Normally, this is my favorite time of the year. I love NFL Draft season. I love mock drafts. I love workouts. I love the ability to play general manager and trying to construct a team. I'm the kid who played Franchise Mode in Madden NFL video games and simulated the season, so I could do the free agent and draft song-and-dance.
In years past, I've been able to pump out multiple mock drafts, often hitting on some Houston Texans, like the ones in all these links, throughout our barren NFL months. This year? The real world has gotten ahold of my mind, but I'll still manage to squeeze one, maybe two mocks, in. Hopefully, I'll extend my current three year streak of correctly predicting future Texans in mocks.
Admittedly, this will be tougher as we have a new, yet unseen, system in place on both sides. While Bill O'Brien and Romeo Crennel have NFL history, who knows what sort of tweaks will be made to the Houston version of their offense and defense? Compounded by Bob McNair's desire to win now and Rick Smith general managing for his job, you have a number of different voices trying to land on a consensus. Tricky times for a mock drafter but, as my record states, I am no normal Texans mock drafter.
As always, I consult a number of sites for draft ranges, so please don't give me the 'Dream on' speech about a prospect at a certain round because no one really knows what will happen on Draft Day. Okay, let's do this.
1st round, pick 1: DE Jadeveon Clowney, University of South Carolina
I feel 50-50 that some team will trade up to nab the coveted quarterback of their choice. I'm looking at you, Cleveland and Minnesota. However, if the Texans are here, they're going to have to take the best player in the draft. The quarterbacks are good, but Clowney is special. That's the difference. Physical specimens like Clowney do not come around often, and pairing him with J.J. Watt should turn the Texans front seven from good to feared. Crennel's system doesn't matter here because you have two guys who can be moved around across the board to create mismatches. With Clowney and Watt on board, there are no more excuses for Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed.
2nd round, pick 33: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech University
I'll start by saying that I believe Fresno State QB Derek Carr would be the pick if I thought he wasn't going to go in the 20s here, probably to Cleveland. I wouldn't even be mad at Carr in round two because it's low risk, high reward. Again, Carr won't be here, so Jace Amaro's moving down south. Amaro is an athletic tight end who would flourish in BOB's offensive scheme across from Garrett Graham. They'd bring to mind Rob what's-his-name and that other guy.
3rd round, pick 65: QB Tom Savage, University of Pittsburgh
Savage, who has picked up steam of late, is not necessarily the QB of the Future. As a third round pick, the franchise can let him develop for a year, but they wouldn't be contractually tied to him should they find themselves face-to-face with a talented quarterback next year. It's win-win for the Texans.
4th round, pick 101: WR Bruce Ellington, University of South Carolina
Bill O'Brien gets his coveted slot receiver here in Ellington, who will add speed and quickness to a team desperately in need of it. Ellington's got back to back seasons of 40+ receptions and never missed a game in South Carolina, so don't worry about if his smaller stature will hold up in the NFL. Keshawn Martin, you've been put on notice.
4th round, pick 135 - Compensatory: G Spencer Long, University of Nebraska
Were it not for a torn ACL, Long would be going a round or two higher. At 6'5'', 320 pounds, Long has prototypical size. If you've watched Nebraska, you would have seen his improvement over time, too. The guy is physical, especially in run blocking (hey, it is Nebraska and Big Ten football after all) and that'll be a welcome change of pace from Pro Bowl guard Wade Smith.
5th round, pick 141: RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern University
McKinnon excelled at the Combine, finishing second in the 40-yard dash (4.41), with the fastest 10-yard shuffle (1.46), and the strongest at the bench press (32 reps) among running backs. He was strong in field drills, including receiving, and at his senior all-star game. Why is this important? He played quarterback at GSU and is transitioning to running back. Still, McKinnon should add speed and be an intriguing special teams and third running back option.
6th round, pick 177: CB Andre Hal, Vanderbilt University
Hal's my pick for slot corner. He's not as quick as Brice McCain, but he's shown the ability to turn his head and cover, so he's likely already better than McCain. Over the past two years, Hal has five interceptions and 29 passes defensed, including a stellar game under the lights against Ole Miss WR, and NFL prospect Donte Moncrief. Good value if Hal's there in round six.
6th round, pick 181 - from Oakland via Matt Schaub trade: OLB Michael Sam, University of Missouri
One talent I haven't acquired yet is an outside pass rusher. Sam, who will bring press with him, should also, more importantly, bring some pass rush. He's in position transition, but Sam's also going to benefit from playing behind Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, and Trevardo Williams, so there's no rush, pardon the pun, to get him on the starting defense. You take this sort of 'can-he-be-an-OLB' gamble on day three because Sam did have 11.5 sacks in the SEC. There is talent there.
6th round, pick 211 - Compensatory: CB Aaron Colvin, University of Oklahoma
Aaron Colvin will likely be placed on injured reserve for his rookie season after injuring his knee at the Senior Bowl. This is a stash 'em pick for the Texans, who can let Colvin, a man cover corner with ball skills, get right for next year. Low risk, high reward, and the perfect way to start setting up for a potential Kareem Jackson or Johnathan Joseph exodus.
7th round, pick 216: ILB Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State University
Ninety-three tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, three passes defensed, and 3 fumbles forced. For some reason, Lavey didn't get a Combine invite, but he made plays all over the field for the Cowboys. As a late round pick, Lavey would be a shrewd investment for linebacker depth and special teams play.
7th round, pick 256 - Compensatory: DE/NT Bruce Gaston, Purdue University
No, I didn't pull a name out of a hat. Gaston's a tweener who can either play DE or NT in Crennel's defense, should he make the team. Gaston has been solid at Purdue, showing the ability to make plays in the backfield with 23 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in his Boilermaker career. As a selfish blogger, Gaston opens himself up to a lot of fun potential.
I think you could sum up my draft strategy as such: Look for players who produced, look for players with great athleticism and versatility, and maximize the low-risk/high-reward opportunities. Good talent will fit in any scheme. In a sense, it's very Bellichickian and, in turn, I tried to get into that mindset here.
Thoughts? Comments? How outrageously wrong am I? Let the comments bear witness to your brilliance, BRBers.