Both Texas franchises have beneficial drafts
The Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys went into last weekend’s draft with some specific goals and needs and when the final player was taken, both teams seemed satisfied that they accomplished their respective missions.
The Texans lost several of their impact players to either free agency or to salary cap problems and wanted to use the 2012 NFL draft to replenish some of the key positions that suffered prior to the draft.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, even before the draft, began to rebuild a porous defense that was responsible for several losses in late-season games after enjoying double-digit leads going into the late stages of these games. They went after some of last season’s best collegiate defensive stalwarts.
Last month Dallas came to terms with cornerback Brandon Carr on a five-year, $50 million deal, along with safety Brodney Pool and linebacker Dan Connor.
There was plenty of wheeling and dealing during Thursday’s first round so teams could select players high on their wish lists.
Dallas made a deal by giving the St. Louis Rams its No. 14 picks and the Cowboys’ second round selection to move up eight spots to get LSU’s All-American defensive back Morris Claiborne, who is the shut-down cornerback they have so desperately needed.
Claiborne led the Bayou Bengals with six interceptions last season and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He was also LSU’s top kickoff returner, averaging 25 yards per return, including a 99-yard touchdown against West Virginia.
For the first time since 1982, Dallas used its first four picks on defensive players and ended up with five of the seven picks for the defensive side of the football, giving defensive coordinator Rob Ryan some immediate help.
“The great teams in this league play really good pass defense,” Head Coach Jason Garrett said after the draft last weekend. “And a lot of that comes from pass rush but also guys being really good at the back end. And we feel like adding a guy like Claiborne at one of those premium positions was the right thing for us to do.
“The receivers we have to cover are outstanding and the passing games we have to face are outstanding,’ Garrett added. “All the teams we face throw it well and you need really good cover guys.”
It was quite a different story for the Texans, whose No. 1 priority was to find a replacement for defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams, who signed the most lucrative contract for a defensive player in NFL history with the Buffalo Bills.
Houston had its eye on junior Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus and felt he would still be available after the first 25 draft picks had been chosen. The Texans were right and very thrilled to land their man with their No. 26 pick.
The 6-4, 261-pound Mercilus led the nation with 16 sacks and 11 forced fumbles last year in his only year as a starter for the Fighting Illini. “He certainly has the size and the burst you look for to get after the quarterback,” evaluated ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
The Texans traded their second and seventh-round picks to Tampa Bay for third and fourth-round selections, giving the Texans eight draft choices. Houston chose Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive guard Brandon Brooks in the third round.
They also picked offensive lineman Ben Jones of Georgia in the second round to help replace starting right tackle Eric Winston and right guard Mike Brisiel who signed with other teams during the winter.
Houston needed more production from Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter at the wide receiver slot after Andre Johnson missed 10 games last season with injuries and took Michigan State wide receiver Keyshawn Martin.
Place-kicker Neil Rackers signed last week with the Washington Redskins, leaving the Texans void at that position. So for the first time in franchise history Houston drafted a kicker– Texas A&M All-American Randy Bullock in the fifth round, who won the Lou Groza Award—a kicker’s Heisman Trophy.
Bullock scored a school-record 365 points over four seasons, with his 142 points last season breaking a single-season Aggies school record that stood for 84 years.
The Texans also reached contract agreements with 21 undrafted free agents, the most well-known being Houston Cougars’ record-setting quarterback Case Keenum.
“General Manager Rick Smith and the scouts did a tremendous job,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak evaluated after the draft ended. “I feel very good about our draft class. Not only did we add quality talent to our team, but we added players with passion.
Sunday’s Houston Chronicle graded each team’s draft with the Houston Texans earning a B-plus and the Dallas Cowboys getting B-minus. A’s were handed out sparingly to the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings while the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams received an A-minus.
The New Orleans Saints got an F after trading their first-round pick last year and forfeiting their second-round choice as part of the punishment for their alleged bounty fiasco.
KWICKIES…Beaumont native Jay Bruce is turning out to be a “Houston Astros Killer.” The former West Brook High School standout hit a home run in all three games of last weekend’s series at Cincinnati, with Sunday’s eighth-inning blast giving the Reds a 6-5 victory over the ‘Stroes in the rubber game of the series. Actually Bruce hit homers in his last four games going into Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubbies to bring his total for the young season to seven. He has also driven in 17 runs and sports a .296 batting average.
And while on the subject of baseball, the Lamar Cardinals took two-out-of three games last weekend against my alma mater McNeese State with a 6-0 white-washing of the Cowboys Sunday afternoon at Vincent-Beck Field in Beaumont. Junior Eric Harrington scattered five hits and never faced more than four batters in any of the nine innings he pitched. The Redbirds, who began Southland Conference play with a 1-8 record, are getting back into the post-season conference tournament picture and are tied with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for ninth place with a 10-14 mark in the SLC and 18-24 for the season. Lamar will travel to San Marcos this weekend for a three-game series against Texas State.
Attorney Matthew Matheny of the Provost-Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont filed a lawsuit against the NFL last week on behalf of 31 former players, accusing the league of concealing the links between concussions and permanent brain injury. Several former Dallas Cowboys are among those being represented including Chuck Howley, Ralph Neely, Charlie Waters, Walt Garrison and Orange native Jim Colvin.
An unofficial count of end-of-the-year transfers by college players to other schools is nearly 400, according to CBSSports.com. Nearly 40 per cent of students who play Division I men’s basketball transfer by their junior season, NCAA president Mark Emmert said recently. Athletes generally transfer to play closer to home, to get more playing time or because of a coaching change.
The NBA playoffs began last weekend and after eight game ones Saturday and Sunday, only the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers won on the road. First-round action continues this week and next in the best-four-out-of-seven series.
New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez passed Willie Mays for eighth place on the career RBI list when he drove in two runs Sunday without hitting the ball out of the infield, leaving him with 1,904 RBIs.
JUST BETWEEN US…Saturday is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby ands at this writing Monday there is no clear-cut favorite in the Run for the Roses before Wednesday’s post-position drawing. There are several great three-year-olds that are capable of winning, including Hansen, Union Rags, Dullahan, Creative Cause and Take Charge Indy just to name a few. I sort of like Bodemeister, who skipped most of the races for two-year-olds last year, and Gemologist. Don’t be surprised if a long-shot emerges from the pack to upset the favorites.