For four months, I’ve been counting down the days until the 2009 NFL Draft. I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas. Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith have steadily built the team almost exclusively through the draft, but that’s not the only reason I couldn’t wait; I’ve been having football withdrawals and I needed a fix. I even contemplated making one of those chains made of construction paper with a chain for each day until the big event, but then it dawned on me that my wife would see that as me taking a temporary vow of celibacy. Needless to say, I was a little more than excited on Saturday afternoon.
Then by the time Sunday night rolled around, my world felt like it had been turned upside down. It’s not that I hated the Texans' draft. I really didn’t even at the time, I was just caught off guard. In all my draft prognosticating, only two of the players were prospects that I thought were on the Texans’ radar, and I had stated publicly that I didn’t want one of them. Due to this utter confusion, I wasn’t able to fully grasp my feelings for the draft as a whole for a full 24 hours. Here it goes.
I’m not about to assign a grade because doing so before the end of the 2011 season would be incredibly asinine of me. In the end though, I like the draft. I love some of the personnel we got, but I can’t say the same for the draft class as a whole because I don’t know enough about some of the players we got, which is no reflection on them but rather an indication of how much more robust the reach and knowledge of the scouting department is than little ole me, but I was a little disappointed on some of the players we passed on. Lastly, I felt like a mistress who spends most of her time trying to convince herself that her man is going to leave his wife, because I was completely sure that the Texans would draft a RB in EVERY CONSECUTIVE ROUND after the third, which they obviously did not.
Brian Cushing/OLB/USC – Like I said before, I will not say anything negative about a Texan until they give me a reason to on an NFL field. I will say this though--all four people in the room watching the draft with me apologized to me immediately after the pick was announced. I’ve thought about it though, and I think the jury is still out on this one. Like Riott said, Frank Bush made me feel a lot better about Cushing. It’s not as if it was a spur of the moment, uninformed pick; Bush, Smith and Kubiak all admitted that they were targeting Cushing since the Combine. That’s three impressive votes of confidence in my book.
Cushing does play with a great deal of passion on the field, but doesn’t show a lot of emotion off of it, which explains why he didn’t pull a Tom Cruise in the green room of the draft. He started four years in a pro-style defense in which he showed a lot of intensity, a trait that the big three (Smithiakush) told the media was the deciding factor on Cushing. Despite claims that Cushing has “tight hips”, Bush is convinced that Cushing can play in the nickel, making him an every down LB. The accusation that Cushing couldn’t in fact play on third downs was one of my two biggest complaints with him in the first place, so if the closest thing that the Texans have to a LB subject matter expert says he can do it, very well.
The other huge complaint I have about Cushing is the steroids allegations. No, I don’t care about steroids on a moral basis. I care about them in the sense that they may have led to Cushing’s injuries while in college. To McClain’s credit (yes, I just said that… I’m as surprised as you), he asked Cushing point blank about the steroids issue during Cushing’s press conference, to which Brian replied that he will continue to take drug tests until it is not an issue any longer, and that the Texans believed him, which is what is important.
We’ll simply have to wait and see with Cushing, but I am starting to get excited. I think as long as he stays healthy, he’ll be an upgrade at the SLB position and therefore be a good pick. If he plays up to his potential, he’ll prove to be a great pick. (Authors Note: I know I’m a ridiculous homer, but I love the Texans and I didn’t start writing on BRB just to be negative about them. If they give me a blatant reason to pessimistic about them, I’ll do my honest duty, but I don’t think this falls in that category. Do with that as you see fit).
Connor Barwin/DE/Cincinnati – I love this pick. Barwin stated that after his selection by the Texans that he was surprised because the Texans had shown basically no interest since the Combine. I think that Smithiak simply didn’t expect Barwin to be still left on the board at 46 and therefore had not spent a lot of time scouting or visiting the impressive TE turned DE. The reason that they probably didn’t expect to have a shot at him was with good reason, considering the interest that several teams that run a 3-4 defense had shown in Barwin as an outside rush LB.
