(I recently had the chance to interview BattleRedBlog.com member Riott, who came recommended from the site's editor. The following information sets the framework moving forward. Many thanks to Riott for his keen insights.)
From the outside looking in, Houston has a rough time of it being in the AFC South. They face Manning and the Colts (and their powerhouse offense), the Titans (who looked unstoppable in '08), and the Jags (who always seem to be a threat). Since becoming a new team in the NFL, the Texans have yet to climb the ladder to glory.
But as many teams have shown, that can change in a flash. The draft and free agency can bring a team from zero to sixty in seconds. Sometimes a team only needs a key missing ingredient to change fortunes, and this could be the year for the Texans. Just ask Arizona how fast fortunes can change.
I took my questions to Riott, a BattleRedBlog.com member from the SBN family of sites. He had some terrific insight on what the Texans can do this offseason to make the next step up the ladder...
HT - What are the position needs for the Texans, and in what order? Also, what type of player do want at each position?
In the 2009 Draft, your Houston Texans are looking to take the next step, right into the post season. The Texans need, in my humble opinion, a monstrous run stuffing NT, a pass rushing LDE, a ball-hawking free safety, a true strong side LB (hopefully with some pass rush skills), and a big, healthy RB to help share the carries and assist in goal line situations, in that order.
HT - Do you see a need to trade up, stand pat, or trade down this year?
I really want us to trade down from where we are if we have the opportunity to do so. Right now, it looks like B.J. Raji, Rey Maualuga, , and will not be available at 15. If that is the case, the only player left that I would even consider taking would be , as Malcolm Jenkins could very well be the best free safety avaialble in this draft. Jenkins, if drafted by the Texans, would undoubtably make a move to FS - he has the size, speed, and ball skills, he just needs to learn the position.
Rick Smith, the GM of the Texans, has done so well with later round picks that I am hesistant to trade up. I would be willing to trade up for Raji, as he is that kind of impact player, but the others don't inspire me enough to want to make that kind of move.
HT - Who are your draft targets for '09?
I really would like the Texans to take a good hard look at Rey Maualuga. Right now, the Maualuga pick looks a little odd, as those who know the Texans know we have a top 5 MLB in
I also want the Texans to look for Sean Smith, the S/CB from Utah. At 6'3, 215 with a 4.5 40, he has amazing size to play safety and, playing corner in college, has corner like coverage skills and plays the ball well. Thats something we haven't seen here in Houston in quite some time.
Lastly, I want the Texans to look for Robert Ayers, DE from Tennessee. After watching the Senior Bowl, I can definately say that I want this guy in Battle Red. At 6-3, 276 he has the size to play LDE in our system and take the every down pounding, while having an amazing motor and a decent compliment of pass rush skills. Basically anything with a pulse would be an upgrade over Anthony "2 picks, one sack, in 3 years" Weaver.
HT - Are there any retirement issues that need to be filled this offseason?
That I know of, it does not look like we have anybody of importance retire this offseason.might, but he is a 38 year old DT and hasn't seen the field enough to warrant "important" status.
HT - What picks does HOU have this year?
We will only be able to pick up compensatory draft picks ifTE, leaves in the offseason. And no pick could compensate for that loss.
HT - Do you see your team going “best available” or “draft by need”?
Drafting by need, and drafting by best player available are one and the same, as long as that play plays defense. We could use an upgrade at both safety positions, corner, SLB, LDE, NT. Thats basically every level of defense. The only things we DON'T need on defense are RDE (the biggest bust in the history of the draft, Pro Bowlerhas that under control), and an under tackle ( we have 3 UTs on the team, and drafted 2 of them in the first round).
HT - How do you feel HOU has done over the last two or three drafts, and do you see a change in approach this year?
In the past 2 or 3 drafts, the Texans have done amazing. In the 2006 draft, the Texans netted Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Eric Winston, Owen Daniels, and . The first four are starters and doing awesome, and Anderson is a #4 receiver who has seen the field alot.
In 2007, the Texans traded their 2007 and 2008 2nd round draft picks for , who in 2008 threw for 3,043 yards and 15 TDs with 10 ints. Not a bad trade to replace . In 2007 we also selected (starter), Jacoby Jones (returning punts - but I hope not for long), Fred Bennett ( the corner who played absolutly lights out his rookie year, regressed a little bit in his sophmore slump, and was benched in favor of Petey Faggins by a now unemployeed DC RIchard Smith. Clown.) Anyways, they also selected Zac Diles, who, up until he broke his own leg in a non-contact drill, looked to be our starting SLB and doing pretty well.
Lastly, in 2008, the Texans traded down to select Duane Brown, our current starting LT, Antwaun Molden, a lights out special teamer who we haven't even seen play due to now defunct DC , , our current starting running back, our all time leading rusher, and who has more yards and touchdowns his rookie year than Reggie Bush had in 2007 and 2008 combined. We also selected Xavier Adibi, who is definitely in the LB rotation and looking to replace incumbent Morlon Greenwood. In the fifth round, we selected Frank Okam, who, as the only NT we have on the roster, needs to step up in 2009. Lastly, we selected in the 6th who has played very well on special teams, and who holds a special place in my heart after saying his dream was to force a fumble on his brother, Marion Barber III, in the and take it back for a score. I would say the Texans have done very well in the recent drafts.
Again, many thanks to BattleRedBlog.com and to Riott in particular.
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