I thought some of the fans that don't visit houstonprofootball.com might like to read this.
May 4, 2004
Once, Twice, Three Times a Draft Pick
by Warren DeLuca
The third draft in Houston Texans history is in the books. After two offense-heavy drafts, Charley Casserly turned his sights to the other side of the ball. Did he find the defensive playmakers that the Texans need? We asked Rob “Boomer” Rang, owner and editor of West Coast Draft Services (www.westcoastdraft.com
), to continue what has become a War Room tradition and give us his thoughts on how the Texans fared in this year’s draft.
Media outlets across the country, including ESPN, USA Today, CBS Sportsline, and The Sporting News have all made use of Rang’s work in the past. In preparing his columns for NFL.com, former Dallas Cowboy vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt often supplements his own information with Rang’s material.
HPF: How does Dunta Robinson compare to other cornerbacks taken in that same range in the last few years, such as DeAngelo Hall, Marcus Trufant, Chris McAllister, and Duane Starks?
Rang: He is as athletic as any of the cornerbacks on this list, but is a rawer prospect due to the fact that he has only really played this position for two years. He does not have the ball skills or return ability of DeAngelo Hall or the size of Chris McAllister. He also lacks the superior speed (4.3) of Duane Starks, though his legitimate 4.4 speed is more than enough to be quite successful. He isn't as polished a cornerback as Trufant, but is a similarly reliable tackler in the open field. He has shown more improvement over the past two seasons than any of the cornerbacks listed above showed in any two-year span and some feel that he has a higher upside than any of those listed above because of it.
HPF: Robinson is being handed the starting cornerback job opposite Aaron Glenn, with incumbent Marcus Coleman moving inside to free safety. How do you think he will handle that challenge, and what are the areas in which he must show the most improvement?
Rang: Robinson should be up to the challenge immediately, though he might struggle some with teams looking to pick on him playing opposite the proven, playmaking Glenn. Expect some inconsistency, of course, but by mid-season I expect him to have erased any doubts about his ability to start in the league, and by the middle of his second season, possibly established himself as one of the top young shut down corners in the league. Some things he still needs to work on, of course, are his ball skills and recognition in zone coverage.
HPF: Trading up to select Jason Babin was the hottest topic of the draft among Texan fans. What did you think of the move, and how well do you think Babin projects to the outside linebacker position in a Dom Capers/Vic Fangio defense?
Rang: I'm not a huge Jason Babin fan. He does have the pure speed to be successful as a linebacker in coverage, though I question his change of direction skills. He does have good instincts and plays to the whistle every time. He has some pass rush technique due to his time at defensive end, but I, unlike the ESPN commentators, was there for each practice at the Shrine Game, and while Babin showed well, he didn't dominate to nearly the level they described. He has some speed off the edge and might be too hard of a worker not to be successful as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I felt he could have been selected later.
HPF: Charley Casserly has said that Glenn Earl would have been the second best safety in the draft had he been fully healthy. What do you think of that assessment, and what does a healthy Earl bring to the Texans' defense?
Rang: He would have been a Day One safety, but he would have been the fourth or fifth safety on my board if healthy, not the second. Depending on whether you list Michael Boulware as a safety or not (I didn't, but that is where Seattle is going to use him) I would have had Sean Taylor, (Michael Boulware), Sean Jones, and Bob Sanders ahead of him. He is a solid strong safety prospect who plays better as he gets closer to the line of scrimmage. He is a big hitter, but over commits, at times, and will whiff. He isn't as reliable in coverage as some of the other safeties on this list and the injury obviously raises even more concerns about his speed – which wasn't exactly his strongest suit to begin with. He is essentially an extra linebacker in the defensive backfield and would make an improvement quickly in the Houston run defense.
HPF: How do you see Earl's Notre Dame teammate, cornerback Vontez Duff, fitting in with the Texans?
Rang: I was quite surprised to see how poorly he played at the Shrine Game. He not only looked slow, but un-aggressive, and might struggle to find a niche for Houston. He does have ball-hawking skills, but will be beat deep if left on the island for long.
HPF: Jammal Lord has a big transition ahead of him, not only from college to pro, but also from quarterback across the line to safety. How do you think that move will play out?
Rang: Lord is a good enough athlete to make this transition, but the real work will be done in his head. It will take years for him master the intricacies of the position enough to compete for a starting role, though he might make an immediate impact on special teams. Lord is an excellent developmental candidate for the practice squad.
HPF: Both being undersized defensive ends who will be moved to outside linebacker with the Texans, Charlie Anderson and Raheem Orr have been lumped together ever since they were drafted. What is the main difference between these two players?
Rang: Orr is the more explosive pass rusher, but struggles when operating in reverse. Anderson might lack the pure quickness off the snap, but plays with more technique in his pass rush and both recognizes and reacts in pass coverage better. Anderson is better versus the run, as well, though both have to use their hands better.
HPF: Sloan Thomas was primarily a third receiver in college. What does he have to do to make it in the NFL?
Rang: Thomas has a good combination of size and speed, but doesn't stand out in any one area of play. He is an adequate route-runner who lacks explosiveness in his cuts and the deep speed to challenge cornerbacks for the big play. He does have good hands and shows some toughness going over the middle. Houston will definitely have him working on his routes, as University of Texas doesn't run a very complicated offense in terms of their passing attack, often leaving their receivers (and quarterbacks) needing a lot of work once they arrive in the NFL.
HPF: What do you think of the long-term potential of B.J. Symons?
Rang: I think Symons has a shot. Of course, the general consensus is that the Texas Tech offense could be run by a chimpanzee, but in reality, it takes an intelligent, accurate quarterback to be successful in this scheme. Symons has better arm strength than most give him credit for and is a good athlete, too. I think he could surprise.
HPF: Overall, did you see any differences in approach or philosophy from Casserly this year as opposed to the first two drafts of the team's existence?
Rang: I certainly see Houston as having grabbed players they think will make a more immediate impact, as opposed to the developmental players they looked for in years past. From a potential shut down corner to several pass rushers, there seems to be more urgency to create turnovers and develop the defense to match the potential of the offense. Despite their record, Houston was closer than a lot of people realize to being a legitimate playoff contender last year and with the addition of players who can make an immediate impact, the playoffs now seem like a distinct possibility.
Thanks to Rob Rang for his insight.