20 O'Clock Stock Watch: T-Minus 6 Weeks To The NFL Draft

"Sure, we could throw up a mock draft."

*commenters start a fervent Suh-McCoy-Bradford argument*

"Wait, stop, my friends!  We could throw up a mock draft.  But that would be silly and needlessly all-encompassing! Besides, the hell if I know which speedy physical freak Al Davis is taking this year."

*commenters look confused, but are glad this isn't a musical number* 

So instead of a mock draft, I'm creating a stock watch for our first round pick, which thanks to losing a coin flip with Atlanta (still worth it since they took Dunta Robinson in the deal!) is #20 overall.  I'll divide the players into three categories: guys who could fall to us, guys who are being mentioned right around #20, and guys you'd probably trade down for for if you were maximizing value who will probably not be around for the Texans' second round pick at #50.  I tried to the best of my knowledge to put guys in the right areas on this board, but you may feel otherwise.  So keep in mind, these are also just one man's opinion.

I'll focus on the perceived need areas: RB, OL, DT, Weakside LB, and DB, with a few exceptions for sliding players.  These players will be divided into their classes, and then ranked in order by my desire for them to become Houston Texans.  In the interest of time, I'm going to assume that everyone knows that Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Eric Berry, and Russell Okung are the four best players at these need spots and that there is not a chance in hell of them donning a Texans uniform next season short of a blockbuster trade or catastrophic injury.  Deal?  Deal.  

SO YOU'RE SAYING THERES A CHANCE?

1) Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

After spending most of the draft process as a possible late first round pick, Williams has caught the draft expert helium and is being widely speculated to go to Miami at #12.  I think we've had about 300-400 total comments spilled on the nose tackle position just in the past month, so this ranking for Williams will tell you which side of that debate I am on.  He's got enough pass rush skill to keep people honest and not be a two-down player.  Is he the safest pick in the draft?  Probably not.  In fact, KC Joyner approved him only on the basis that the coaching staff drafting him would keep on him.  But the chance of having a great nose tackle is the kind of gamble I will gladly take.

2) Joe Haden, CB, Florida (CBS) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

On the other side of draft stock trading, Haden is down 3 3/4s after a sub-par showing in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, which will clearly hurt him in the NFL when he takes off all of his pads pre-snap and then sprints 40 yards into the backfield.  I'm still really doubting that he slides as far as some think he will, but if he's there at 20 he'd be really hard to pass up.  There could be room for further refinement here given that he's only played cornerback for three years, he's one of the youngest guys on the board, and he started from day one at a major program.  After missing out on Leigh Bodden, I would fully understand if the Texans drafted him over Williams.

3) Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (CBS) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

A mutant offense of Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton in the backfield, and Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and Dez Bryant lined up wide with Owen Daniels freelancing in the middle.  Fun to think about, no?  Yeah, well, wake up.  Kevin Walter is back and this probably wasn't going to happen anyway.  You can't stop me from dreaming about it though. 

4) CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

Spiller just reminds me a little bit too much of Reggie Bush to get excited about him possibly falling into our laps.  Perhaps that's just bias based on the track star/hybrid RB/WR profile and not really a fair slam at all.  I wouldn't be mad if the Texans wound up with him in the first round, but I also don't think he's much different than Dexter McCluster, who probably could be had lower.  I would trust the Texans if they made the pick, because I'm sure they'd have to see something incredibly special in Spiller to take him, but personally I don't think he's going to be a special back, and you don't take backs that aren't special in the first round.

5) Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa (CBS) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

I think there are a lot more holes in Bulaga's game than any of these other four players at the collegiate level.  His perceived short arms may cause his stock to fall, and he also has a rather questionable history of injuries and maladies.  That said, a 21-year-old junior with his pedigree and a chance to push Duane Brown inside?  Yes please.

THE SWEET SPOT

1) Anthony Davis, LT, Rutgers (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 20)

Davis is not the most well-polished or exciting pick in the draft, but I think he's a bonafide left tackle, which is more than I can say for Mike Iupati.  He's got the size, strength, and feet needed to excel at pass blocking, as well as a monstrous frame.  Give him an open competition with Duane Brown with the loser moving inside to left guard, and I think you'd see some offensive line improvement.  I also think Davis would win the competition.  

2) Earl Thomas, S, Texas (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

I've come around a lot on this pick.  I have no regrets about placing Williams over him in all the war room arguing that we did (and I would prefer we trade down and get Terrence Cody instead of drafting him still, for the same reasons I listed under Williams), but if we stay at this spot, I think Thomas is the best fit of value and need.  I'd much prefer him to the corners left on the board, I think he's a perfect complement to Bernard Pollard and would be extremely helpful in our matchups with Peyton Manning.  

3) Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (One Bronco Nation Under God) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

Wilson drew compliments for his physical abilities at the Senior Bowl, but I don't think he's got the height to match up with true #1 wideouts.  He also has the gambler tag, which I'm not thrilled about.  I've used this comparison before, but he reminds me a lot of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came in and needed a few years to really get a hang of the position before his numbers started catching up with his reputation.  Combine this with his perceived struggles in zone coverage and I'd rather trade down and nab Devin McCourty.  Wilson will have to settle for winning the coveted "most parentheses next to a players name in this article" award.

4) Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

Here is how the Texans replace Dunta Robinson's "swagger":  by getting a loudmouthed weakside linebacker with a penchant for calling out peoples mommas.  

Everything about Weatherspoon makes me think he is a better pick for the Texans than Wilson.  My main concern is that Frank Bush abandoned the 4-3 under to play nickel against the Colts, and it's hard to imagine the Texans spending a first round pick on a player who won't see the field against the best competition they have on the schedule twice a year.  

