"In Smithiak We Trust."
This was the header here on Battle Red Blog for a short while once upon a time. It was seen on Texans message boards, member signatures and even scribbled on poster board at the stadium on game days. Fans said it. Fans believed it.
They also believed that after the 2006 draft that Houston had, the team of draft wizards Houston had compiled in Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak were infallible. That every pick they made in a draft was going to be a runaway success. Even when a questionable pick was made (i.e., Brian Cushing), the most adamant non-believers in the pick would still say "Well…in Smithiak I trust." They put their blind faith in our drafting team because of the success of Mario Williams, Owen Daniels and DeMeco Ryans from that 2006 draft. I was even guilty of it.
But after the past couple of drafts, many are starting to wonder if they were smart in 2006, or just lucky. These are the same guys who drafted Amobi Okoye, Duane Brown and the new whipping boy of Battle Red nation, Kareem Jackson. And these were just the first round picks. We’ve debated wildly over the Amobi pick many times over, so I won’t rehash that here, and if you’ve read anything that Rivers has written, you can’t really argue about the many failings of Duane Brown. What I want to spotlight today is looking at the Kareem Jackson pick in hindsight and who Houston passed on to take him. It all begins after the jump…
You can look back at the 2007 and 2008 drafts and see some of the Pro Bowl players Houston missed out on, but I want to focus on the 2010 draft. Before the draft even began, most were on the "Best Corner Available at #20" bandwagon. Even though there were about 17 articles here on BRB about why we should draft a fat ass lineman and they made a lot of sense, we all knew that wasn't going to happen with a Bill Kollar scheme.
So, with the focus on the secondary, and mainly the cornerback position with the departure of Dunta Robinson, the wish lists all came out. Some were fathomable, while others were beyond a pipe dream, like some believing that Joe Haden would drop to #20 because of a poor pro day. There was plenty of first round talent corners and with the 17 teams in front of Houston (the 49ers and Seahawks both had two picks in the first round) seemingly having more pressing needs, there should be a steal waiting at #20.
After Haden was selected by Cleveland and Ryan Mathews (who John McClain was CERTAIN Houston would pick) went off the board to San Diego, there was still some good talent on the board. When Seattle crushed the hearts of the UT faithful on BRB by taking Safety Earl Thomas, all eyes turned to Boise State standout CB Kyle Wilson (who was who I had personally campaigned for) and Rutgers CB Devin McCourty. Either would be a huge upgrade for the Texans' weak secondary and a relative steal at #20. And it appeared one of them would be a Texan when Houston went on the clock with both still there. We all know what happened next...
"With the 20th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Houston selects Kareem Jackson, Cornerback, Alabama."
This was met with immediate shock on the draft thread here on BRB. Who?!?! That was the immediate reaction. The guy was projected to be a second-rounder at best. I even recall seeing some that had him slipping to the early third round. It was a real head scratcher, for sure. Perhaps not a "reach" by definition, but a "reach" in the opinions of many.
To be honest, the fallout didn't last that long. It quickly turned to statements like "Well, he played in the SEC" and "Smithiak knows what they're doing." But after eight games in the NFL, Kareem Jackson looks like an undrafted free agent. He is good to get burned at least once or twice on a big play every single game, and he's picked on by opposing quarterbacks all game long. This has led many to label the youngster a bust.
Personally, I'm not there...yet. He is definitely a project and he shouldn't be starting, that's for sure. Do I think he'll be a great corner someday? Probably not. Will he be an NFL caliber corner? Probably. Someday. My problem with the pick is that you don't take a project guy at #20 overall, especially when there were more NFL ready corners available at that spot.
It isn't like Frank Bush's defensive scheme is helping Jackson any, but at some point you have to at least show some flashes of why you were a first round selection and the second corner taken overall in a very stacked draft. Sure, he has two interceptions and that is more than Dunta has done in Atlanta, but those are attributed more to bad throws by opposing QBs after taking a big hit. Plus, Kareem's tackling has been just beyond poor. There was a play in the game yesterday where he got turned around twice in pursuit of a ball carrier and let a 10 yard gain turn into about a 40 yard gain. He just flat out looked drunk on the play and it made me want to get (even more) drunk myself.
What about the two guys who Houston could have drafted? Kyle Wilson went to the Jets and McCourty to the Patriots. Both teams already have better defenses and schemes than Houston, so it wouldn't make much sense to throw out a bunch of stats. The negatives piled against those two guys were that they didn't play at a major university or in a conference as tough as the SEC. Now I'm not trying to start a war about what college or NCAA conference is the toughest; that's a debate for a different time and forum. But talent is talent, and both Wilson and McCourty were graded higher in almost every category by multiple draft experts and outlets. That is simply because both are better players than Kareem Jackson. Yes, I know it is still early and it is really quick to jump the gun. Like I said, I'm not calling Jackson a bust yet. In my opinion, McCourty or Wilson have at least shown enough to show that they deserved to be taken in the first round.
If you've read what Lance Zierlein said in his column this morning, you get the distinct feeling that Kareem was all Kubiak's pick. Rick Smith may have wanted one of the other guys listed above and Gary may have overruled him to take Jackson. No one knows for certain if this is true, but if so...well, I don't know what to say.
I believe Kareem Jackson will eventually become a serviceable corner in the NFL, but he certainly didn't deserve to go in the first round, and he certainly doesn't have the talent to be run out there as a starter from day one to play every single snap as a rookie (not to mention seemingly being immune from being benched). That is just setting the kid up to fail. With the team on pace to be one of, if not the, worst defense(s) in the history of the league since the merger, failing is just what he is doing.