Better late than never. That's the theme of this year's shadow draft.
It's the theme because, looking back at the last three years of doing it, I think I've clearly fallen into a few pitfalls about the way the NFL operates. Especially in contemporary times. Looking back, there was way too much emphasis on winning up front, way too much made about the run game, and, yes, probably too much made about nose tackles. While a great nose tackle is a game-changing instrument, latching on to every one of them that comes by in a desperate "PLEASE DON'T BE SHAUN CODY" manner is probably not the solution. Looking back at three years' worth of draft picks, it's clear I've got a few massive blind spots, and all I can say is I'm learning from them. Better late than never.
It's also a theme because, well, it's August and I'm writing a post about the draft. In my defense, I've never had a summer where I wrote/edit/produced/shilled a book, finished up a semester of school, and moved, among other things. I'm sure there will be a few pot shots about how the preseason and camp reports have colored these picks -- all I can say is that I tried my best not to let those influence me, and there are a few things on the record from me about some of my picks.
Anyway, follow me behind the jump where I will recap the rules, look at the ... glorious ... team that I've built with the Texans picks, and unveil the next class of players.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a shadow draft, it was popularized by John Sickels of Minor League Ball. Essentially, you pick at exactly the spots your team picks in the draft, and you aren't able to move down or up on your own. It is taken for granted in my version that, due to your general familiarity with the draft process, you are aware of what players are going to be off the board by your next pick. Thus, you don't get stuck picking someone rounds too early. All players signed or traded for by the team are at your disposal, and you can't keep players that leave.
Here's what my team looked like heading into the draft:
QB: Matt Schaub, Case Keenum
RB: Arian Foster, Jacquizz Rodgers (2011-5th), Andre Brown (2009-4th)
WR: Andre Johnson, Dezmon Briscoe (2010-6th), Kevin Walter, Lestar Jean
TE: Owen Daniels, James Casey*
OT: Duane Brown, Michael Oher (2009-1st), Rashad Butler
OG: Wade Smith
OC: Chris Myers, Matt Tennant (2010-5th)
DE: Geno Atkins (2010-4th), Antonio Smith, Greg Romeus (2011-7th)
DT: Dan Williams (2010-1st), Shaun Cody
OLB: Connor Barwin*, Robert Quinn (2011-1st), Martez Wilson (2011-2nd), Chris Carter (2011-5th), Bryan Braman
ILB: Tim Dobbins, Bradie James, Mark Herzlich (2011-7th)
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Amari Spievey (2010-2nd), Davon House (2011-4th), Brandon Ghee (2010-3rd)
S: Danieal Manning, Rahim Moore (2011-2nd), Rashad Johnson (2009-3rd), Chip Vaughn (2009-4th)
K: Shayne Graham
P: Brett Hartmann
When I think of the main problems this team has, what they come down to are a) panic moves and b) my complete and utter inability to scout defensive back talent via the internet.
Briefly looking over the drafts...
2009: Oher over Brian Cushing looked like a wash after two years, but once Cushing bounced back this year, that was the end of that conversation. Oher can't even play The Blind Side, and given the layout of this team, I might call him a guard. Rashad Johnson was in my safety blind spot, and Caldwell hasn't really shown enough yet for me to be mad about that pick. Picking Chip Vaughn over Glover Quin was an unmitigated disaster -- both a reach on talent and an attempt to fill a need position. Both Brown and Anthony Hill have essentially been lost to injuries. Brice McCain's emergence last season was amazing, and I have ... A.Q. Shipley. Troy Nolan has been a replacement-level safety, which is more than I can say for Chris Baker at nose tackle.
2010: Williams over Kareem Jackson was a victory in year one. I still don't think Jackson has the recovery speed to be anything more than an adequate second corner, while a motivated Williams can be a difference-maker up front, but the momentum definitely stalled last year. Ben Tate is a much better actual player than Amari Spievey, who has been playing safety in Detroit, but since the Texans have Arian Foster, I'd argue that Spievey is a more important player. Not enough to make that a good pick, but enough to make it closer than it should be. Earl Mitchell can't beat out Shaun Cody, while Brandon Ghee can't stay healthy. I do score a pretty big win with my selection of Geno Atkins over Darryl Sharpton -- Atkins might be a bit stretched as a 3-4 DE, but he's obviously not playing nose here, and he is a terrific penetrating lineman. Garrett Graham hasn't blocked enough to stay on the field; Eric Norwood isn't relevant with my glut of pass rushers. Sherrick McManis and Matt Tennant have both been non-factors. Dezmon Briscoe is a relevant NFL wide receiver (albeit a crazy one), Shelley Smith has promise but hasn't become a starter just yet. Both 6th and 7th rounders are irrelevant, though Trindon Holliday still could become something.
