If I had stuck with my original mock from February, I would be writing about my second nailed pick from your Houston Texans. Instead, I can use that to show how much I approve of the selection of South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger.
Let's first take a glimpse of some of Swearinger's best from his senior year at South Carolina.
You'll notice immediately that he's in the middle of the huddle. He's the guy pumping up his teammates, injured or healthy, and that's a plus in Houston's book. He's a leader, he's a rally guy, and his teammates respect him in that role.
Other notices from that video is Swearinger doing a bit of everything. He can come up in run support, he can blitz, he can diagnose plays, he can cover in man, and he can cover in zone. This versatility is what attract me to him originally, and I am very sure Swearinger's multitude of hats is what put him on Houston's radar.
DJ Swearinger vs Clemson (2012) (via Eric Stoner)
There's a lot of good there against a ranked Clemson team. Again, you'll see the multiple uses and positions. A little flat-footed and slow in reaction at times, but, for the most part, he's not faked out and he's keeping the play in front of him. Against a quality opponent, I'm really encouraged by what I see.
"Like I say," said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, "He’s a tough, physical player but he has good range. He can play free safety. He’s got great range overlapping or he can play strong safety and get in the box. He also fits in your sub-package. That’s what G.Q. (Glover Quin) played for us, when the sub-package is playing over the tight end and being able to play the running game, too."
At South Carolina, as video two showed, they played him outside, on slot, at safety-high, and in-the-box safety. when Phillips talks about him as a Quin replacement, he really is. I keep stressing his versatility, but that's a huge part of his game and what he offers Houston. That's so important in today's NFL where you'll see teams go three- or four-wide or double-up with two tight ends. An ability to drop down and cover in man, from the safety slot, is huge. The ability, even when spread out, to make a tackle in the box? Huge. This allows Wade to do so much with his front seven because of this back-end ability. Houston's much stronger now, compared to previous years, when they go to a nickel safety. This is, obviously, huge. Of course, Swearinger's not without flaw.
Swearinger's a bit smaller than you'd like, at 5'10'' to man up on tight ends. He masks this by being built very thick and aggressive, but that aggression hurts him.
D.J Swearinger knocks out UAB player (via Nick Graves)
I love the big hit ability, especially as a safety trying to protect the middle, but he tends to drop the hammer instead of wrapping up, though video one shows him wrapping up at times. Also, those hits and taunts are easy ways to give the offense 15 yards and an automatic first down. He's got to show some discipline. You can be fiesty, aggressive, and get under someone's skin on the field, but Swearinger has to do it without giving up 15-yard penalties.
The great thing for Swearinger, and for anyone wanting him to learn discipline, is he's going to be surrounded by stellar coaching. Phillips and defensive backs coach Vance Joseph have done a good job of building up young defensive backs in Quin, Brice McCain, Kareem Jackson, and Brandon Harris. Additionally, Swearinger should start in the third safety role behind Ed Reed and Danieal Manning, for at least a season. He could not have better mentors there. They're both multi-faceted veterans who can help teach the kid the value of patience and control, especially as a NFL safety.
I'm still surprised that general manager Rick Smith made this pick, but I cannot deny that he does not value safeties anymore with two multi-million dollar free agent signings starting and a second-rounder drafted to back them up. Swearinger will see a lot of action, especially on special teams, and grow behind two veterans until they either retire or are waived for salary cap purposes. Unlike past rookie defensive backs, Swearinger's not going to be tried by fire.
All in all, especially given the board, I love the pick of D.J. Swearinger, I love the value of the pick, I love what it means for long-term roster development, and I cannot wait to see what Wade and Vance can do with this talented youngster.