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Old 03-06-2012   #1
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Default TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Pulled the Q&A w/Matt Waldman from TexansChick's blog post.

Read the complete article here: http://blog.chron.com/texanschick/20...okie-scouting/

...

Question 1: With these items in mind, which wide receivers might the Texans target at or near the bottom of the first round?

Matt: “A lot of the better NFL receivers of the past 10-15 years have remained productive well into their mid-thirties so I’m not concerned about Andre Johnson’s immediate future. So when I listen you’re run-down of what you believe the Texans want from their receivers I think you’re on the money. It means the team is likely seeking a flanker (Z receiver) to complement Johnson, but has the vertical prowess to take over Johnson’s role as the X.

The receivers projected to go in the 1st-2nd round after Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon include Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, LSU’s Reuben Randle, Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu, and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill.

Neither Blackmon nor Sanu are vertical threats – they will never become X receivers. But they are physical, glue-fingered flankers that can get yardage after the catch and return kicks. Blackmon is the better route runner, but he’ll likely be off the board. Sanu needs to refine his skills – he’s more football player than technician at this point.

If Wright’s “disappointing” 40-time causes his stock to drop he’s worth the Texans’ investment, but I don’t believe that scenario will happen. Wright is a Santonio Holmes type of receiver – a natural Z because of his skills after the catch. However, he’s also a dangerous down field player who can become a capable X in offenses that have a taller, physical Z to complement him.

Wright, like most young receivers, needs to refine routes and become more consistent making the tough catches over the middle. I just didn’t see enough evidence that Wright is the zealous run blocker that Holmes was at Ohio State and I also doubt he’s available. I just mention Blackmon and Wright because we’ve seen enough surprises on draft day for players to drop. Some teams considered Anquan Boldin a top-10 player before his poor 40-time and they overreacted to the poor time.

The ideal receiver for the Texans now and when Andre Johnson’s career comes to a close is Floyd. There seemed to be a chance that he would drop due to character concerns, but I think his Combine workouts were too good for that to happen. Before his drunken driving citation, he was a team captain and while a serious matter, we’ve seen young men learn from mistakes of this nature.

Floyd also demonstrated this year that he could return punts. He’s the closest thing to Andre Johnson in this draft – big, physical, fast, and good after the catch. Most cornerbacks won’t be able to jam him and he has the mentality that the ball is his. I like how physical he is. He welcomes the challenge of taking the hit, ripping the ball away from a defender’s grasp, or out-leaping his opponent to prove it. Jay Cutler will lose his mind if Floyd is still around and the Bears don’t pick him so I don’t see him falling to Houston.

That narrows the candidates with first- or second-round grades to two: Randle and Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones. Randle fits the profile of the run after the catch players who can also burn defenders deep. He’s a rangy, young player who can probably add more muscle to his frame and develop into an imposing physical presence. Randle will become a better blocker once he closes the gap and delivers a punch rather than locking out his arms. I like his upside but you have to wonder why he didn’t really play to his ability until last year – even if the uneven quarterback play is a logical answer. I think he’s the most likely pick of the Texans if they target a receiver in the first round. Jones might be the better long-term value and I’ll talk about him later.

Hill is a fast-riser, but he is not a Z receiver and drafting him to replace Johnson might be a wasted pick unless there’s something crazy we don’t know about Johnson’s health. Although Georgia Tech plays the triple option and wants receivers that block, the team ran away from Hill most of the time. He wasn’t a consistent effort guy in that department, either. His physical promise and naturally good hands are excellent, but his routes also need a lot of work. Houston’s future is now and Hill’s future isn’t.”

Question 2. Some think that the Texans won’t go WR in the first because they think they can get great production from lower round picks and that it is seen as a deep WR class. Who might be good Texans WR targets in different rounds?

Matt: “I agree it would be smart if Houston resisted the urge to draft a receiver in the first round. There are some decent flankers and excellent slot receivers capable of playing the Z in a pinch. I think a team can lose its identity following a trend because they think adding a new element to the offense or defense will take its performance up a notch.

Atlanta did this last year after its loss to Green Bay and the Packers’ high-powered passing attack. It clearly influenced the organization’s decision to give up a small ransom to acquire Julio Jones. While Jones is a promising player and he should ultimately help the team get to that next level, the Falcons temporarily lost its identity as a power running team as it tried too hard to incorporate a rookie receiver into a system that wasn’t broken because the pressure to put that first-round pick on the field right away is enormous.

Because this receiver class is deep the Texans can have the best of both worlds: a Z receiver with potential to start right away, but at a round where the pressure to start immediately isn’t as intense. Based on your projected criteria for the Texans, I think Cal’s Marvin Jones is the best choice of any of the receivers I mentioned not names Michael Floyd. And as much as I think he’s quietly climbed draft boards, I think he’ll be around in the second or third round.

