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PFW News And Notes On Houston Texans Draft Prospects

Pro Football Weekly is one of the premier NFL sites on the web, especially when it comes to the Draft.  Earlier in the draft speculation season, I made a habit of regularly checking their site because they go beyond the usual simple ratings and mocks that most draft sites publish and write thought-provoking draft articles.  Also, PFW writers seem to have close relationships with NFL personnel, which give realistic insight into what franchises think about particular players, rather than the usual Draft analysts that get constant coverage this time of year.

Unfortunately, I work in an organization that feels that PFW will lead to a lack of productivity on my part.  Weird huh?  Due to this restriction, I had an involuntary hiatus from PFW and therefore hadn’t seen several articles published in the last few weeks.  There have been several pieces published since my last perusal of the site that are not only informative, but are telling about some of the prospects that the Houston Texans might be considering adding to their roster.

In an article published on April 9th, Nolan Nawrocki detailed five prospects that might too risky for a team to draft.  Among the five listed, Vontae Davis:

4) CB Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr.)
Outside of being demoted several times throughout his career, in the spring and in the fall, Davis may not seem like he has a lot of issues on the surface — with no noted arrests or incidents that scream “problem.” However, his team interviews have been received very poorly, raising questions about his mental instability, lack of maturity and intelligence issues that clearly show up on tape consistently. He was regularly in the coaches’ doghouse, is very difficult to manage, does not respond well to coaching and may never easily blend into a locker room, as he beats to his own drum.

I’d like to think that Davis isn’t on the Texans’ radar for this particular reason, but we don’t know for sure because supposedly the Texans are good at keeping scouting trips and prospect visits quiet.  Hopefully Gary Kubiak ignores Davis’ amazing physical talent and keeps his drafting-with-character trend going.

On April 13th, Nawrocki again writes an interesting article detailing the merits of character and those prospects that NFL scouts have earmarked as having it in spades.  Who’s number one on that list?

1) CB-FS Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
At a position known for producing many prima donnas craving attention, Jenkins stands out for his maturity and humble attitude. Evaluators call him one of the cleanest elite cornerbacks to come out of the draft in the last decade and praise his smarts, intangibles and emotional leadership ability. They point to Jenkins having rallied the Buckeyes when they would fall behind and having provided the spark needed in the huddle, which his why some teams believe his makeup is most ideally suited for the safety position. He straddles the line of appearing arrogant on the field, but evaluators say he is far from it and have been impressed with his confidence, overall character and the way he has carried himself in team interviews. He was described as the type of person who will contend for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award and PFW’s Arthur Arkush Humanitarian Award in due time.

I’ll save you the long-winded diatribe; I love Malcolm Jenkins. 

Two days later, Nawrocki stayed busy by writing an article about various draft prospects that were either rising or falling in on NFL draft boards.  None of the risers were significant for the Texans, but a couple of the fallers were.  First off, Everette Brown.

DE Everette Brown, Florida State (Jr.)
With nearly half of the league moving to at least some variation of a 3-4 front, Brown’s value has begun to diminish, as he was not asked to drop much in college and showed too much stiffness in reverse at his pro-day workout to project as a rush linebacker. With limited strength to stop the run, he fits best as an up-the-field, fly-at-the-snap, open-side edge rusher for a one-gap, attacking 4-3 defense. The “one-dimensional” label some evaluators have affixed to him has pushed him down as far as the fourth round for some teams. He could still easily be drafted in the first, considering the premium placed on being able to the passer, but he may fall to the second.

I haven’t even thought of Brown as possibility at 15 because I assumed that there was virtually no chance he would be there.  Even though according to this he might be, I’m still not excited about the notion of seeing Brown in Steel Blue next year.  We have other needs that we need to attend to, and if Smithiak did decide to take a DE, I would hope they would take Ayers over Brown.  One under-performing D-lineman is enough for me.

Brown wasn’t the only faller of significance though:

CB Sean Smith, Utah
Quickly, name a cornerback in the NFL who has been successful and who stood taller than 6-foot-3? Some may have been able to get away with it in a different era, but in the modern age where cornerbacks are often forced to match up with the elite quickness of a Steve Smith, Wes Welker or Greg Jennings, leggy cornerbacks do not possess enough transitional quickness to be effective. Questions about Smith’s maturity have also concerned teams. A number of teams have already eliminated Smith from consideration because he does not fit their schemes, with limited ability in man-off coverage. Many others have him positioned in the fourth round, with an expectation of him potentially competing for a backup job.

