The Texans' 2008 NFL draft was all about addressing needs. Not the least bit concerned with bringing in over-hyped media darlings, they drafted talented players who fit their system. Offense and defensive needs were met with exacting precision as they took players who showed the kind of athleticism that is essential to the Texans' brand of football. While no one could have foreseen the trade with Baltimore, the Texans stuck to the script and adjusted on the fly. It was that trade that allowed the Texans to acquire a player who just may be the playmaking ground threat they've been looking for.
Although he was the smallest player taken by the Texans, he undoubtedly carries the biggest name. Halfback phenom Steve Slaton, out of West Virginia University, put up gaudy numbers both as a rusher and as a receiver. He was always a threat to find the end zone, no matter what side of the 50 yard line his team was on. Below is a chart that quantifies just how talented Steve Slaton is.
Although his production slowed in 2007, he still posted outstanding numbers. As you can see, he rushed for over a thousand yards each year in the program. Equally impressive was his 5.8 yards per carry (ypc) average. That average is on par with Darren McFadden's 5.9 ypc. The Raiders selected McFadden with the fourth overall pick, making him the first running back taken in the draft. There is no doubting McFadden's talent or his ability to carry the load, but he won't have the system nor the coaching staff that Steve Slaton is being welcomed into. Slaton also has the luxury of coming in as a versatile role player as he adjusts to the NFL, something that McFadden will not have.
Projected as a complementary back, Steve Slaton has been described as a one-cut-and-go type runner who is built for the zone-blocking scheme. John M. Kotch Jr. of KFFL.com had the following pre-draft analysis of Slaton's abilities:
"We have two guys right now that we think can carry the load, but this guy can come in a fill a role. We can use him on third downs, we can use him in special situations to come in and be a change of pace type player. He's got the size and the quickness and the mentality to do the things we're going to ask. I think he will fill that role in the pass game and in the run game and in one-back situations."
Shanahan sees Slaton being able to make contributions similar to Reggie Bush and Kevin Faulk. While neither one of those players are built to carry the load of an every-down back, there is no doubting the mismatches they create coming out of the back field. Slaton's ability to handle the ball on a draw or catch a pass in the flat should give the Texans intriguing options on third and six (3rd & 6).
Below is a montage of Slaton's standout plays at West Virginia. Pay particular attention to his ability to make the initial cut and turn it up field. It's that kind of explosion out of the hole that should have Texans' fans eagerly awaiting his debut.
I have high hopes for Steve Slaton. He could be another dynamic weapon that opens up the passing game for our rock solid receiving corps, and he has the ability to blow by whatever unfortunate linebacker draws his assignment out of the backfield. With his versatility and his playmaking ability, I expect him to have an immediate impact as the Texans set their sights on the 2008 playoffs.
We believe in Super Steve! Let's go Texans!