I think Jones’ skills are a lot like those of a young Donald Driver. He’s capable of playing multiple receiving spots, but I think he’s naturally a Z. His route skills in the short range of the field and as a vertical threat are among the best in this class. He learned his trade as a receiver in Jeff Tedford’s version of the 49ers dynasty era offense.

Jones was a captain, returned punts, and despite beginning his career as the deep threat, he switched roles to accommodate rising star Keenan Allen’s arrival. In fact, Jones probably bailed out Allen’s half-brother, QB Zach Maynard, more than any teammate this year. He’s not a diva.

I talked to Jones at the Senior Bowl after his first day of practice. I made a beeline to him because I had only seen him as a possession receiver until the display he had in the first morning practice as a vertical threat. I thought Jones looked better than any receiver on the North Squad.

I asked Jones, a former star running back in high school, about his transition to receiver and credited former teammate Syd’Quan Thompson for working with him. The Denver Broncos corner worked with Jones early and extensively after every practice on routes and releases. I think Jones tells a story with his routes better than any receiver in this class and he’s a high-effort guy who graduated six months early. He’ll also throw around his body as a run blocker. I think he’ll be in demand.

Other players, the Texans may consider will include Iowa’s Marvin McNutt. A physical player whose speed was a pleasant surprise at the Combine, McNutt is a former star quarterback who came to Iowa on scholarship as a passer. I think he can develop into a solid starter at the NFL level, but I don’t see tremendous upside for him. Compared to Jones, McNutt is more physical, less explosive, and not as good of a technician.

You’re all familiar with A&M’s Jeff Fuller. I just don’t think he’s a dynamic, multi-dimensional player worth the Texans’ investment. He’s big and strong, but he hasn’t proven he’s a down field threat and he struggled against physical coverage last year. His practices at the Senior Bowl were painful to watch because he struggled on the field and got hit with difficult questions off it.

A late-round guy I think might be a good match as a future Z, who could also thrive in the slot is LaVon Brazill from Ohio. He was a preseason All-American in 2010, but injuries derailed his season. He’s a 5’11” receiver with enough speed, skill after the catch, and special teams prowess. Brazill was Second Team All-MAC as a receiver and punt returner during his sophomore year. His skill at adjusting to the ball is fantastic.

Brazill played this year’s bowl game with a torn meniscus (the same injury that sidelined Anquan Boldin before the playoffs this year) and he had over 150 yards in the second half alone. His diving, fourth-down catch set up the game winner for Ohio. Scroll towards the bottom of this link and I have some YouTube clips of Brazill in action.”

Question 3. Rick Smith talked about always targeting corner in the draft. Makes sense in a pass happy league. If Jonathan Joseph is the best case scenario for a Wade Phillips-type corner, who might be some good Texans draft targets?

Matt: “Another Gamecock might be in the works here. South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore has good range, the requisite speed you want, and he’s capable of physical play. He’s probably a second round guy. If North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins drops due to his drug-related incidents and the Texans are satisfied that his behavior that got him kicked out of Florida is a thing of the past, he’s an option. Lightning-quick, Jenkins made his name in the SEC for keeping A.J. Green quieter than most.

UVA’s Chase Minnifield is a very strong zone corner and a smart player, but not a top-tier athlete. He’s not the bump and run monster that his dad was – and I was a Cleveland fan when he and Hanford Dixon comprised the best corner tandem in the NFL. But smart players with enough athleticism can have long, productive careers.

On the other end of the spectrum, UGA’s Brandon Boykin is physical at the line of scrimmage, fast, strong for his size, a great tackler, and excellent on special teams. He might need more time to become a starter than the others because he’ll have to learn to play beyond his height – think a more physical Brent Grimes of the Atlanta Falcons.”

Question 4. The Texans say that they are happy with their defensive tackles. Though the general rushing yard totals against the Texans defense are low, the efficiency models are a bit less kind. The top of the draft is supposed to be good for defensive tackle value. Any particular nose tackles seem to be good fits for Phillips 3-4 that can use many sized tackles but needs them to be able to move well, play smart?

Matt: “Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State would fit the bill here. He’s a versatile player along the line because a team could move him from NT to DE in run-stopping situations. He’s not extremely fast, but he’s a high-effort guy that plays with a lot natural power. Folks I trust say he can learn to play with better technique and maximize that strength. Unfortunately, I think he’s going to go way before the Texans could get their mitts on him.

Memphis’ Dontari Poe was a Combine darling, but he’s a lot more than that. For a man of 346 pounds to have his kind of burst is impressive. He’s a strong player capable of playing the nose but he has the potential versatility to play end. If Wade Phillips is seeking a player to mold into a stud, Poe is that guy. He moves extremely well and could help create double-teams that help J.J. Watt and Connor Barwin do their thing.

Penn State’s Devon Still could be around and the best aspect of his game is playing the run. However, he’s a tall guy who has difficulty keeping opponents from getting under his pads. He plays hard and has good size and strength, but he’s not maximizing these traits.”