Ouch...that is not flattering.  I think that the analysis lacks the possibility that Smith might be drafted specifically to play FS, but this is supposedly derived from the word of NFL scouts.  I recently watched the 2008 Sugar Bowl specifically to see how Smith performed, and I wasn’t impressed.  He covered well, but his physicality is lacking in my opinion.  I may be being too hard on him because of my love for Jenkins and mine and Matt's well-publicized debate over which prospect is better, but I just can’t get around my lack of confidence in Smith’s ferocity as a defender.  On the flip side though, if he was there in the second round and we didn’t get Jenkins in the first, I wouldn’t be too averse to taking him because he is dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands.

Does anyone besides Nawrocki write for PFW?  Later on the 15th, he published another piece that was a collection of random player descriptions by NFL player evaluation personnel.  There were a couple I felt were applicable to Houston.

“(Georgia Tech DE) Michael Johnson is almost nonexistent against the run. He was never a full-time player until his senior year. He’d be a rotational, third-down, situational pass rusher for us. You can’t consider taking guys like that until the third round; we couldn’t, anyway. Someone will take him sooner.”

There are a lot of rumors swirling around the league that Johnson won’t make it out of the first round.  If so, that team can have him because there is no way I’d draft him at 15.  If for some reason he made it to 46, his physical talent might be too tempting to pass on.

“(Cowboys OLB) DeMarcus Ware is a fluid athlete who can bend to leverage the corner. Brian Orakpo is tight and not as natural of a pass-rush guy. Neither are great zone-dropping, but you don’t need to be as a 3-4 rush ’backer. The primary job is playing with your hand in the ground, and that’s what Orakpo does best. He’s got that explosive first step. And he is much stronger than Ware, not that Ware cannot play strong — he knows how to use his hands.”

I put this in here only to piss beefy off.

“If you watched (USC LB Brian) Cushing at his pro day, he opened up the wrong way twice in drills. He did the same thing once at the Combine. He’s a meathead. Rey Maualuga is going to need some reps, too. It won’t be instant for him. The safest linebacker of that group is Clay Matthews.”

This seems to be a reoccurring trend.  Matthews is scary for the same reason he’s exciting; his huge upside.  I personally like him and I know several other Texans fans that do, but we could be proven wrong in a couple years.  I definitely want no part of Cushing, that’s for sure.

“You can give a monkey a banana and a beer and throw on some highlights and could get better evaluations than some teams make. I sit in amazement every year on Draft Day at some of the decisions that are made. It floors me. But that’s the beauty of our business. We can watch the same tape together — you can have an opinion, and I can see it completely differently — and in three years, one of us will be right.”

Raiders, Redskins, Jaguars and Lions… they’re talking about you.

On April 16th, Nawrocki continued both his theme of PFW writing monopolization as well as player underrated/overratedness.  On the overrated side:

FS William Moore, Missouri
Moore looks every bit the part and possesses the physical tools to start in the NFL a long time, but he could always be hindered by mental mistakes and a lack of discipline and be too easily manipulated by the eyes of experienced NFL quarterbacks. He needs to prove he can stay healthy after an injury-plagued senior season.

I’ve said before that I’m excited about Moore, but this is a common criticism of him.  His production from his junior your entices me, but several people have stated that he’s not intelligent enough to be a defensive signal caller, which is something that most NFL teams require of their safeties.  That coupled with his extensive injury history is pretty damning.

On that underrated side:

DE-OLB Clint Sintim, Virginia
Sintim will not fit for every team, and some evaluators think he may have to play defensive end in a 4-3 front. Questions have arisen about his football intelligence, and he would be best in a defense where he could be schemed to turn it loose and rush the passer. Doing just that, he led the nation in sacks from the LB position a year ago despite having dropped into coverage frequently. However, he could handle playing strong-side linebacker over the tight end in a 4-3 front, and having played the rush LB position in college, he gives evaluators whose teams play 3-4 fronts more comfort because they know exactly what they are getting.

The OLB prospects receiving the most publicity right now are ones that played DE collegiately but will most likely play OLB in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL.  Sintim played OLB in a 3-4 in school, but is now being talked about as a 4-3 DE--ironic.  I personally think that line of thinking is a mistake.  I’d love to have Sintim at SLB, but only if he was taken with our second round selection, not our first.

My hat goes off to Nolan Nawrocki for his excellent work.  I never stopped to look at exactly who was writing the articles for PFW before today, mostly because I never wrote for a blog before this year and therefore didn’t care who wrote that post.  He seems to have a very good grasp of what NFL personnel think about different draft prospects, which will definitely give us food for though.  In the end, we’ll just have to wait eight more days and find out.  Man, it feels good to be single digit days away from the Draft.