Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Houston Texans

The Texans seem to be the new Arizona Cardinals. Remember everyone had them winning the NFC West and/or making the playoffs every year since like 2004? Well the Texans started being that team in 2007, as everyone's sleeper team to do something. We're still waiting. Two straight 8-8 seasons - the organization is yet to win nine or more games in a season - has people optimistic once again. Will 2009 be the first time the Texans reach 9 (or more wins)?

It's a game of points. Whoever scores the most wins. It's that simple. The way Houston moved the ball - 4th in passing yards per game, 3rd in total yards per game - you'd think they would have outscored their opponent more often than not. Turns out they did so 50% of the time. Their failures to capitalize on scoring opportunities is a big reason why the franchise seeks that elusive 9-7 (or better) record. It wasn't the only reason though. Despite ranking only 17th in points scored per game, the other half of the team is equally responsible. The defense was bad in 2008. They allowed 24.6 points per game, 27th in The League. People ran and threw all over them as Houston ranked 17th or lower in the major statistical categories on defense. The defense has some young players and little depth. If the young players improve and adequate backup and role players are found, Houston may win 9 - or more - games this season.

Head coach Gary Kubiak is entering his fourth season as the leader of the Texans. They improved from 2-14 to 6-10 during his first year on the job and added another two wins the next season. They plateaued in 2008; where will they go now? The schemes remain the same so there is no excuse not to find better players or ways to beat the opposition. This could be a make or break year for Kubiak and his staff in Houston.

1/15/15 - Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
2/14/46 - Connor Barwin, DE/OLB, Cincinnati
3/13/77 - Antoine Caldwell, OC, Alabama
4/12/112 - Glover Quin, CB, New Mexico
4/22/122 - Anthony Hill, TE, North Carolina State
5/16/152 - James Casey, TE, Rice
6/15/188 - Brice McCain, CB, Utah
7/14/223 - Troy Nolan, S, Arizona State

  • CB - Check!
  • DL - Check!
  • WR - Try again.
  • LB - Check!
  • RB - Try again.
What Houston needed, above all else, was an OLB. They got that and got a good one. They then added depth at both DL and OL plus added two CBs and a safety to a thin defensive backfield. I question their decision to double-up on TEs, unless they plan on letting Owen Daniels walk in 2010. However, it would have been nice to use the second fourth or fifth round pick on a WR or RB.

GRADE: 70/100

Pick 1 - This is what the Texans needed. Cushing was somewhat of a child prodigy in football, being recruited in New Jersey by basically every elite college program. Based on his hype he really underachieved in college. Without the hype, though, he was a solid linebacker on possibly the best group in recent history. He may have been overshadowed by many of the other superstars but could end up being the best pro. Grade: 10

Pick 2 - Barwin is almost like a jack-of-all-trades player. He was a TE at Cincinnati until this past season when he made the change to DE. Many scouts thought he'd change to OLB in a 304 scheme so it was a little surprising to see the conventional Texans take him. He'll have to bulk up to stay at DE in a 4-3 and is definitely a developmental player. He has hug upside though and was one of my favorite players in the draft. Grade: 8

Pick 3 - OL depth is always a good thing to have and Caldwell can provide an insurance policy at four positions. While I wouldn't want him protecting my QBs blindside for an extended period, Caldwell can easily play all the interior positions as well as OT. He started his career there before moving to center. The Texans line, ripped for their inability to protect David Carr, has evened out and now is refining itself. Caldwell provides a steady backup and the possibility to push Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel for playing time. The Texans sure do have a nice young line now. Grade: 8

Pick 4 - Here's where things started to fall apart. The former New Mexico CB, who will transition to FS in the NFL, was seen as a late round pick - not a fourth rounder. He possesses the same traits as past Texans safeties - durability problems and little help in run support. His character is grand and his coverage skills adequate for a back up but they won't get much out of him besides special teams work and as a nickle or dime back. This would have been a better pick in the sixth round. Grade: 5

Pick 5 - Depth behind Pro Bowl TE Owen Daniels (who studied meteorology at Wisconsin) wasn't the best but won't be a problem after this draft. Hill, the seventh TE selected in the draft, was widely considered a middle of the road TE prospect worthy of a 5th or 6th round selection. The Texans took him a bit early. He has tremendous size but it didn't show in college. He wasn't very productive at N.C. State and he is a better pass catcher than run blocker. This grade actually is worse because of the next selection. Grade: 5

Pick 6 - Depth is well and good but when does a team need another TE, after selecting one and having at least three under contract (including a Pro Bowler)? Casey is a much better prospect than Hill, widely seen as the third to sixth best TE in the Class of '09. He fell into the fifth round and, without thinking, the Texans pulled the trigger. I like the Casey selection but it would have been a lot better if they hadn't selected Hill. Bad use of picks. Grade: 7

Pick 7 - Depth is a need a CB, considering Jacques Reeves is the starter opposite disgruntled Dunta Robinson. It's hard to pick apart late round pick but McCain was not expected to be selected. He graded out much worse than teammate Sean Smith, who went in round two to Miami. McCain is undersized at only 5' 9". He in no way can become a starter at that height and will, more than likely, be a bottom roster guy and special teams performer. He may not even make the roster out of training camp. Given that Coye Francies, Captain Munnerlyn, and Mike Mickens were still available this was a strange pick. Grade: 3

Pick 8 - They're back on track! I like this pick much better than the previous few. Nolan lacks the speed necessary to play FS in the league but he could become an adequate SS. He must add strength and maintain speed, which he lacks. Nolan was seen as a late round prospect and that's where he went. This was a nice pick and fills a need. Only a WR or RB may have been better. Grade: 8

GRADE: 54/80


The Texans ignored needs at the offensive skill positions, instead focusing on their defensive backfield. They were able to add a versatile OL and not one but two TEs, which were some of the stranger picks. They made a reach or two which severely hurt their grade based on what else was available. Cushing may be the only player that sees immediate playing time. This is a big developmental class with Barwin, Quin, Hill, McCain, and Nolan all needing to significantly change aspects of their game to contribute this season.


WHY: The first pick was a no-brainer but the rest of the class needs time. If Barwin becomes a solid edge rusher and Caldwell becomes a starter this grade would jup up to a B/B+. But because so many of the picks can go either way I can only say it was average.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Cushing
Worst Pick: Quin
Sleeper: Nolan
Instant Impact: Cushing
Developmental: Barwin

CBS Sports (Prisco): B
CBS Sports (Rang): B-
ESPN (Kiper): B+
NFL.com (Brooks): B
NFL.com (Fan's): B
Walter: B+


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