An Open Letter to Rick Smith (and anyone who is drinking the Ryan Mathews Kool-Aid)

Dear Rick Smith,

First, I want to say thank you for doing the right thing and locking DeMeco Ryans down. Texan fans everywhere couldn't be more thrilled. You know it is a good move when Texan fans are actually happy. After the tender signing of Bernard Pollard and Owen Daniels, I believe everyone's attention is now turning towards the NFL Draft. I'm here, on behalf of smart Texans fans, to provide you with a big warning.

Please, for the love of all that is holy and good, such as an ice, cold Fat Tire and BE-SF fans crying cause their team is teh suck, do not consider drafting Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews (that's with one 't').

I know you read the insightful and humorous Battle Red Blog and are aware of my repeated pimping of Tennessee's Montario Hardesty, and to a lesser extent Ben Tate of Auburn. While I will rant and rave that until the draft, my main point here is to provide enough points to lead you to avoid making the first round Mathews pick and causing subsequent damage to Houston TVs.

Perhaps it is just a clever smokescreen, but every time I read a new article or mock draft, like the few I have today, suggesting that Mathews in round one is the choice - a part of my soul dies. I feel like I must set the record straight on Ryan Mathews.

Where's the value in this pick? The average life-span of a running back is three-to-four years which is significantly shorter than any other position in the NFL. There's no guarantee that he would start over a healthy Steve Slaton. With his career 19 receptions at Fresno State, there's also no guarantee that he's more than a two-down running back. Is a two-down back-up running back any sort of value at pick 20 especially when our mid-pack defense has need for starters at defensive tackle and cornerback? The Texans need someone who is going to be an unquestioned starter and immediate contributer on the field for hopefully the next decade.

Why are people even praising Mathews? Is it because of his rushing stats (1,808 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns) from 2009? Rick, don't be fooled by these stats. Mathews played in the WAC. Do you know what this means? He played in a conference where teams ran the spread and were built to defend the spread. A power-running team is going to accumulate impressive run totals when there's little resistance from sub-par teams.

The average ranking of the defenses he faced? A shade under 80 (remember there are 120 FBS teams) which includes four of the worst defenses in the entire FBS and doesn't include FCS member UC-Davis. Do you know the most impressive defense he faced in 2009? Wisconsin, which is one of only two rush defenses he faced that were in the top-60 nationally. You know what Mathews did against Wisconsin? 19 rushes for 107 yards. That sounds okay, but one run was for 55 yards where Wisconsin looked like Houston early in 2009 and over-pursued, which means Mathews really did nothing special on the run. Take the one big run out and he had 18 rushes for 52 yards. That stat line isn't that impressive nor any different from what our current backs did behind our injury-ravaged line of crappy back-ups.

Let me quote a scouting report: "Once you put on the tape, you just don't see a very charismatic runner with very good athleticism. He can't play on third down and this really hurts his value in my opinion. His offensive line absolutely destroyed opponents making Mathews look much better than he is - he picked up big stats and every back looks good when nobody touches you and there are wide running lanes." Again, how does he improve the Houston running game when our offensive line cannot absolutely destroy anyone? Shouldn't you focus more on improving the depth and quality of the offensive line than wasting a pick on an overhyped running back?

Yes, Rick, Ryan Mathews is entirely overhyped. This is a guy who has had some concussion issues in college. As great as his triangle numbers are (6'0'', 218 pounds, and a 4.41 Combine 40 time), you don't see this great athlete on tape. If a guy watching YouTube can see this then I hope you can see this. Mathews doesn't make many defenders miss, he doesn't break many tackles, he runs upright, he gets caught from behind, and he's an average blocker at best. He's an average running back who looks better because his great offensive line destroyed below-average defenses.

What else must I do to discredit the Mathews-first round pick? Do I have to remind you of Fresno State's storied history for producing talent? When the program's most successful pro player is one-time Pro Bowler Trent Dilfer then you know that this isn't a hot bed of elite talent. Looking at the list of Fresno State NFLers shows that no one's really anything beyond an average NFL player. We already had one general manager, if you can call him that, be fooled by a Fresno State first round pick. Don't become the second.

Rick, I know you are turning out to be a pretty good general manager. You have made a lot of right decisions, but I am worried that this is even being considered. There's no value here. We would miss out on a better cornerback or defensive tackle prospect that our defense needs.

There are going to be good options in round three at running back such as Hardesty or Tate. Take a Kyle Wilson, Devin McCourty, Dan Williams, Cam Thomas, or Morgan Burnett in rounds one and two. Heck, even take an offensive lineman like Iupati, Pouncey, or Ducasse. Just get rid of the Ryan Mathews idea. It's not the first round pick that could provide the impact that you're looking for. Think of the team, think of the value, and, most of all, think of the livers and television sets of Houston Texan fans worldwide.

TexansDC on behalf of the BRB faithful

PS: Montario Hardesty is the running back you're looking for.

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