Well, after doing the same fickle bandwagon jumping and un-jumping that, frankly, annoys me when I see sports fan do it, I am back on the bandwagon that Kubiak should be allowed to finish out his contract. Why? Meaningful games in December. Sure, most media outlets are saying that the wildcard battle is between Miami, New York, and Jacksonville, but Houston is still very much in the race, along with Tennessee and Baltimore. Meaningful December games is really all I care about so far. That’s still a positive step forward, and, while no one can like the snail’s pace with which we are progressing, but Kubiak will actually have to regress to earn his dismissal.
That said, the plan doesn’t change much, since the whole idea of hiring Mike Shanahan was to not rock the boat. Now that we AREN’T looking for a new coach, we still have free agency and the draft.
1. How do we handle free agency?
Most things haven’t changed here. I still want to let Dunta go and sign one of the best corners available. Carlos Rogers might be a long shot, but I’ll also be really happy if Belichek lets Leigh Bodden walk. If all else fails, we can franchise Dunta again, because part of the plan is that we NEED someone who can at least adequately play the #1 CB role so that we can draft a corner to play #2 or nickel this season.
I am also a big fan of Brodney Pool and Shaun Rogers. Pool is very underrated and, which Darren Sharper, Nick Collins, and Antoine Bethea available in the market, Pool probably won’t be the guy that every team will be calling once the market opens. Pool is a Houston native and a former second round pick who has played up to his potential, and, were we to court him early with a decent offer, he’d probably take it without a ton of negotiating. As for Shaun Rogers, he’s technically not a free agent, but, as a 32-year-old with weight control issues that clearly does not like Eric Mangini, he is very likely to get cut or traded next season. So, for now, I’ll say that we don’t actually end up with Rogers, but watch for him in February. Rogers is also a Houston native who, in my opinion, would LOVE to A: move to his hometown, B: do the old “spend my last years on a playoff contender” trick, and C: switch to a 4-3 defense with decent depth. If Rogers gets released by Mangini, and don’t say it won’t happen because Mangini is a prideful weasel, we should, like Pool, immediately go after him while other people court the likes of Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour.
Also, it’s been brought to my attention that David Anderson and Andre’ Davis shouldn’t be released. Anderson is an underrated member of our receiving corps and, upon further review of the stats, I’ll buy that. As for Davis, our now-stupid-looking $16M contract has 8 mil guaranteed, so, yes we’d take a cap hit, so I guess we keep him around. After all, he’s the best receiver we have at doing an Andre Johnson impression if AJ goes down. We don’t release Chris Brown until we confirm the drafting of a running back who can block. I still think we let Matt Turk walk and trade Dan Orlovsky for a sixth round pick. Orlovsky is overpaid, but SOMEONE will trade a sixth round pick, which often is a player who doesn’t even make the team’s 53-man squad, to get a potentially decent backup.
2. Whom do we draft?
Drafttek.com’s most recent simulation put us back at 15, which is our comfortable range. Note: this spot is indicative of another 8-8 season. Just saying.
The problem is that #15 is a terrible spot for us right now. The last time we were here, we were stuck drafting Brandon Spikes, an MLB who would have to move to weakside to get starting time. This time? Brandon LaFell, a potentially great receiver from LSU.
So we trade down, and, after entertaining offers from Cincy and Green Bay, I went with Tampa Bay. Tampa has Chicago’s 2nd round pick (how exactly are the Bears going to fix themselves when they don’t draft until Round 3?), so, at the moment, Tampa is sitting on #34 and #41, which adds up exactly to Houston’s #15. Why would the Bucs make this pick? Because Brandon LaFell is listed as a Top 10 prospect on draft tek. In the sim, St Louis bypasses Clausen and drafts Suh #1 overall, leaving Tampa to draft Russell Okung. When you factor in that Raheem Morris is a defensive coach (which means he is more likely to scrimp on defensive picks/signings under the assumption that he’s enough of a genius to succeed with mid-round talent), you can make a case that Morris tries to build a dynamic offense around new QB Josh Freeman, and LaFell is PERFECT. He’s consistently good despite playing on a conservative running team without a decent QB or other targets. He’s also one of the best blocking receivers in years, and, combined with Freeman, RB Ward, and LT Okung, you are looking at a VERY promising young offense.
