The NFL Draft Re-Education Of TDC: Re-Visiting Baylor WR Kendall Wright

"Give me a second chance, TDC!"

In the majority of mock drafts, your Houston Texans have "selected" Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright. For some, the reaction is, "Yes! A receiver upgrade! Finally! Good-bye Jacoby Jones!" A loud majority(?) of others respond, "No! TOO SMALL! GIMMICKY OFFENSE! BAD FIT!"

I have been decidedly against Mr. Wright’s mock arrival in Houston, but I've decided to give him another look as the mocks with Wright continue to roll in. I attempted to go in with an open mind as I opened the YouTube vaults, my personal DVR gold mine, and scouting reports. I really wanted to see if Wright-to-Houston is a good fit from historical and schematic reasons or if it’s a case of lazy mockers slotting the best prospect available at a need position to Houston.

Keep an open mind and jump with me as we take a look at the polarizing Bear.

Let’s start off with a few history factoids:
- In the all-time 84 draft picks of your Texans, they have only selected seven players who went to college in the great State of Texas. That’s eight percent in 10 years, so it’s not a wise idea to think they’ll give preference to local stars.

- Under Gary Wayne Kubiak, the Texans have drafted four players classified as a wide receiver (
David Anderson, Jacoby Jones, Trindon Holliday, and Dorin Dickerson). Two larger guys who were supposed to develop into productive receivers and two guys under 6’0’’ and 200 pounds, one a 7th round pick and the other a special teamer who has struggled mightily to be a fixture on the 53-man roster. When you look at Gary's time in Denver, you’ll see a lot of bigger receivers as well (10 out of 13 drafted receivers were over 6’0’’ and 200 pounds).

- Since Kubiak became the head coach, and according to Pro Football Reference, the Texans have had 10 different wide receivers catch a pass in a game. Six are over 6’0’’ 200 pounds, one receiver was at that mark, and three, including one primarily used as a returner, are under the standard size.


What’s the takeaway here? A smaller receiver from a Texas-located university just doesn’t fit in with the history of the franchise or tendencies of our beloved Quarterback Whisperer. If Wright-to-Houston is to happen, then he has to be a special prospect that can fit into the offense.

Wright’s Pros and Cons:
- He’s small at 5’10’’ and 190 pounds and looks smaller on film. You wonder if Wright can take the beating of going across the middle in the NFL for a full 16-game slate. He did take some big licks in college, but there’s a difference between Iowa State’s undrafted safety and Troy Polamalu in the playoffs (SWIDT).

+ Size be damned, Wright’s an aggressive and willing blocker who does not shy away from doing the dirty work. He’ll not see many cornerbacks that can overpower him, so that’ll work out with his willingness to mix it up.

- Watching Wright, he could stand to improve his route-running, especially on West Coast staples like the slant route and in route. He’s not selling them hard enough, and it'll tip off good defensive backs. You can get away with just running by a guy in the Big XII, but Wright will have to work on that or cornerbacks will cut him off and jump those routes. In fairness to Wright, his route-running certainly isn't as bad as I initially thought...that opinion's been changed by looking at him compared to more receivers.

+ Wright does have the all-important ability to get open. Most passes, you can see him pull away from the cornerback and safety. His in-game acceleration is incredibly impressive.

- His measured 8 and 5/8th inch hands are on the small end of the scale and landed him in the bottom-10 at the NFL Combine. Small hands could lead to drops, a la Jacoby Jones.

+ Wright does a good job of catching the ball with his hands. Very few times do you see him body catch, especially on routes run over the middle.

- He played in a spread offense with a special quarterback for four years. Is he a product of RGIII? Granted, Wright did play one year while Griffin was injured (2009) and still led the Bears in receiving, but you wonder if the statistics were inflated.

+ Wright was a four-year starter who showed consistency. He was Baylor’s leading receiver every season and caught, at least, two passes in every one of the games he played in. This will earn him major points in the Houston war room.

- Wright’s arrival would not mean the end of Jacoby Jones. Wright’s not a kick or punt returner. It would take another draft pick, free agent signing, or miraculous turnaround by Holliday to make Jones truly expendable.

+ The potentially new KW does bring some versatility to the table. Wright played quarterback in high school and did throw for two touchdowns at Baylor. Add in his speed and you have someone who could allow Kubiak to throw in a wrinkle here or there to the playbook (hello, wide receiver end around option pass!). This recent transition to wide receiver can also be used to counter that route-running argument as Wright’s still learning the craft unlike those more polished route-runners (Blackmon, Floyd, Toon, McNutt, and Jones).

- The size thing makes me wonder if he can play outside in Houston’s offense. Whether here or in Denver, Kubiak favors the larger receiver. If Wright’s primarily a slot guy, and some have said that's the role he would play, would Houston spend a 1st rounder on someone who can be seen as limited?

+ Wright has excellent coordination and body control. His moves are fluid, he shows the ability to "walk on a tightrope" down the sidelines, and he just never seems awkward while running or catching. I see someone who is definitely a natural football player and not some athlete trying to learn the game. That's a huge plus in my book because the best players make it look instinctive and effortless.

Conclusion:
I don’t know if Wright will be available at 26 or not, but I feel a bit better about him after my re-education. Despite all the information, where he’s taken, especially if it’s Houston, will come down to the size of the Baylor Bear alumnus and how comfortable a team is with that fact - it is rare for smaller receivers to go in round one.

The evidence is so overwhelmingly against Kubiak taking a smaller receiver, and that’s understandable. Kubiak loves to run, which sometimes requires his receivers to block in-line or off of motion on a linebacker, and runs a West Coast Offense, which hasn’t stretched the field nearly as much in the Dennison Era as Baby Shanahan once did. Would Wright be misused or would Kubiak bring back some of those deeper crossing and post routes? I trust in Kubiak to get the most out of his toys, but you do have to think twice about what would happen.

When it is all said and done, I still don’t see Kendall Wright being the Texans' pick, but I’m now of the mindset that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were.

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