There is a method to his draft madness. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Revisiting an old project to get a grasp on Houston Texans tendencies in April's NFL Draft.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I once wrote for SBNation Houston under the leadership of a wise and well-written man. One of the better projects from that era, that I still cite to this day, was a lengthy look at past Houston Texans drafts and studying the tendencies that shone through, both on a franchise level and general manager Rick Smith level. As we begin the long road to those three nights in April, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit that list, compare it to the past two drafts, and see what we can discern as we pretend to be Rick Smith.
The Texans have invested in both lines heavily with 13 offensive and 11 defensive linemen, which includes first-round linemen from 2005-2008. With nearly one out of every three picks going on the lines...
This trend does continue. In 2011 and 2012, the Texans selected six offensive and defensive linemen (J.J. Watt, Derek Newton, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, Jared Crick, and Nick Mondek) in their 16 picks. With holes at right tackle, nose tackle, and questions at guard and a need for defensive end depth, there is an opportunity for Houston to keep this pattern up.
The Texans have drafted at least one linebacker in eight of their nine drafts - more than any other position group. Running back and wide receiver come in second with seven out of nine years and defensive tackles have come to Houston in six out of nine drafts.
Houston has added linebackers in consecutive years, in the form of Brooks Reed, Cheta Ozougwu, and Whitney Mercilus, and looks poised to do so again at inside linebacker. If Connor Barwin walks, I imagine outside linebacker would also be a consideration.
Wide receiver has moved into the second-most drafted group with last year's selections of DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin, as no running backs or defensive tackles were taken in 2011 or 2012.
For all the tight end jokes, Houston's only ever drafted five tight ends (in four drafts out of nine).
You can make it four out of eleven as no tights ends have been drafted since. I'm sure this will only increase the clamoring for one of those new-fangled athletic ends.
If anyone's dreaming about Nebraska's kicker/punter Alex Henery or replacing the aging veteran Matt Turk, Houston has never drafted a punter, kicker, or long-snapper. Other rarely drafted positions include: fullback (1), returner specialist (1), center (2), and defensive end (3).
The Texans broke their dry spell with Randy Bullock's selection last spring. They did add both a center and defensive end last year with Ben Jones and Jared Crick, respectively. Donnie Jones is a free agent, but Houston would be wise to not draft a punter.
No safety (free or strong) has ever been drafted before round four. Yes, Glenn Earl is the best safety Houston's ever drafted out of the seven taken. Let that sink in just a bit.
They added another safety in 2011, Shiloh Keo, but this tendency is how Houston ends up with the Keos and Quintin Dempses in the first place, by not investing in the position at all.
The Texans have only selected a player from a Texas-based college six times, including a lone Aggie in 2003's selection of Chance Pierce.
Bullock and Ozougwu jump the number of homegrown picks to a still-minuscule eight and Bullock is the first Aggie ever picked in the Kubiak and Smith era. Please stop the Drafting Aggies jokes, I'm begging you.
The Texans have taken multiple players who play the same position in six out of nine drafts. More recently, it's been back-to-back seasons of double cornerbacks (that's how you know the position has too much youth).
Houston made it three consecutive drafts with double cornerbacks in 2011, thanks to Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael. For the eighth time in eleven drafts, the Texans doubled up on a position with wide receivers Posey and Martin. Houston is not afraid to overhaul and overcorrect depth at a position with youth *eyeballs inside linebacker*.
Rick Smith's favorite conferences in his 31 picks? The SEC and Pac-10 share the lead with five players selected since 2007. From his alma mater of Purdue? 0.
Arizona's Reed gave the Pac-12 the brief lead, but it's been all about the Big Ten of late with alums from Wisconsin (Watt), Illinois (Mercilus), Ohio State (Posey), Michigan State (Martin), Nebraska (Crick), and Smith's alma mater of Purdue (Nick Mondek) joining the Texans.
Added to three previous picks (2008 - Minnesota's Dominique Barber, 2010 - Wisconsin's Garrett Graham and Northwestern's Sherrick McMannis), the Big Ten is now in the lead with nine players selected, from eight of the 12 schools, in the Smith era. For Big Ten blackout bingo, Smith needs Michigan
(which will never happen because that would make MDC happy), Penn State, Iowa, and Indiana (for the love of Durga never draft someone from this program).
If Houston does a draft day deal it'll likely be in the second round. Five times Houston has traded its second-round pick - four years not making a second-round selection at all. That said, Houston rarely trades up. Aside from the ill-fated Jason "Bust"-in pick, the Texans have not aggressively moved up in the draft.
Houston broke tendency in 2011 and moved up to grab Harris in the second round. They also moved out of the third round to pick up three additional picks. In 2012, Houston again was active in the second round and moved down into rounds three and four. Round two moves and Houston are almost synonymous.
The Texans are a need-drafting team. Houston tends to look for players who can step in and start at a position of need in round one. The picks for rounds two and three traditionally rotate in, so they're also at need positions.
As the roster has improved, round one starters don't necessarily exist anymore. The Texans have stuck to a more need-based model to fill the roster out, preferring to build via draft. However, Houston does temper need with value as they have never really "reached" in an early round. They do expect some contributions from all their rookies, aside from the very late round projects.
Scheme fit, leadership skills, and drafting players from "pipeline" schools have been a major part of general manager Rick Smith's philosophy.
Wisconsin's slowly developed into a pipeline, with Watt following Graham and Owen Daniels. Likewise, The U also had some consecutive picks with Darryl Sharpton and Harris, along with a number of other Hurricane alums on roster. The Texans do keep a keen eye on scheme and leadership. A lot of players Houston has selected have been team captains from schools that run similar schemes, especially the zone-blocking scheme.
For the most part, the tendencies have played out. Some new ones, like the love of the Big Ten, have appeared, but mock drafters can pick up a lot here about how Rick Smith and company like to think. My early guesses? You will see multiple linebackers, you will likely see a teammate of a recent rookie, and you will get many linemen. At this point, it is practically tradition.