It also helps that the Bucs have a GREAT draft after this trade, to include getting the same exact guy they would’ve drafted at #41 with their 3rd round pick.
So now that the trade might happen, why do we do it? Well, I’d certainly rather have three second round picks than reach like crazy at #15. Unless one of the top players in the class inexplicably falls, trading down is the best choice, and this works out too well for both sides to pass up.
Okay, so now that the Texans took Thursday off, Let’s get to work.
Tampa’s 2nd rounder – Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky
Let the record show that Joe Haden is still on the board, but there are conflicting opinions about him. Some are saying that Haden might be better suited as a zone cornerback as opposed to man-to-man. This isn’t to say that I think Haden would bust, but that’s also why I’m not okay with drafting him at #15. I actually like Lindley better than Haden. Lindley has been THE elite cover corner of the cornerback draft class for two years running. His two biggest tests this season, Miami (OH)’s Armand Robinson and Florida’s Riley Cooper were held to a combined two catches for thirty yards. (Oh, how I would’ve loved to see Lindley v. LaFell)
Lindley has a thin frame and average timed speed, but he is just a natural man-to-man player who could start on day 1. There are also concerns about weight room work ethic, but I think the chance to start as a rookie should be a great carrot-on-a-stick for him to put on the extra ten pounds of muscle necessary to prevent getting boxed out against bigger receivers. Lindley has #1 corner potential, and it’s by no means a longshot. With the added muscle, he should be the Day 1 starter beside Dunta’s replacement, moving Jacques Reeves to the nickel where I think he’d excel.
Chicago’s 2nd rounder from Tampa – Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
Dan Williams is on the board, and I’d love to have the “unblockable” nose tackle from Tennessee, especially since Shaun Rogers is a longshot, but…
Well, let me put it like this. The ONE reason that I don’t draft Weatherspoon at #15 overall is because that would mean we have a ton of money in the linebacker position, and smart teams don’t overload any position like that. That said, Weatherspoon is an ideal weakside linebacker. While he does not have outstanding physical attributes, he is one of the most aware defenders in college right now, and his stats speak for themselves. (since becoming a starter in 2007, he averages 9.4 tackles a game, plus 12 sacks and 4 INT’s, including 2 pick-6’s) He’s considered a great prospect for tight-end coverage, QB contain, and blitzing. The first two are vital since, by next year, we’ll be in a league that features Dallas Clark, Vince Young, and Tim Tebow (Jacksonville), and the third is important since, on the weakside, Weatherspoon could help Mario Williams, since a double team on the DE would leave Weatherspoon with nothing but a running back between him and the QB.
Dan Williams would be a great choice, but Sean Weatherspoon is a consensus Top 20 player on everyone’s big board. To pass on him at #41 would be a mistake.
Our 2nd rounder – Jeremy Williams, WR, Tulane
Many of you believe that someone will overpay for Kevin Walter and we’ll lose him. I’ve been a believer that the overpaying party would be us. However, if we are without K-Dubz, Jeremy Williams would be an almost identical replacement. He runs crisp routes, has great hands, and is a very willing blocker. K-Dubz built his resume around being our Wes Welker-like receiver who catches a lot of intermediate balls to open the secondary up for a big play from AJ. Williams should, as a rookie, be able to fill that role. With AJ, Daniels, and other receivers who are both talented and not suited for the possession receiver position, the pressure should be minimal.
3rd rounder – Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
Toby Gerhart is not worth a mid-second round pick. Especially since, in this situation, there are numerous running backs available. However, when I chose Jeremy Williams instead of a heavy reach of Gerhart, the Colts did the heavy reach for us. But, in the third, Dixon is available, who is compared to Gerhart in many circles. Dixon is 235 pounds, he holds onto the football, and is considered a solid pass protector who could be elite with some technique development. So, in other words, he’s like the exact opposite of Steve Slaton, making him a great change of pace. There’s also concerns about an arrest he had, but that seems to be behind him. My biggest worry is if he fits the ZBS, but I didn’t think Antoine Caldwell would fit, and that’s turned out alright so far, so I’d say go ahead and draft him.
