Tom Tynan would be proud. The Texans have been building through the draft ever since Smithiak took over. Since 2005, the Texans have drafted 27 players. Of those drafted, there are still 23 on the roster in one capacity or another. From 2002 to 2004, the Texans drafted 31 players. Only 6 players still remain with the team. So the Texans' fortunes with the players they draft has improved immensely.
The road to the Super Bowl is paved with draft success. The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers are 4-3 teams that are built through the draft and are playing at a high level. Will this be the year the Texans make the leap into the playoff contention? Let's compare blueprints and see how the Texans measure up.
A Young Gunslinger
A field general who can take charge of the huddle and drive his team down the field. A QB that can score on the opening drive and run the 2:00 minute drill. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub have been held back by injuries or lack of opportunities, but have shown flashes of what Eli has become.
Behind these three, only the Texans have a proven veteran who can win games in Sage Rosenfels. David Carr and Brian Brohm haven't shown they can put the team on their shoulders and pull out a victory.
Between the Tackles
A RB you can give the ball to 20+ times a game. A guy you know can pick up 4th & inches. Someone who can break the long run. As far as raw talent goes, Ahman Green is probably the best RB pictured, but Ryan Grant and Brandon Jacobs got it done for the whole season last year. A healthy Green can definitely help the Texans' offense go.
It's almost become a necessity to have a change of pace back as effective as your starter. Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jackson and Chris Brown have very different running styles, but they have all had games that they took over. Having them ready to spell the starter means that your running game keeps rolling.
Okay, so the pictures probably need to be switched around. Bradshaw and Droughns probably should have traded places, but I went with the depth chart. Droughns can be a punishing North/South runner. Morency can carry the load. Slaton can take it to the house. There are going to be 70,000 screaming fans when Slaton breaks one a la Andre Davis.
You can never have too many horses. Darius Walker and Chris Taylor are fighting for carries in the Texans' backfield. They've both shown flashes that they could be special.
A Nasty Mauler
To be honest, I have no idea how good Hedgecock or Hall are as FBs. I do know their teams running games roll, and a mauling FB is a big part of that equation. I watch Leach on almost every running play that he's on the field. I love watching him take it to a linebacker or safety and, on rare occasion, a lineman. I have to confess a little man-love for Vonta Leach. When he's in full Steel Blue, it's like watching a dark maw swallow the defense when he hits someone.
Wide Open (Even When They're Not)
An elite receiver make a ridiculous play on the ball. One-hand grab, tight rope along the sideline, or just making the catch in double coverage. Plaxico showed what he was made of playing hurt in the playoffs and making the winning TD reception in the Super Bowl. Driver has had numerous highlights over the years. AJ is a force. I don't think there are words to describe what he means to the Texans' offense. Classiest player on the team, in my opinion.
Even Dr. Evil needs a solid No. 2..."Who does number 2 work for?" The run game, the QB, special teams. Anywhere and everywhere, if you're Kevin Walter. He's the Texans' version of Wes Welker. A player who goes all-out every play. Greg Jennings and Amani Toomer are great players in their own right. I remember one game when Amani Toomer went 90 yds and ran down an interception, tackling the CB at the 1 yd line. These guys play with heart.
These are the guys that give defensive coordinators fits. The 3rd WR that has the speed to go deep and can make plays over the middle. In today's NFL, these WRs can't just be anybody. Most of the time they could be a starter on another team. Steve Smith, James Jones and Andre Davis are those kinds of WRs.
Ah, young talent. The guy you always draft with your last pick in fantasy football because he's a sleeper and you know he's gonna blow up this year. The guy you adopt on message boards and cheer for any time he touches the ball. There's a reason for this, because he is talented and can be a game breaker. He just has to put it all together ...and when he does...BOOM! If you don't know who these 3 guys are, you're not enough of a fan yet.
(Stronger Than a Locomotive, Able to Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound)...It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a TE!
It's almost become a cliche to say that a good pass-catching TE that can block is needed for a top offense; I blame Shannon Sharpe. I loved watching that guy play, but I digress. Jeremy Shockey, Donald Lee, and Owen Daniels aren't safety valves. The offensive coordinator is trying to get them the ball. Everyone cheers when we see Owen Daniels take a big hit to make the catch and come up fighting.
These guys are enigmas. There's no blueprint right now for what you do with your 2nd TE. You've got a tweener in Finley, a recieving threat who can block in Boss, and a massive blocker who occasionaly slips through coverage to make 3-4 receptions a year in Bruener.
The Texans may have finally done it this year by drafting Duane Brown. They may have finally achieved the bookend tackles that the Packers and Giants have in Chad Clifton, Mark Tausher, Kareem McKenzie, and David Diehl. Heck, the Giants just showed their LT (and their QB) love by extending Diehl to a long-term contract.
The Texans have infused this line with a lot of talent. The OL is starting to become a strength. Especially with Alex Gibbs joining the ranks. Something to note this year is the Texans playing two former TEs at tackle. The Texans may just call a bootleg pass to a tackle eligible.
The Texans are built to win now and for the long haul. A solid nucleus on offense. A young and nasty defense. This is a Texans team that has the playoffs and the Super Bowl in their future. Are the Texans ready to make the leap this year?