Question 5. Rick Smith said the Texans are looking for pass rushers (without specifying particular position). This may be a bigger concern if Mario Williams leaves (likely). Who is the high motor, high energy Texans steal for this draft? Think JJ Watt, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin athleticism/burst/effort.

Matt: “Whitney Mercilus from Illinois has that great motor and is coming off a nice junior season. Dane Brugler of CBS/NFL Draft Scout calls him a “poor man’s Aldon Smith” who could thrive with a coordinator that will move Mercilus around the front to exploit matchups. He’s not a really strong player and he tends to overrun his gap responsibilities. Still, he’s physical enough to develop into a fine player against the run and he’s a good tackler. He led the FBS in fumbles forced last year with nine –second all-time in NCAA history.

Then there’s Jared Crick, who is that relentless pass rusher that lacks an explosive first step but uses his strength and technique to make plays. He’s the type of run defender you don’t worry about losing track of his assignment and he’s like trying to move a hunk of granite for an offensive line. He hand an injury-riddled 2011 that included a sprained knee and torn pectoral muscle. I think he’s the steal of the first round if seeking a 3-4 end at the bottom of the first round.”

more Q&A here: http://blog.chron.com/texanschick/

Thanks to Matt for taking time out of his very busy time of year to do this for us.
.....

Matt Waldman website here: The Rookie Scouting Portfolio - a seat in Matt Waldman's filmroom

More from TexansChick here: TexansChick - A Texans fan blog with Stephanie Stradley
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Old 03-06-2012   #2
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Enjoyed the read.
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Old 03-06-2012   #3
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Thanks for the link.

However, I need to point out that Waldman listed Gabbert and Tyrod Taylor as "star caliber" QB prospects (along with Newton and Mallett) last year.
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Old 03-06-2012   #4
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Good read.

I think whomever we draft at WR, he better damn well run precise routes and not have to be coddled for 3 years...if you know what I mean. He has to be reliable. He has to be consistent. He has to "get it" and that means that he has to have tested out fairly well at the NFL Combine in the area of smarts.

Floyd has the ability to be a Vincent Jackson-type talent, IMO. He's lanky but there's "substance" to his frame. There's a fluid nature to his movement that impresses me. Almost like a cross between Vincent Jackson and Kellen Winslow, Jr. Was the DUI his only offense, or did the Texans uncover more that isn't publicly known? We know that Rick and Co. don't like repeat offenders.

Wright, IMO, is going to be almost a Steve Smith-type receiver. Quick off the LOS, quick in his cuts, and once he gets the ball he can burn it. He won't get deep enough on CBs and Safeties who play him deep, though. Just my two cents.

Blackmon is going to go Top 5. Period. If Rams cannot trade out, I see them taking Blackmon to give Bradford something to throw at. Bradford will find comfort throwing to a fellow Big 12 talent, too. It will be a good combo, IMO.

Floyd, Wright, and Blackmon will be off the board before the #26 pick.
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Old 03-06-2012   #5
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Kendall Wright always reminded me of Steve Smith with his great football speed (quickness/agility) and insane hops.

If his 40 time drops him down to the Texans, we should consider ourselves lucky.
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Old 03-06-2012   #6
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Good questions, Steph.

I can see us trading up for Floyd if he has the ability to play Z now, and X in the future. This is the one year we have the luxury to reach for that. His ability to play X would also make him insurance for another Andre injury. You're addressing multiple needs with that pick, and the timing is right.
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Old 03-07-2012   #7
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Quote:
Originally Posted by Playoffs View Post
Matt: “Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State would fit the bill here. He’s a versatile player along the line because a team could move him from NT to DE in run-stopping situations. He’s not extremely fast, but he’s a high-effort guy that plays with a lot natural power. Folks I trust say he can learn to play with better technique and maximize that strength. Unfortunately, I think he’s going to go way before the Texans could get their mitts on him.
I question this statement in the article. Fletcher Cox had the fastest 40 and best 3 cone drill times amoungst all DT's. If Cox is available to us at #26 we should probably take him and get a WR in the 2nd like Marvin Jones.
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Old 03-07-2012   #8
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Excellent read. Thanks for posting.
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Old 03-08-2012   #9
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Not impressed with floyd. At nd, he caught alot of bubble screens and short routes. He's more possession wr than anything. He has strong hands and is a good route runner, but he comes down with 1 tackler despite being big and strong.

Randall is buster davis part 2. The longer the route,th sloppier it gets. He fights the ball coming in alot also.Not impressed with him at all.

Sanu, possession,effort guy.

I like jones, he's kinda slight from the waist down. He reminds me of breaston. he would be alot better as a 3 wr working the slot.
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Old 03-11-2012   #10
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Default Re: TexansChick -- draft Q&A with Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

As a long time ND I watch 80-90% of NDs games each year. With Claussen at QB Floyd caught a lot of deep passes. Once Claussen left NDs QB play has been down right crap, hence the shorter routes and screens. I think Floyd would be an excellent addition to our offense and could step into AJs role when he retires. Having said that, we'll have to trade up to get him.
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