4th rounder – Mitch Petrus, OG, Arkansas
Let me begin by saying that Nate Allen is still inexplicably available and, had I not already signed Brodney Pool, I’d snatch him up in a heartbeat. That said, we have Pool in this scenario, so I’ll go with Petrus. He appears to be a solid prospect for the zone blocking system. He’s an All-SEC lineman, which is impressive in and of itself, and I think he has the pass protection tools to play left guard, meaning that, if Pitts doesn’t come back well from his injury, Petrus could be another rookie starter for our team.
5th rounder – Walter Thurmond III, CB, Oregon
This is mostly a best-available player kind of pick. Thurmond is among the career leaders in interceptions with 12, and comes from an elite pedigree as a member of the Oregon secondary (talented rookies Patrick Chung and current NFL INT leader Jairus Byrd).
Our 6th rounder – Case Keenum, QB, Houston
As mentioned before, Dan Orlovsky couldn’t lock down the backup QB spot despite being worth $9 million. Keenum is unlikely to declare for the draft since his stock is so low and he could break some of Kevin Kolb’s records if he stays in school. That said, he’s in the draft pool right now and he’s a great pick for that “young QB Kubiak can develop” spot. He has physical tools, and decision making is his biggest need for improvement. That said, Keenum seems like the kind of guy who can be a great backup to Schaub.
Random Team’s 6th rounder – Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
Mesko is 6’4” 230. That’s huge. I mean, in a fight with Xavier Adibi, I’d take the punter. This guy also has a catapult for a leg, and, well, unlike Matt Turk, he won’t turn 40 next year. Sign this guy to a 15-year contract and we’ll be set for a generation at the punter position.
P.S. Another benefit of Mesko is he has experience as a place kicker as well, though he focused on punting at Michigan. We all should be slightly concerned that Kris Brown is coming down with Brad Lidge Syndrome (where a Houston athlete chokes under pressure and is so overwhelmed by it that the only cure is to leave the city forever; see under “Sage Rosenfels”).
San Diego’s 6th rounder – Myron Rolle, SS, Florida State/Oxford
It’s not often that a guy who EVER had Top 10 potential would be in the sixth round. Rolle has all the tools that you look for in a first-round safety, and his year of being away from football shouldn’t completely erase that he was a Thorpe Award Finalist in 2008, losing to Malcolm Jenkins. The biggest concern is that, after a couple of years, Rolle will quit the NFL and finish being a neurosurgeon. So, the guy has a TON of upside, but he may not play much for your team. This sounds like Detroit when they drafted Caleb Campbell, a safety from Army. If the Lions are willing to risk a sixth round pick on a guy with huge potential, then so are we.
P.S. “Why draft a strong safety when we have Bernard Pollard?” I’ll answer your question with a challenge. Think of every decent to good safety in our franchise history. Name one that had TWO awesome seasons. We’ve gotten great safety play that turned into mush the next season (most notably, Will Demps and Eugene Wilson), so it certainly doesn’t hurt to be a touch cautious.
7th rounder – Lawrence Marsh, NT, Florida
And it comes back to the beginning. I love picking a nose tackle from a 4-3 defense with the cred of Florida. Marsh doesn’t seem to be one of the key playmakers on that hyper-talented Gator defense, but making it on the O- or D-line in the SEC is an accomplishment.
My sources of information
Walterfootball.com - Excellent analysis and one of the few places as obsessed about the NFL draft as I am
Draft Tek - A unique 7-round simulator highlights an excellent draft site
NFL Draft Scout from CBS Sports - Great source of stats and info; the best data source for mid and late round draft picks
Scott Wright's Draft Countdown - great breakdown and analysis; this site finds strengths and weaknesses in even the best (and worst) prospect
Houston Diehards - a Houston Texans fan site; Chris is great for inside information, and there is a lot of thought-out discussion on the message boards. This site was