AFC South: Ryan Smith
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Recent history.
The best move the Texans made in the past three seasons was trading a second-round pick in 2007 and 2008 to Atlanta for Matt Schaub, a quarterback who’s the key to their offense and team. With so many teams in need of a quality starter, that trade seems like a steal now. They’ve taken four defensive backs with the 10 picks they’ve made in the fifth round or later, and out of Brandon Harrison, Dominique Barber, Brice McCain and Troy Nolan they’ve not found a guy who has been able to contribute consistently. It’s time to spend a big pick on a free safety or corner who has great ball skills.
Skill positions get attention early, with receiver Anthony Gonzalez and running back Donald Brown grabbed with the two first-rounders in the past three years. The hits in the third round and later have become significant players: Clint Session, Pierre Garcon, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie, Pat McAfee. Trouble spot? Look to the five offensive linemen who haven’t really panned out. That’s understandable with Steve Justice (sixth in 2008), Jamey Richard (seventh in 2008) and Jaimie Thomas (seventh in 2009), but Tony Ugoh (second in 2007) and Mike Pollak (second in 2008) have left the team with holes and problems that need to be addressed in April. Out of five picks there has to be at least one starter, probably two.
Two first-round picks out of Florida have not met expectations, but the Jaguars still hope safety Reggie Nelson and defensive end Derrick Harvey can become consistent players. Of 25 picks, only one is established as a playmaker on offense, Mike Sims-Walker (third-rounder in 2007). That’s a big part of the reason the team’s not especially potent on offense beyond Maurice Jones-Drew. The top four from the 2009 draft got significant starting experience as rookies, and the 2010 class will have similar opportunities. While Harvey can be steady, he’s not an explosive pass-rusher, and Quentin Groves has struggled. Even with Aaron Kampman signed, they still need another pass-rusher.
The Titans have fared nicely with pass-rushers from lesser-known schools -- William Hayes of Winston-Salem State is on the brink of big things and Jacob Ford of Central Arkansas is a skilled rusher. Contributions from second-rounders have been minimal -- Chris Henry is already gone, Jason Jones hasn’t stayed healthy or consistent and Sen'Derrick Marks had no impact as a rookie. After hitting a home run with seventh-rounder Cortland Finnegan in 2006, late-round corners Ryan Smith, Cary Williams and, so far, Jason McCourty, haven’t panned out. A quality corner is a need early in this draft.
You ask, I answer. I'd like to make mailbags a regular Saturday feature during the offseason, but can only do so if I get a steady flow of entries in the mailbag. Especially good questions, of course, often result in a blog entry all their own.
And away we go...
Kevin from Portland writes: Paul- In my haste to write you after the Bush signing, I failed to recognize that Marinelli had signed on to coach for the Bears. Is there any other candidates who would be a good for this posistion for the Texans? Also, there is talk of hiring Alex Gibbs' son as our devensive backs coach. What knowledge do you have of his performance as a coach in the past?
Paul Kuharsky: The son, David Gibbs, could be great. I've heard good things from some people who know him. But I do think there is a great, big football world out there beyond one's staff, people tied to the place one used to work and relatives of people on one's staff. I touched on a lot of that in this column.
Colby in Augusta writes: Hey Paul, Love the blog this year, good stuff. My question revolves around the growing concern about the upcoming "uncapped" year in 2010. Are the owners going to be able to agree on a new CBA before 2010, and if not, can we expect them to try to make sure that 2010 is the only uncapped year and reach a new agreement after 2010?? And how exactly does this effect the smaller market teams (ie. Titans), will they still be able to put forth the money necessary to sign who they need?
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate the kind words.
The uncapped year is a poison pill intended to make the sides reach a new agreement before it comes into play. The prevailing opinion is that if it ever gets to an uncapped year, the players will never sign on to a return to a cap. That's not good for anybody, but certainly not for small-market teams like the Titans.
I don't expect the league or the union will let it get to that point.
Jeff in Jacksonville writes: Paul I was talking to a friend of mine about Jacksonville's Huge Drop off from 07 and we starting talking about what teams next year have the possibility of being the Jags 08. Our two teams where the Bucs (Old Defense, Lost of DC, Firing of HC/GM), and Baltimore (Old Defense,Possible Lost of DC). Do you think our choices are legitimate, and if no what other teams do you see going from a Playoff team in 08 to having a losing season in 09, It happens every year so who are your candidates.
Paul Kuharsky: I think you make two good choices, though if Joe Flacco makes a nice second-year jump that could set the Ravens up for good things on offense if they draft well.
I don't assume a new coach and GM will be a bad thing in Tampa.
Two more I see as possibilities -- the Vikings could easily be a third-place team in my eyes. I just don't love anyone in that division. The Peppers stuff with the Panthers could be divisive and Delhomme's future is iffy.