March 10, 2003
Paging Dr. ‘Dre
by Keith Weiland
A new favorite has emerged for the Texans’ first round selection.
Yes, another one. In a draft with seemingly endless possibilities, nearly all of them still seem reasonable.
Trade down, trade up. Draft offense, draft defense. Shutdown corner, fearsome pass rusher. Game-breaking wideout, franchise tackle.
Check, check, check. Anything could still happen, but assuming the following scenarios play out: (1) Michigan State’s Charles Rogers is taken within the first two picks;
(2) the Texans decide to hold onto the third pick and not deal down, expect the Texans to narrow their options down to just two: Miami’s Andre Johnson and Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs.
And if the Texans draft Johnson, he’ll be the one we’ll call Doctor Feelgood ’cause he’s gonna make the Texans feel alright.
Why? The Texans receiver corps in 2002 was, well a motley crüe.
Not that they didn’t have their shining moments.
Free agent acquisition Corey Bradford was a sideline burner that hauled in 50-yard darts from David Carr. He also drew huge interference penalties when the offense could only get a yellow hanky to move the chains.
Yet something was missing in Bradford’s game. That something became more and more evident as the season progressed. Whatever it is, he won’t be the answer as the team’s top wideout.
Through the first ten games, Bradford led the way with a respectable 34 catches for 592 yards and 6 touchdowns. His final six games were far less productive. Bradford netted just 11 catches for 105 yards and no touchdowns.
Bone spurs found in his left foot could explain Bradford’s late season swoon. But it could also be argued that Carr lost confidence in him along the way. Can Bradford be counted on to run the perfect pattern and snare a bullet pass with sure hands?
A good #2 wide receiver is going to be a reliable option with sticky mitts and predictable patterns. Rookie Jabar Gaffney, with another year of seasoning, could be that player. Nothing flashy in 2002 with his 11.8 yards per reception, but Gaffney’s six catches in the season’s final game offered a glimpse into his possible role for the team down the road. But a #1 wideout he is not.
Because the Texans still lack a go-to #1 receiver, GM Charley Casserly should be drooling over Rogers and Johnson. With the chances slim of finding Rogers at the third pick, Johnson now becomes one of two possibilities to helm the top of the board when the Texans are on the clock.
Hey, it’s not like Johnson’s some booby prize. He checked in at the combine at a freakish 6’2″ and 230 pounds. His Mr. Muscle physique has people wondering if he’s the next Terrell Owens or David Boston, two of the biggest, most dominant receivers the league has ever seen.
Johnson has also played for a winner at Miami. He’s performed when counted most, like when he torched Nebraska in the 2001 National Championship for 199 yards and two scores.
At his pro day workout for scouts in Miami last week, Johnson showed off his 4.3 speed. Consistency with his hands is a concern, but Johnson’s made enough tough grabs at the collegiate level to show he’s capable of being a big-time playmaker, especially in the red zone.
There are still many who think that Johnson – or any wide receiver for that matter – isn’t worth the third pick in the draft. The notion believes a player who figures to only touch the ball a half dozen times a game isn’t worth that early of a pick.
The best wide receivers need just one touch to change the outcome of a game. Instant offense like that can also keep a blitz at bay and open up the running game.
It would, however, be a rare occurrence if both Johnson and Rogers were selected so high in the draft. One would have to go all the way back to 1984 to find a year when two receivers were taken within the top four selections.
The other argument against taking Johnson with the third pick is that trading down allows the Texans to shore up needs at multiple positions, too. A good point, since nearly every position on the roster is lacking a starter, a backup, or both.
The logic is flawed, however, because quantity shouldn’t be mistaken as a good substitute for quality.
“History says the one blue-chip player is usually worth more than the two or three average starters,” Casserly told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in 1999.
Casserly probably still feels this way four years later, even with his second-year franchise. And speaking of second-year franchises, the Cleveland Browns offer a cautionary tale as to why the Texans need to find a premium wide receiver for their team.
The Browns bypassed receivers in the first round to select them in the second round four consecutive years (Andre Davis in 2002, Quincy Morgan in 2001, Dennis Northcutt in 2000, and Kevin Johnson in 1999). Despite all that attention, the team still has yet to find a true #1 target for their franchise quarterback, Tim Couch.
During that span, Kevin Johnson filled the role of Couch’s primary target, but if Johnson’s so good, why have the Browns been trying to unload him to another team for so long? Couch has felt the pain, too, both physically as well as mentally, thanks to verbal abuse from fans and media.
Cleveland instead chose to focus their early first round selections on the defensive line, taking Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown in years two and three of the franchise. Would the Browns have been better off taking a game-breaker on offense to help Couch develop? Just imagine how much more explosive the Browns would have been if they had passed on Warren in the 2000 draft and chosen Plaxico Burress instead.
Carr has too much to offer in the passing game to not give him the tools he needs to succeed. Maybe the Texans’ anemic offense makes that house call to Doctor ‘Dre this April.
Keith Weiland did some checking around, but it turns out Ed Lover is not draft eligible.