Houston Texans 2012 NFL Draft Review

Whitney Mercilus

The Texans concluded their 2011 season with the second ranked defense and the second ranked running game in the National Football League. The defense improved from 30th in yards allowed, to second. General Manager Rick Smith, Head Coach Gary Kubiak, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips are not resting on their laurels from last year. Rather they are turning up the heat by drafting outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and defensive end Jared Crick in the first and fourth rounds. Mercilus may play the weakside end in Phillips’ nickel sub package to rush the quarterback while he is learning the outside linebacker position. The Illinois alumnus led the FBS in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (9). Heading into last fall, Crick was a late first or second round pick, then he ran into a streak of injuries including a pectoral injury. Very productive over his career, he should work his way into the defensive end rotation. Smith didn’t neglect the offense, drafting wide receiver DeVier Posey, mammoth guard Brandon Brooks, center Ben Jones, and slot/return specialist Keshawn Martin. Whitney Mercilus has been lining up at outside linebacker with the second team during OTAs. The Texans are projecting the first round pick to be in a 3-player rotation with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Barwin had 11.5 sacks in 2011 and Reed had six. Mercilus is an active pass rusher and is also in the mix on special teams. He has shown a trifecta of power, quickness, and explosiveness in camp. DeVier Posey is a big receiver with vertical speed who will compete for the vacated third receiver position with Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin. In 2011 he only played in three games catching 12 passes. He has good speed and athletic ability, showing quick feet in and out of his breaks. He is a good sized receiver with good body control, is fluid, talented, and smooth in and out of his cuts. Over his career he averaged 14.4 yards per catch and caught 136 passes. Brandon Brooks will compete with Antoine Caldwell for the starting right guard position. Brooks is athletic, good bulk and is physical in the run game. With right tackle Eric Winston and guard Mike Brisel gone, Brooks has a chance to find a spot on the zone blocking front. Ben Jones will get every opportunity to be an interior swing player at both guard spots and center. A good fit for the Texans’ zone blocking scheme, he was four year starter in college who is an explosive knee bender with strong leg drive and the ability to roll his hips. Keshawn Martin will be first on deck to replace the recently released Jacoby Jones as the Texans’ feature punt returner and slot receiver. An outstanding athlete with explosive deep speed, he is elusive in the open field. He possesses soft hands to pluck and make the tough catches. He has a burst out of his break to create space and separate from coverages. Athletic after catch, he is talented and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Jared Crick projects to back up JJ Watt at left defensive end in the three-man front and then kick inside to help pressure the quarterback in passing situations. A reactive player with good instincts, he takes good angles downfield in pursuit. He finds the ball quickly and is always around the ball. Crick has the punch and extension to control the blocker with effective hand use. Randy Bullock fills the void of the departed Neil Rackers who set a team record with 135 points. Rackers signed with the Redskins. Bullock is a right-footed soccer style kicker who improved his accuracy in 2011 and won the Lou Groza award as the best kicker in college football. Nick Mondek was drafted as a developmental left tackle and most likely will be a practice squad participant. GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE.

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