From Day One, Barwin can step in and rush the QB on third downs, which he showed a talent for with 10 sacks in his senior year. Barwin is an amazing athlete and very well may be developed into an OLB with time. If you’re going to take a pick with injury concerns to play SLB in the first round, how intelligent is it to take a player that has shown the intelligence and versatility to potentially replace him if need be? Sounds pretty awesome to me. I’d like to write more on Barwin, but (spoiler alert) there will be more to follow later.
Antoine Caldwell/G-C/Alabama – Yet another pick I am floored by. Caldwell not only played exceptionally well in college, but he has shown both the athletic ability and intelligence to play both guard and center in a zone-blocking scheme such as the one utilized by the Texans. All five starters on the Texans OL played all 16 games last year, which an extremely rare feat that will not happen two years in a row, so at the very least Caldwell is a great insurance policy. Even though Kyle Shanahan claims that Caldwell wasn’t drafted to replace Chris Myers, Myers weighs 275 pounds and was pushed around a lot by opposing DTs last year, so the writing might be on the wall.
Glover Quin/CB-FS/New Mexico – I, like Riott, was not aware of this kid, which is not a great feeling to have about your fourth round draft pick. Quin is slated to be more of a FS than a CB, which I pray to Durga is where he plays for the Texans. This is something different than a flyer pick on a FS in the sixth or seventh. A fourth round pick should have a decent chance of getting on the field. Even if Quin doesn’t beat out Eugene Wilson, I think he’d be better suited backing him up than as the fourth or fifth CB on the roster.
Anthony Hill/TE/NC State – At first, I almost broke the TV after this selection because I was sure that we were going to draft a RB with this pick. It was good in retrospect that I didn’t go with my first instinct because upon further analysis, it is a great pick and I was watching the draft at my neighbor’s house, so he probably wouldn’t have appreciated that behavior.
Hill was rated the best blocking TE in the draft almost unanimously amongst the prominent draft analysts. Hill, a Houston native, is such a good blocker that he might be able to play T in the NFL. Does switching TEs to T ever work in the league? Just ask Jason Peters, who the Eagles just signed to a contract for more money than the GDP of Liberia. At the very least, Hill will hopefully negate the success that opposing SLB have had against the Texans in recent years.
James Casey/TE-FB-LS/Rice – No, you didn’t misread that position breakdown. Casey is athletic enough to do a lot of things. He’s another pick that the Texans probably weren’t expecting to be around when they got him; rather, they probably had a third round grade assigned to him, which is why they couldn’t resist him in the fifth. At first I had mixed feelings because I knew he was a steal but he was also the second TE in a row, which is a lot in my opinion for a team that has a Pro Bowler at said position.
What’s that? Casey can play long snapper? That’s cool, I guess. He can play FB too? I have to say, that’s pretty cool to have a FB that can catch and run the way he can. If that’s not enough for you though, get this: He can also play QB. Apparently at Rice’s Pro Day, Casey wowed coaches by throwing the ball all over the field. For those of you that like that whole Wildcat thing, there you go. Overall, he seems to fit that whole versatility theme, which was apparently the topic of the Texans' offseason retreat.
Brice McCain/CB/Utah – If you had told me a couple of days ago that we would come away from the draft with a CB from Utah, I probably would have kissed you. I would have demanded some sort of retribution when I learned it was McCain instead of Smith. McCain is probably too small to make the team as a CB considering how many we have already on the roster. I think his only chance is to play special teams, which he can do with his 4.3 speed. We’ll have to see.
Troy Nolan/FS/Arizona State – Didn’t I mention something about flyers on safeties in the last two rounds? Nolan was pretty good in college, but as his drafted position suggests, he wasn’t great. We’ll just have to see how it goes, but if Nolan made the team even as a backup for Wilson, he’d be a steal in the seventh.
Anyway, like I said, I am now happy with our performance. I have no idea how all the major draft pundits graded our draft, and I don’t care. The Texans aren’t about sexy draft picks, but sexy picks usually put your team in the crapper, as evidenced by our performance under the Casserly regime. If Cushing stays healthy, Hill and Casey are as good as they seem, and one of the DBs makes a significant impact, this will be an amazing draft. Now we just have to wait four months to find out. Man, I hope it didn’t hurt you nearly as much to read that as it did me to write it.