2011: I made a lot of incorrect assumptions coming into this draft. I thought that the Texans would keep Mario Williams on the line, which is why I was big on Robert Quinn off the edge. Had I known that Williams would move to OLB, I think I might have taken Quinn anyway because Connor Barwin was coming off an injury. But J.J. Watt was clearly next on the board. I also assumed that Martez Wilson would be an inside linebacker, rather than someone who'd be converted to an edge rusher. Rahim Moore gives some promise at safety, and we'd really be counting on him to make a second-year leap -- Brooks Reed wins year one, but I'm not as high on him as most. Neither Davon House nor Roc Carmichael were factors in year one, but I like House more going forward. Rodgers is a decent backup running back, and we have plenty of failed safeties that tackle better than Shiloh Keo. T.J. Yates did an admirable job, and was probably better value than Chris Carter, but I still think Carter can provide some NFL pass rush down the line. Derek Newton was a much better pick than Romeus, and I think Herzlich's career is off to a better start than Cheta Ozougwu.
Texans' IRL moves: These have left my cupboard bare at ILB, where I probably needed a better pass defender anyway. Joseph and Manning sure helped paper over that awful secondary though! Thanks, Rick!
Anyway, on to the picks!
1st round -- Pick 26) Texans picked OLB Whitney Mercilus, I pick CB Janoris Jenkins.
I know I spent a lot of the pre-draft hype talking up how badly I wanted a wide receiver with this pick, but for the shadow team, with a third quality receiver (Briscoe) on the roster already, it wasn't as big of a deal. Certainly not a big enough deal to pick someone (Rueben Randle) who went at the end of the second round. My shadow team is stacked at OLB, so that rules out Mercilus and Nick Perry.
I don't think there is a chance in hell that Janoris Jenkins will ever be a Texans player. I doubt he was even on their draft board. However, talent plays at the bottom of the first round, and I have a feeling that he's going to be the best cornerback to come out of this draft as long as his personal life is in order. So strap me on the roller coaster, borrow the Pacman Jones blinders from Tennessee, and let's see how far he can take us.
3rd round -- Pick 68) Texans picked WR DeVier Posey, I pick QB Russell Wilson.
The Texans, as currently constructed, are never going to be bad enough to pick in the upper portion of the draft. That means they're going to have to be a little optimistic about some guys if they hope to find a successor to Matt Schaub that can actually keep the train rolling. Wilson fell to the third round for a reason: he transferred schools, he's shorter than you'd like, and he doesn't have standout physical tools.
He's also The Asterisk, and someone who I think can become an franchise NFL quarterback. Finding that in the third round is incredible value, and losing a pick that I didn't like to begin with is just gravy.
3rd round -- Pick 76) Texans picked OG Brandon Brooks, I pick LB Demario Davis.
We needed a replacement DeLinebacker, and I like Davis' odds of being one of those linebackers of the new millennium that can cover most tight ends and a few slot receivers. I actually am pretty high on Brandon Brooks, and this team could probably use him, but I feel like Davis is a third-round quality talent so this isn't a reach. The Jets have been raving about him all training camp, and he'll probably stand in for Bart Scott sooner rather than later.
4th round -- Pick 99) Texans picked OC Ben Jones, I pick OT Bobby Massie.
Again, no slam on Ben Jones, but center is the one area on the line that I think my team is pretty adequate at. Massie has problems with speed rushers, but between him, Brown, Butler, and Oher, I think we're moving one of them inside to right guard anyway. I started considering Massie as a possible Texans selection in the second round, and I feel pretty good about getting him in the fourth.
4th round -- Pick 121) Texans picked WR Keshawn Martin, I pick WR Keshawn Martin.
Simply put: I thought he was a better receiver than Posey, I think he's the kind of receiver that will play well in today's NFL, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if he had a big rookie season. I didn't talk him up much pre-draft because I was more focused on early-round receivers, but I have a big man-crush on Martin and nothing he has done in the preseason has made me feel worse about that.
(Note: I wrote this before the game on Saturday, and I think it's probably proof that you should never praise a player before he has a chance to make you look stupid. I'm leaving it up on purpose.)
4th round -- Pick 126) Texans picked DE Jared Crick, I pick DE Jared Crick.
Another pick I found it hard to complain about. I'm sure there are more pressing needs on this squad, but to get a second-round talent near the end of the fourth is a bit of a coup. If I had to mention one guy I'm passing on here that I think might bite me, it would probably be Tank Carder.
5th round -- Pick 161) Texans picked K Randy Bullock, I pick WR Marvin Jones.
Best available player. Also, don't ever draft a kicker, kids.
6th round -- Pick 195) Texans picked OT Nick Mondek, I pick ILB Emmanuel Acho.
Hole at linebacker, meet guy who might be able to fill it.