Williams of Texas or Charles Rogers of Michigan State (assuming either declares for the ’03 draft) or defensive tackle William Joseph of Miami. Just please – please – PLEASE! don’t use ink if you write down a running back.

Keith Weiland prefers to use crayons when writing his mock drafts, but after reading his “fan mail” you sent in after his past attempts, he’s guessing you already knew that.