Now that I've had a few days to digest what our beloved Houston Texans did in the 2009 NFL Draft, here are my quick, Friday afternoon thoughts on each draftee:
Brian Cushing--I hated this pick when it was made. HATED it. Now that I've had the benefit of a cooling-off period...I still hate it. The good news is that it seems like the vast majority of the the fan base (1) either loves the pick and has loved it since it was made or (2) has managed to rationalize the pick in the last few days. Thus, I recognize I'm in a very small minority of naysayers. And that's okay; I'm comfortable with that. And hey--I hope Cushing has a career that sees him enshrined in Canton one day. I really do. He's a Texan, and I want him to succeed. So I will root for him regardless.
That said, the only thing that gives me any optimism about the pick is that Smithiak made it. Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak have a stellar draft record, and they know infinitely more about football, personnel, and scheme than I ever will. They're the professionals; I'm just a fan. In Smithiak I trust. Here's hoping I'm every bit the idiot I pray I am for disagreeing with the selection.
Connor Barwin--Looks to be great value in the second round, and if his interview is any indication, he's only scratched the surface of what he can do. Like nearly every Texans fan, I'm very excited about Barwin.
Antoine Caldwell--Without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite pick of the entire draft. Caldwell may not be starting at the outset of training camp, but you have to like his chances of usurping the starting center gig from Chris Myers. That's no knock on Myers; his limitations are nearly entirely based on his size, and that's not something he can control. Three years from now, I reckon we're going to look back on Caldwell as the prize of the draft class.
Glover Quin--A head-scratcher. Is he a cornerback? Or a safety? I really preferred D.J. Moore here. That said, Smithiak found Fred Bennett in the fourth round with several better known players on the board, and Bennett was a revelation his rookie year. We shall not speak of Bennett's sophomore season, lest we get depressed.
So where does Quin fit in? I have no idea. Here's hoping he cracks the DB rotation somewhere in 2009. His development (or lack thereof) could play a large role in how management handles Dunta Robinson's situation in 2010.
Anthony Hill--The confusion I felt when the pick was made has dissipated. Hill's widely regarded as the best blocking TE in the draft. In my mind, this lowers his bust potential exponentially. We already have a stud pass-catching TE; if Hill's skills transform him into a pseudo offensive linemen, the dangerous Houston offense gets even more dangerous. His acquisition has grown on me. Big time.
James Casey--I dig this pick a whole lot. Although my initial reaction was, "Why didn't the Texans take him instead of Hill in the fourth round?", I can't argue with making the value pick of Casey in the fifth. Casey should serve as a utility back of sorts; if he becomes our Frank Wycheck, I'll be more than satisfied. Heck, even the thought of having plays designed that allow Casey to line up at WR, TE, FB, RB, and/or QB are enough to make me giddy.
Brice McCain--Jacoby Jones, you are officially on notice. McCain is here to take your job.
Troy Nolan--There seems to be potential here, and that's all you can ask from a seventh-round selection. Frankly, Nolan probably couldn't have asked for a better situation. Things are far from settled in the secondary, so if he excels on special teams, he might grab a roster spot.
Jeremiah Johnson/Arian Foster--Not technically draft picks, but their arrival makes me feel much better about the team's decision not to draft a RB. Much has been made of the Texans' need for a big back to relieve Steve Slaton. I originally subscribed to that train of thought, but now I'm of the mind that we don't necessarily need a big back. We just need a functional back; that is, someone of any size who can be counted on for 10 carries or so per game. If that's a bigger guy like Foster, great, but I don't think it necessarily means that a smaller, quicker back like Johnson can't fit the bill as well. Either way, I've come to grips with the fact that Gartrell Johnson won't be wearing the steel blue, and I'm okay with it.