Representing the Houston Texans, RhodyChief with the 26th pick in Arrowhead Pride's 2012 NFL mock draft...
To say the Houston Texans have had an interesting offseason is an understatement. For a team that hasn't signed one player in free agency they've made plenty of noise with their own. While they did resign RB Arian Foster (an absolute no-brainer) and C Chris Myers (one of the anchors of their offensive line) they also lost some key components of their teams, many of them starters.
The biggest loss name-wise for the Texans was Mario Williams, the former #1 overall pick in 2006. Everyone knew the Texans wouldn't be resigning Williams due to the ridiculous contract he was going to get (have fun in Buffalo!) and the team still played very well on defense when he went down for the year after tearing his pectoral muscle. Regardless of whether Williams wouldn't be as good as a 3-4 OLB then a 4-3 DE is debatable, but it's still stands that the Texans aren't a better team without him.
While Chris Myers was retained two of the Texans starting offensive linemen were not. RG Mike Brisiel was signed away by the Oakland Raiders to help strengthen their young line. The bigger move was the surprise release of RT Eric Winston for salary cap reasons. We all know the story so let's leave it at this: Eric Winston is now a Chief and Kansas City fans couldn't be happier. Along with not resigning CB Jason Allen and the releases of FB Lawrence Vickers and backup QB Matt Leinart the Texans made another surprising move last week by trading starting MLB and team-leader DeMeco Ryans for a 4th round pick. While this also falls into the conversation of "he wasn't the right player for a 3-4 defense" many of his teammates have taken to Twitter to express their disappointment and mention how much they'll miss his presence on the team.
For a team that might have made it to the Super Bowl if Matt Schaub hadn't been injured it's a lot of talent to lose. While they do have some players who can step into a starting role there are a number of positions where the Texans could use an impact playmaker and boy do I have the one for them:
With the 26th pick in the NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech.
Wide receiver wasn't a position that was affected by free agency for the Texans but it's one that is in serious need of a true #2. We all know that Andre Johnson is a Top 3 WR (along with Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, the only true "elite" receivers in my opinion) but the biggest problem the Texans have had is finding someone to take pressure off of him on the other side. Johnson will be entering his 10th season and only played in seven games last year, so getting him so help is paramount to the passing game being successful. Let's look at the current incumbents for the Texans:
-Kevin Walter: Walter had two great seasons in 2007 and 2008 but since then his production has dropped off. His last three seasons he's had reception numbers of 53, 51 and 39 and hasn't put up more than 621 yards during this stretch. He'll be entering his 10th season this year and one has to wonder what his role will be this year. While Walter can still be a solid possession receiver I don't believe he's someone that puts fear in opposing DBs minds.
-Jacoby Jones: It's time to stop beating the "This will be the year Jacoby Jones becomes a great WR" drum that seems to happen every season. After five years in the NFL I think it's time for people to look at Jones at what he really is: A good punt returner who has the occasional ability to make a big play as a wideout. Jones best season was in 2010 when he put up 51 catches for 562 yards and 3 TDs but was lackluster this past year (31 rec, 512 yds, 2 TD), especially when Houston needed him to step up when Andre Johnson was out. Another knock on Jones is his case of the drops he seems to get in big spots, none bigger then when he dropped a potential touchdown in their divisional round game against the Ravens.
-Owen Daniels: The consensus 2nd best receiver for the Texans, Daniels is a very good pass-catching TE when he can stay healthy. He put up his best numbers in three years in receptions and yards this past season (54, 677) and helped carried the load when Johnson went down. While he did play in 15 games this year he hasn't played a full season in three, with only 8 games in 2009 and 11 in 2010. Keeping Daniels healthy will be a key for the offense as they lost their #2 TE Joel Dreessen to the Denver Manni... er, Broncos. Dreessen was the epitome of a TD thief, making 64 catches in the last two seasons with ten of them going for scores. The Texans will need Daniels to return to that top-tier status of tight-end that he was in 2007 and 2008 and showed signs of doing again last year. A true burner lined up on the end would provide more single coverage and more opportunities for Daniels to be productive.
Which brings me to Hill. He shot up the draft board after his blazingly fast combine time of 4.36 in the 40-yard dash, which surprisingly did not cause Al Davis to rise from the dead. He's become one of the most researched players coming out of it due to Georgia Tech running the option offense where it's hard to truly judge how good a WR was based on his numbers. Hill had 49 catches, 1248 yards and 9 touchdowns in three seasons for the Yellow Jackets and if you didn't know the offense they ran you'd say those were pretty lackluster. While Hill's numbers aren't as high as former Tech teammate and Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas were in college it doesn't mean that he can't be as good or better than Thomas in the NFL.
Is there some risk drafting Hill in the first round? Absolutely. We all know the stories of "The Combine Warrior" a player who blows people away with his speed, jumping ability or strength and ends up falling flat on their face when they make it to the big leagues (Paging Dontari Poe to the podium, please. Mr. Poe, you're needed at the podium.). This is even more important when a wide receiver played in a run-heavy offense. The receptions aren't there now but are we sure they will be when he transitions to the pros?
To me the answer is yes. Even with only 28 catches in his final year Hill still had 820 yards and a ridiculous 29.3 YPC average. He's got great size (6'4", 215 lbs.) to go along with his speed and would be the tallest receiver on the Texans, giving them another big target to run downfield. That combination would be deadly for a team that hasn't had a true down-field threat to team with Andre Johnson. Doing so could open some one-on-one coverages for him, which would be truly deadly for their opponents.
Another player that this would benefit greatly? Matt Schaub. Schaub can be a very productive quarterback when healthy (notice a trend here?) and has thrown for over 4,000 yards in the two seasons where he started every game. While I don't believe he's in the upper echelon of QBs in the NFL I believe he's not far behind. He's lacking that true #2 receiver that most teams need in order to be a contender. Victor Cruz became that for the Giants this season and helped them win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs hope Jonathan Baldwin can develop opposite Dwayne Bowe and become that player. I believe Stephen Hill is that game-changer the Texans desperately need and will help make them a serious threat to make it to the promised land this season.
Previously (with approval results)...
9. Carolina Panthers - South Carolina LB/DE Melvin Ingram (Forgot to do a poll)
26. Houston Texans -- Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill