by Tommy Lawlor – http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com
This is the first review. I’m off to a slow start, but they’ll be posting every couple of days from here on out. I go division by division. This year we start with the AFC South and Houston.
1 – DE J.J. Watt – 6’5, 290 – Wisconsin
2 – LB Brooks Reed – 6’5, 263 – Arizona
2 – CB Brandon Harris – 5’10, 191 – Miami
4 – CB Rashad Carmichael – 5’10, 192 – Virginia Tech
5 – SS Shiloh Keo – 5’11, 219 – Idaho
5 – QB T.J. Yates – 6’3, 219 – UNC
7 – OT Derek Newton – 6’5, 311 – Arkansas State
7 – LB Cheta Ozougwu – 6’2, 247 – Rice
Anyone notice a trend? Houston has an offense made for the Super Bowl, but a defense made for the toilet bowl (insert rim shot and lengthy audience groan). That side of the ball needed significant help. They got a big boost with the hiring of Wade Phillips as Defensive Coordinator. Phillips is a proven coach, but he needed an upgrade in talent to help him repair the defense. The main concerns were the pass rush and pass coverage.
The Texans went for DE J.J. Watt in the 1st round. They are going to try Mario Willams as a rush linebacker. That opens up a DE spot. Watt is perfect for the 3-4 with his combination of size and athleticism. Phillips plays a 1-gap style of defense so his players are attacking upfield even though it is a 3-4. Watt has enough size to be a good run defender, which is a must for 3-4 DEs. He’s naturally talented as a pass rusher, but still has a lot to learn. The former TE made a lot of plays based on raw ability at Wisconsin. Now he must learn how to beat blockers with skill and athleticism. When Houston shifts for a 4-man line in the Nickel/Dime, Watt can play DE or DT. Good pick. I thought Watt was too good a prospect to fall very far. You just don’t find guys with his combination of size and athleticism very often.
In the 2nd round the Texans got lucky with LB Brooks Reed still being on the board. He was a DE at Arizona, but should fit in well as a 3-4 rush LB. Reed has a good build for LB. He also has a non-stop motor, which should serve him well when attacking off the edge. Reed has little experience playing in space or dropping back, but that won’t matter much in the 3-4. His primary role will be to get after the passer. The Texans needed OLB help in making the conversion to the 3-4. There wasn’t an ideal prospect on the board in the 1st so getting Reed in the 2nd was fortunate. Connor Barwin should be a good fit at 3-4 LB. Mario Williams will be an odd fit, but he’s a gifted athlete and outstanding pass rusher. If any player his size can make the move successfully, Williams is the guy.
Houston also got CB Brandon Harris in the 2nd round. I’m not as big a fan of this pick. Harris didn’t always impress me on intermediate and deep routes. He’s outstanding on short stuff. I’m not sure that Harris is an ideal fit for Phillips system. I do think he’d be very good in the slot. Harris was good value late in the 2nd round. The Texans saw that he had slid a bit and dealt up to get him. They do need CB help and taking a risk on Harris isn’t a bad idea. Ideally the Texans will land a stud CB in free agency and Harris can take time to develop. Kareem Jackson was forced into action last year and struggled. Harris might be able to handle a slot role right off the bat. He played inside some at Miami and looked natural in there.
Houston didn’t pick again until the 4th round. They decided to go after another CB, taking Rashad Carmichael from Va Tech. Carmichael had an outstanding Junior season, but his play slipped a bit as a Senior. He doesn’t have great size, speed, or cover skills, but Carmichael is solid in all those areas. He played the boundary corner spot at Va Tech, which has been played by some pretty good players in the past, most notably Deangelo Hall. Carmichael has plenty of man coverage experience. He should provide good depth and competition. Carmichael was a playmaker, picking off 6 passes in 2009 and 4 in 2010. I’m sure Wade Phillips likes that part of his game. Solid value in the 4th round.
The Texans went for SS Shiloh Keo in the 5th round. Interesting pick. Anyone who watched Keo play at Idaho had to enjoy it. He was a very high-energy guy that flew around the field. My major concern was whether he played too fast for the NFL. There were times in college where he was out of control and failed to make plays. Mistakes like that in the NFL can turn into huge gains or even TDs. At the least, Keo should be outstanding on STs. If he can play under control and work on his cover skills, Keo has the potential to be a solid starting SS. He’s got the motor and the instincts. Houston needed Safety help and Keo is the kind of proven player that should challenge for a role right away. If he fails to make it, talent/speed is likely to be the culprit more than brains/experience. Playmaker in college. Had 11 career picks. Also has some PR experience, if that’s ever needed. Real fun guy to watch. I hope Keo does succeed in the NFL.
Not every pick can be on defense, right? Gary Kubiak added a QB to develop by taking T.J. Yates in the 5th round. This idea would have seemed like a joke this time last year. UNC fans wanted Yates to lose his job. They prayed one of the young guys would jump up and become the starter. Didn’t happen. Yates had the best season of his career and at times looked like a solid NFL prospect. In 2008 and 2009 combined Yates only had one game with more than 230 passing yards. He started 2010 by throwing for 412 yards and 3 TDs vs LSU. That told me he was going to be a different player. Yates isn’t special physically, but he’s good enough to play in the NFL. His accuracy and decision-making were the biggest areas to work on and they were better. He seems comfortable on intermediate and deep routes, so he should fit in well with the Texans offense. Yates reportedly had a great showing at his Pro Day. I don’t know that he’ll ever start in the NFL, but could develop into a good backup.
One offensive player just wasn’t enough so Houston took OT Derek Newton in the 7th round. He has a good frame at 6’5, 311. The Texans don’t want huge guys. They like athletic, tough blockers. Newton ran one of the best 40s of any OL at the Combine (5.01). That’s impressive for a guy his size. Newton can be a backup OT to Duane Brown and Eric Winston. Rashad Butler had that position last year, but is caught in lockout limbo. He may or may not be a free agent. Newton gives the team some possible insurance. He could also be Practice Squad material.
With their final pick, the Texans went back to defense and added Rice DE/LB Cheta Ozougwu. He’s on the small size at 6’2, 247. Ozougwu played DE for Rice, but will be a LB for Houston. Solid pass rusher who was worth taking a flier on late in the draft. As I said earlier, the Texans needed OLBs for their conversion to the 3-4. Most teams just shift DEs out there when making the change. Houston had big DEs so that wasn’t as easy. Ozougwu isn’t likely to push for a roster spot right away, but he could at least be PS material. Give him a year to bulk up and adjust to the NFL and then see what he can do in 2012.
Overall, I thought Houston had a good draft. They addressed areas of need, but did so in a reasonable way. There were no ridiculous reaches or really oddball picks. I like the fact they took 2 LBs and 2 CBs. Those areas needed help and depth. They got both. Houston will be better on defense in 2011. Will they be good enough?