May 1, 2004
Pimp My Ride
by Keith Weiland
Another Texans draft weekend has come and gone, and for the third straight year, a Charley Casserly-led war room has walked away with some solid starters, some quality depth, a few projects, and a head scratcher or two.
Which is to say that Texans fans should be pleased once again with how the roster will be stocked when the lump sum net effect of this class is truly evaluated five years from now.
But what fun is it to wait? As fans, don’t we claim dibs on exercising our gut reactions? Of course!
The best part of the draft once it’s over is to second-guess some (or all) of the selections. There’s plenty of time before training camp to come to grips with one’s own failed mock draft and accept, support – and even cherish – the new players on the team.
I didn’t really do too much of that second-guessing this year though. The strange part is that I haven’t really missed it either. I put less thought into predicting what Casserly and the Texans would actually do with each of their selections and reassigned that energy into just evaluating the prospects themselves at face value.
There’s no moral here, just a realization that predicting a Casserly draft is darn near impossible and not worth the energy as a fan. The headaches I earned in doing so the first two years serve as reminders that I’m not fortunate enough to ride shotgun to the head coach on draft day.
I do wonder sometimes what my version of the Texans might have looked like if I had been calling the shots on draft day from the beginning. Would the team be any better? Or would they still be picking first overall in 2005?
To make this type of meaningless exercise work, one must keep a couple things constant in order to make the comparison a bit more relative to reality. As such, the expansion drafts and free agent signings remain unchanged, and injuries happen to my made-up Texans team just like they do to the guys in flesh and blood.
With that then in mind, my first round pick in 2002 would have been left tackle Bryant McKinnie at the time. Countless hours have been burned debating how to best start an expansion team, so I won’t rehash it here other than to say that a premier left tackle might be even more important to find in today’s NFL as franchise QB. Not counting Eli Manning, five quarterbacks have been taken first overall over the last ten years and none have even won a conference championship. Troy Aikman, from the 1989 draft, was the most recent to win a Super Bowl.
Later picks for my fakers in 2002 would have included linebacker Kalimba Edwards, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, defensive lineman Anthony Weaver, outside linebacker Will Overstreet, and running back Chester Taylor. Edwards has not met expectations in the pros yet, and Overstreet suffered an injury that cost him his rookie season. Still, the net return of these picks would have helped both sides of the ball and kept the Texans just as competitive during the inaugural season, if not more so, than the already respectable 4-12 record the real guys posted.
Then in 2003, I would have drafted my quarterback of the future in Byron Leftwich and probably added RB Onterrio Smith. The addition of Smith to Bryant in my fake offense does indicate that on paper I’m certainly more willing to take on guys with character questions off the field than the real Texans have been willing to do. Since I don’t have to actually coach them, I can do that without consideration, right?
This year, I really liked defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Drafting a stud corner like Dunta Robinson is a good idea, too, so I have no beef with the pick. For me, I’ve been looking for that one space-eater on the defensive line, a guy bigger than Oprah that runs like a gazelle. Or at least a gazelle retaining a lot of water. Well, Wilfork was that kind of prospect in my opinion, and the defending champion Patriots seemed to think so, too. Time will tell, but Bill Parcells had it right when he said that it’s hard to find those big guys with speed.
It’s still too early to make any final evaluations of my fakers versus the real thing, but some good, some not good, and many unknowns still exist from my draft day selections, just as they do with Casserly’s. By going QB with David Carr in 2002, the Texans are arguably a year closer to the Super Bowl than by waiting until 2003 to secure a QB as I would have done. But by waiting, Leftwich likely avoids Carr’s 76 sacks last year, too.
So my fakers account for a different roster and style makeup from the real thing for certain, but is it a discernable difference in the win column? Probably not.
And the rest of Casserly’s 2004 draft class seems to need less retrospective hand wringing than the previous two years. In trading up to the first round to select outside linebacker Jason Babin, essentially losing third and fourth round picks in the process, Casserly’s war room showed me that a well-defined vision for the team still exists. It also shows that, if anything, they are accelerating the five-year plan to reach the promise land.
The day two selections of guys like safeties Glenn Earl and Jammal Lord, as well as QB B.J. Symons, prove that a boom-or-bust mentality exists with low risk picks, a philosophy that should serve the team well. And that is enough to make me ready to accept, support – and even cherish – the hope that this year’s draft acquisitions have to offer us as fans for great things to come.
Keith Weiland is big pimpin’ the Texans, spendin’ cheese.