After three different styles of mocks and a refresher on Houston Texans draft trends, we finally have arrived at the mock draft where I put on my Rick Smith cap and give an earnest shot at a RickThink draft.
This is difficult because the entire thought process is based on conjecture. The fabled Houston general manager, who salvaged the franchise from the throes of Charley Casserly, has never really revealed, to the public, just how he builds his draft board or what positions he truly values. To put it another way, Smith has a Phil Ivey-esque poker face. Those who follow professional poker will tell you that Ivey is near-impossible to read. Here, all we have is historical tendencies and a scarce quote here or there.
So what does Rick Smith value? What have we learned over the past six(!) NFL Drafts?
1. The popular suggestion usually is the wrong one in the early rounds.
2. The player has to have an obvious and clear passion for football.
3. Being selected as a captain by your collegiate peers speaks volumes about the kind of teammate and person you are.
4. On the field performance trumps the spectacle of gym shorts.
5. Traditionally, but not always, round one is expected to start, round two is for rotational players, and the rest have to be able to play special teams and develop.
6. Double-dipping at a position of need is almost an expectation now.
We could certainly get more in-depth with everything, but the real draw is our RickMock. Let's get to it.
1st Round: University of Southern California wide receiver Robert Woods
I know there was a rumor of Smith not liking WR talent. There's this shifting notion that they'll go right tackle here, but I think it's a smokescreen. With so many WR-hungry teams behind them, from New England to Miami and Minnesota in the second round, the Texans can't be a sitting duck with a WR target on their chest. As cool as a tight end (Tyler Eifert) or a right tackle (Menelik Watson) could be, this team, which claims to be a legitimate contender, cannot go into the 2013 NFL season with Lestar Jean as their other starting receiver. They need to make sure they get the guy who works best here.
I've been pro-Woods for a while and for good reason. Woods has spent time in a West Coast scheme at USC and is a veteran at running intermediate routes, good hands, top notch ability to gain yards after the catch, and consistently delivered for three straight seasons. I do think Smith takes Woods over some other highly-coveted receivers, like Keenan Allen, and maybe a little earlier than some, but not all, think he should go. This will have some confused, but, like Kareem Jackson eventually proved, the Texans will grab the right man here. After all, Woods was considered a top-10 talent not too long ago.
2nd Round: Purdue Nose Tackle Kawann Short
Disclaimer: Short probably won't be available at 57. He's also a nose tackle, so it's really hard to see this happening.
However, Short is a team captain from the Big Ten, Rick's favorite conference to draft from. He's also really good at rushing the passer. I won't spend too much time on Short, since Nashmeister has been raving about him enough to educate us all, but suffice it to say that he would be a great fit for Wade Phillips' defense. In fact, Short is such a fit for Phillips that I can see Smith utilizing a trade, something he loves doing in round two, to procure the Boilermaker if he's sitting around in the early 40s.
3rd Round: UConn outside linebacker Trevardo Williams
This may make some people mad that Houston would add an OLB before an inside linebacker or right tackle, but that's the point of RickMock. Besides, Phillips is still looking for a third OLB to join Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus in the rotation.
I've talked about Williams before, but I'll mention again that he showed growth over the course of his four years at Connecticut and he's been one of the nation's best pass-rushers over the past two years. That's the kind of growth and production that attracts the Texans. His size hurts his stock, but he has time, and the frame, to bulk up a bit.
As an alternate, Washington State's Travis Long, oft-compared to Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, would work on day three.
3rd Round (Compensatory Pick): North Carolina ILB Kevin Reddick
When Brian Cushing went down, the Texans' defense struggled to find a pass rush up the middle. Yes, I've added Short here, but what happens if Cushing gets hurt again? What happens if he has to miss a game? What happens when Darryl Sharpton has to miss another game?
Reddick, a team captain at North Carolina, is among the best blitzers at ILB, as demonstrated by the 18.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks in 2012. He also has three straight seasons with 70-plus tackles. For those wondering how he fares in coverage, Reddick had 16 passes defensed and two interceptions in his career. Reddick has the potential to be a great running mate for Cushing for the next 10 years.
4th Round: Florida safety Josh Evans
Surprisingly, I type as sarcastically as I can, the Texans will wait until day three to address safety. I do think they'll add someone to develop since the Ed Reed experiment could be short and Danieal Manning becomes a stronger salary cap cut candidate in 2014. They also, in a way, need to replace Glover Quin. The Texans lost the ability to play a safety in the box who could play the pass, run, and give you something off the edge in a blitz. Evans, as a rotational or situational third safety, can be all of that. Evans is a strong fit for Phillips given his all-around play and versatility.
5th Round: Azusa Pacific offensive tackle Luke Marquardt
Duane Brown has the left side on lockdown, and I'm sure the Texans will give Derek Newton every opportunity to grow. Andrew Gardner is depth, and Ryan Harris is back on another one-year deal. Out of all that, there's no true swing tackle here and no reserve with the potential to develop should Newton falter. Marquardt, the 6'8'', 315 pound former basketball player, can provide that potential. His footwork is described as smooth and athletic, but he's still learning the position. He's a former tight end and could easily add weight to his frame. Having already filled their needs, the Texans are able to add projects and depth that could help for 2014, and Marquardt is an intriguing project.
6th Round: Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy
Lather, rinse, and repeat. This is the third straight mock I've had Stacy in. There is no third running back and Ben Tate is in the final year of his contract, so why not Stacy? The only new information I have to add, aside from his proven ability on the field and schematic fit, would be that Stacy was a team captain at Vandy. He's hitting all of the checkmarks.
6th Round (Compensatory Pick): Mount Union WR Jasper Collins
The second receiver, and I do firmly believe WR is this year's double-up position, has been the hardest to find. I say that because a lot of the mid-round receivers are the same and lack that special teams flair to really bring them to the table. Collins, as I've said before, can bring something else to the table, adds the speed that Bob McNair hinted he wanted, and, more importantly, can provide slot competition for Keshawn Martin.
7th Round: New Mexico tight end Lucas Reed
I said it in mock three and stand by it here. I can't see the Texans going TE in day one or two, so they'll add the project here and hope Brooks' brother develops enough to contribute in 2014. In the interim, they'll play Reed on special teams and use his athleticism and size there.
It's hard to think like Rick, especially as I've tried to let his criteria influence how I look at prospects for the Texans all draft season. What do you think, BRBers? Is this something you potentially could see from Mr. Smith? Would you be happy with it?