HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) There’s little question that the Texans targeted value picks in this draft. But, the real question is, did they bolster their roster enough to put themselves in position to make a run at their first AFC Championship and beyond?
They entered the draft needing help on both sides of the ball. Many, including yours truly, thought the Texans would select a defensive player first, more specifically, an inside linebacker. However, the Texans were confident of their needs and drafted a wide receiver with the 27th pick.
Thus begins the prelude to the 2013 season as we explore the Texans 2013 draft class.
CLEMSON WR DeANDRE HOPKINS
The Texans were in position to select many good players with the 27th pick including inside linebackers Kevin Minter of LSU, Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. However, GM Rick Smith and the Texans decided on the play-maker from Clemson who caught 18 touchdowns in 13 games as a senior.
DeAndre Hopkins, aka ‘Nuke’, is physically imposing at 6’1” 214 pounds. Texans’ Offensive Coordinator, Rick Denison says Hopkins “just wears DB’s out.” The DB’s in the NFL are a different breed and accustomed to playing against bigger, more physical, and faster wide receivers. Hopkins ranked 4th nationally in receiving with 1405 yards on 82 catches in 2012 which means he was a primary target. Bottom line; he’s comfortable with being on the field 100% of the time and being a key cog in the offense.
Those factors in mind, Hopkins will be expected to come in and play, maybe start immediately based on the average play of receivers Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin in 2012. DeVier Posey, who suffered the Achilles injury near the end of the 2012 season, will more than likely start the season on the PUP list. Therefore, he will be unable to compete in camp.
That stated, expect stiff competition during training camp. Hopkins is not a burner as his 40-time was an average 4.51 at the NFL Combine. So, stretching the field will not necessarily be his strength. Look for Hopkins to make the tough catches within the 10-25 yard range and turn those catches into big gains with his legs.
Prospects who the Texans might have been targeting and available at pick number 27, and who clocked faster 40-times, were wide receivers Justin Hunter/Tennessee, Robert Woods/USC, Lousiana Tech’s Quinton Patton, A&M’s Ryan Swope, Tennessee’s other WR, Cordarrelle Patterson and the most productive of all in 2012, Baylor’s Terrence Williams – a deep threat with 97 receptions for 1832 yards and 12 TD’s.
Regardless, while an inside linebacker with the first pick was the choice of this writer, the Texans took a player who passes the smell test in terms of experience, level of competition, size, toughness, and the ability to contribute right away. Most importantly, Hopkins was the guy the Texans targeted with the first pick.
Grade – A-
Again, the Texans were looking for value. Therefore, with the 57th pick of the second round, GM Rick Smith and company selected free safety D.J. Swearinger from the University of South Carolina where he was the Captain of the defense.
This is a solid pick, seemed a little early for that position, but solid. Swearinger is a 5’11” 208-pound physical striker. He was ranked 46th in the nation last season in solo tackles. In addition, he played in the SEC for one of the top defenses in the nation coached by the ole ball coach, Steve Spurrier, and one layer behind all-world DE Jadeveon Clowney who could be the first pick in next year’s draft.
The Texans seem to feel that Swearinger can cover TE’s and play sub-packages. Also, Texans DC Wade Phillips believes Swearinger can play near the line of scrimmage. If he is as physical as the Texans think, he will be called upon to contribute right away which is what the organization is expecting.
However, on-the-job-training will be a key to Swearinger’s success as he will learn from two of the best – safeties Danieal Manning and future Hall-of-Famer, Ed Reed, who at some point, Swearinger could replace.
“I’m looking forward to learning from both guys, definitely Ed Reed – they have a great d-line with J.J. Watt and their QB (Matt Schaub). I’m going to a great organization.”
The expectation was for the Texans to draft a wide receiver, tight end, or possibly an inside LB here. In fairness to the Texans, the San Francisco 49er’s traded up to grab Rice Tight End, Vance McDonald. There’s a good chance the Texans might have been looking in his direction to fill the gap voided by James Casey, now with Philadelphia. But, again, the Swearinger pick is a quality selection.
GRADE – B+
The Texans selected offensive tackle, Brennan Williams, 6’6” 318 pounds, from North Carolina. This is a value pick and definitely a position of need with the many injuries the Texans have suffered at that position. His dad, Brent Williams, played 11 seasons in the NFL.
The younger Williams was a SuperPrep High School All-American from Massachusetts. He took over at right tackle as a junior at North Carolina and played in all 13 games. However, in 2012, he missed the final four games of the season with a shoulder injury, but still earned All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.
He will compete with Derek Newton and Ryan Harris at right tackle. That’s a tall order especially with the experience the two have accumulated. However, injuries to players at that position make it a possibility that at minimum, Williams will see playing time, just not sure when. Thing is, when most football organizations select players in the third round, they are expected to contribute very early in their careers.
Six picks later, the Texans selected LSU OLB Sam Montgomery with the 95th pick. Montgomery is 6’3” 262 and a physical specimen to boot. However, according to NFL Draft Analysis, Montgomery admitted that he didn’t give each opponent his all. GM Rick Smith stated that he wasn’t aware Montgomery had made such a statement. But there’s no denying that Les Miles’ coached LSU defenders are generally pro-ready and known for their toughness.
Montgomery ran a 40-time of 4.78 at the NFL Combine which is tremendous for a man his size. Simply says that Montgomery has the athletic ability the Texans will need at DE or OLB. Considered a steal, he was ranked the 54th best overall prospect in the draft. There’s a good chance that Montgomery, who will learn from veteran DE Antonio Smith, aka Ninja, could possibly also share time with him at the DE position.
“Definitely I’m a fan of the Ninja”, says Montgomery. “I plan to take his teachings and make Ninja Sonic out of it. I’m ready to go there with my teammate, D.J. Swearinger. We’re fixing to have fun on the field.”
Montgomery and Swearinger were teammates at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, South Carolina.
GRADE – B
The Texans continued their run on defense with the selection of UCONN OLB, Trevardo Williams. He was taken with the 124th pick. Williams is a 6’1” 241 pound tweener, but explosive.
Williams was an All Big East Conference selection who finished his career with 30 starts and 134 total tackles. He could be a gem for this Houston Texans defense.
Grade – B-
The Texans would trade out of the 5th and 7th rounds for additional picks giving them a total of four in the 6th round. With the first pick, the Texans selected 6’5″ 302-pound offensive tackle David Quessenenberry from San Jose State. He will compete for the right tackle position. The Texans selected 5’10” 193-pound Jacksonville State WR Alan Bonner with the 27th pick of the 6th round. Head Coach Gary Kubiak says Bonner can play the inside slot position as well as on the outside or split end spot.
The final two selections by the Texans were 6’2″ 302-pound DT, Chris Jones from Bowling Green University and 6’6″ 247-pound Ryan Griffin, a tight end from UCONN. Griffin will compete with Daniels, Graham, and Supernaw for a roster spot.
The Texans certainly acquired value at each position. However, they have yet to reap the fruits of their labor. They and we will have a general idea of the yield after training camp. But, it could easily take a couple of seasons to realize the value selected in this draft.
Meanwhile, the Texans earn an overall grade of A- based on talent selections and stated needs by the organization.
Follow me on twitter @coloranalyst for the latest.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)