It's the end of January in Houston: 30-degree lows are becoming a distant memory and Texans fans are talking about the draft. While Mr. Brett Kollmann does yeoman's work on the tape-grinding circuit, I am going into the past -- to the Shadow Draft Texans, specifically -- to see how they did.
As Tim always says, block quotes and whiskey make the world go round. I don't think I can place any pictures of whiskey bottles in this post without SBN's legal team coming down on the site with the full weight of frumpiness that their position maintains, so you'll have to settle for the former.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a shadow draft, it was popularized by John Sickels of Minor League Ball. Essentially, you pick at exactly the spots your team picks in the draft, and you aren't able to move down or up on your own. It is taken for granted in my version that, due to your general familiarity with the draft process, you are aware of what players are going to be off the board by your next pick. Thus, you don't get stuck picking someone rounds too early. All players signed or traded for by the team are at your disposal, and you can't keep players that leave.
Now, on to comparing my picks to the actual Houston selections...
While I liked Mercilus just fine, my motivation to select a cornerback was mostly just a function of the other picks I'd previously made: Robert Quinn was at outside linebacker and the Shadow Texans passed on Kareem Jackson in 2010. Mercilus showed flashes of pass-rushing potential in year one, but the hurry/sack ratio was a bit out of whack (6 to 11) and he was essentially a zero in run defense. Jenkins had just about the kind of year you'd expect from his college career: playmaking ability (four touchdowns) and off-field issues (deactivated for one game and forced to run sprints with Chris Givens). I didn't chart a lot of Rams games, but I do think that Jenkins is a bit inconsistent on slants and quick-breaking plays. He's got great recovery speed though.
Hard to say what either player will fully become, but I think I've got the high-risk, high-reward guy. Which is exactly what I was aiming for at 26: I wanted to hit a home run.
This pick worked out pretty well for me.
Brooks was behind Ben Jones for most of the season, then started to see a bit more playing time down the stretch. The tools are obvious; the question is how much refinement the Texans can cram into him before the 2013 season starts. If he can be just average with technique, he'll be a force to be reckoned with inside, and probably force PRO BOWL GUARD Wade Smith to the bench at some point next season. If he can't, then at least he's still not Antoine Caldwell.
Davis actually didn't see much playing time (about 28 percent of the defensive snaps) with the Jets this year, which is a bit of a surprise given how Rex Ryan was singing his praises for most of training camp. He certainly would've been useful for Houston last year given the gaping wound that was inside linebacker, and he profiles as someone who has the physical tools to be a good dime linebacker in the Wade Phillips scheme. Given the fact that he couldn't even beat out a decrepit Bart Scott for playing time in New York, I'm skeptical that he would've been much help this season. Hey, he did play special teams though!
4-99 -- Texans picked Ben Jones, I picked Bobby Massie.
Put a Kollmann sticker on this pick! Jones worked out fairly well in the run game -- he still does have some issues in pass-protection, but for a fourth-round pick to come in and play a decent guard right away is pretty impressive. He certainly shut me up, as I thought he was the weakest non-kicker pick of the class. I don't know if we're looking at a mainstay or just a solid patch until he gets expensive, but Jones was a quality pick.
Massie was embarrassingly unprepared to pass-protect at right tackle in the NFL. However, down the stretch, he did look much better. Not good, but competent. The jury is out on how good he'll become -- the jury is totally out on most of these picks at this point; they've got just one year under their belts -- but right now I'm having some buyer's remorse on the idea that he could be a plus at tackle.
4-121 -- Texans picked Keshawn Martin, I picked Keshawn Martin.
Sigh. This one didn't work out so well last year. Martin had an abysmal catch rate, looked completely out of sync with the offense, and was caught from behind by Bryan Anger on a return that should have been a touchdown. About the only good memory I have of his first season here was the end around in the first quarter of the Bengals game.
I don't necessarily think it's time to write him off. He still has a lot of the skills necessary to be the kind of slot receiver that Jacoby Jones was not able to be. This is a big offseason for Martin though: there's a lot unsettled at the bottom of that Texans receiving depth chart, and if he doesn't improve he could find himself pigeonholed as "purely a punt returner."
4-126 -- Texans picked Jared Crick, I picked Jared Crick.
Crick picked up most of Tim Jamison's snaps after he went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He brought almost zero pass rush to the table, but he did bat down a couple of passes and seemed to generally find his run fits. It's hard to say that he did anything to earn a bigger role, but he held his own. There's certainly nothing wrong with this sort of production from a fourth-round rotation end -- I do wish we saw a few more plays of the sort that had scouts thinking he should have been a first-rounder, though.
Jones, better known as the latest Cincinnati receiver to get a shot at the No. 2 job, was generally competent in his first year. The 56 percent catch rate will need to improve for him to stay on the field, but his problems were the routine catches, not the flashy ones. I still think he has a bit of upside and could be convinced that he's a better long-term receiver than Posey.
Something these guys have in common: neither played an NFL snap in 2012. I knew I should have picked Alfonzo Dennard and not tried to hole-fill. Damnit.