5) Mike Iupati, G, Idaho (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

He may be the best guard to come out in the past X years, since Steve Hutchinson or whoever you want to compare him to.  But in the end, I don't think he can play tackle, so you're giving up a LOT of value for a guard.  It's a big time need for a big time franchise, but in the end he's still just a guard.  Rob Sims could be had for a 4th round pick, Wade Smith was in town recently and probably wouldn't cost much.  It's just not such a hard task to find a better guard than Kasey Studdard that it merits using a first round pick on one.

6) Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

Here's John McClain's boy.  Or the people John McClain talks to's boy.  Whichever.  I actually do like him a lot as a pure runner, but I think I'm higher on Arian Foster than most and don't think the Texans need a running back bad enough to take one in the first round unless there's a chance he is a superlative talent.  Thus, he slips to the bottom of the chart here.  

TRADE DOWN, YOUNG MAN?

1) Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

I've heard the criticisms: takes plays off, solely a 3-4 nose, weight ballooning out of control.  Look at this another way:  This is one of the very few human beings on the planet capable of playing football at the weight he is at.  A complete and utter physical freak who is going to demand 2 blockers every snap.  Is he going to get much of a pass rush?  Maybe not, but he's going to change the way teams deal with the good pass rushers we already have.  I'll take the heat if I'm wrong on this, but I'd rather have him than anyone I've listed so far aside from Williams and Haden.  I wouldn't even be opposed to taking him straight up at #20.

2) Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

Of all the non-Haden corners, I think McCourty is the best fit for the Texans scheme and the one with the most overall value.  He might be the best zone corner in the first two rounds, he's a terrific kick returner, gunner, and designated kick blocker.  He doesn't do as well in man-to-man, nor does it seem like he has a lot of upside, but I think he's got the best chance of contributing right away out of any of the 2-3 blob of corners.

3) Taylor Mays, S, USC (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

Another training lab specimen, despite the combine's best efforts to prove MDC's bet on his 40 time wrong.  The question is:  Is Mays a safety?  I think he is, and I think the concerns of his coverage are a little overstated.  It doesn't help that he's listed behind two safeties who dropped down and played corner at times last season.  Are his instincts lacking?  I think that's a fair criticism.  However, if he has the skill to come down and essentially be a third linebacker, I think that adds a lot to the Texans' defensive versatility.  I can't put him above Thomas since he's a lot like Pollard, but I would be happy with him if the Texans brass thinks he can cover well enough to be a safety.  

4) Brian Price, DT, UCLA (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

This one has grown on me as well.  Provided the Texans can't get a nose tackle, the next best thing might be adding someone who can replace Shaun Cody and Jeff Zgonina, two veterans who do admirable work but who no one outside of Bryan (bless his now commentless soul) thinks are an answer to anything up front.  Price could bulk up enough to play the 4-3 nose, has some extremely gaudy tackle numbers, and is one of the youngest DT's in the draft.  KC Joyner raves about him and gives him a seal of approval, while John Morgan over at Field Gulls does not.  Which side are you on?

5) Charles Brown, T, USC (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 23)

A converted tight-end, so you know he's got the agility and lateral quickness required by the zone blocking scheme.  Where Davis would be a high upside LT, Brown would be someone who fits what the Texans do a little better.  I just get Duane Brown vibes about this guy, with the converted tight-end similarity.  I also don't like that he sat behind someone for two of his four seasons, even if that someone did turn out to be as good as Sam Baker.  On the plus side, he probably will be a better pass protector than (Duane) Brown.

6) Daryl Washington, OLB, TCU (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

Washington's best skill is his open-field tackling.  The Texans' WLB is called on to make many open-field tackles.  Zach Diles isn't nearly so good at this.  Thus, he'd be an obvious upgrade.  My concerns are that it took him some time to break into the starting lineup at TCU and that he wouldn't be on the field against the Colts unless Bush abandoned the nickel.

7) Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

I like Jackson.  Anyone who starts most of the year as a true freshman at Alabama can't be that bad.  I just don't think he matches up with the Texans scheme anywhere near as well as McCourty, nor does he offer the same sort of special teams versatility.  He's much more physical than McCourty and played much more man-to-man in college, which leads me to believe he'd need some adjustment time to be completely happy with our zones.

8) Maurkice Pouncey, G/C, Florida (CBS) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

Certainly as premium a center prospect as you can find, and someone who would push Chris Myers out of the starting lineup is a happy (if unlikely) fantasy.  Like Iupati, I don't doubt the talent or the need, I just think this isn't a position you should be spending first round picks on unless you've got a stacked team at all the important areas. The Texans aren't there yet.  

9) Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

Before his sub-par time running the 40 at the combine, I was convinced that McCluster was going to be gone before the Texans second pick.  Now, that's up in the air a bit, but I'll include him here anyway because I still think there's a good chance he'll be gone before that.  Very shifty, a plus receiver to the point that he could shift out of the backfield on a regular basis, and the only knock against him is size.  Plus, he was extremely productive in the SEC, a place that tends to produce good NFL running backs.  I like him a lot, and I think his skills in the pass game are better than Slaton's, which means he adds a facet that the other backs that are oft-mentioned to us do not.    

10) Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State (CBS) (Draft Countdown) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 22)

Odrick brings versatility, but I'm not anywhere near as high on him as I am on the other guys in this class.  Between the so-so production and lack of bulk, I think the Texans can do better with the other defensive linemen around the late first-early second.

11) Jahvid Best, RB, California (CBS) (Mocking The Draft) (Age at start of 2010 season: 21)

I'm no injury expert, but when a guy misses more than half of a season with concussions, that's an enormous red flag to me.  He might be the most talented back in the draft, but his health is too much of a concern for me to pick him before the second round starts.  I'll let someone else take that chance.

Your thoughts, BRB?  Who have I missed?

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