The 2012 NFL Draft is in the rear view mirror, but for burgeoning clubs like the Houston Texans, the expectations for the newest group of first-year players might play a pivotal role in the up-coming season.
Here is a look at the Texans' selections, and the how well GM Rick Smith did on draft day.
First Round selection, No. 26 overall: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois 6'3" 261 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 86.0
Mercilus is already drawing criticism about his game being a possible one-year wonder after he led the NCAA in sacks and forced fumbles last season in his first year as a starter. However, some see Mercilus's progress as just the start of perhaps break-out career, as he is expected to immediately contribute to the pass rush of last season's No. 2 ranked defense. Mercilus was probably the best overall player on the board and the Texans should feel fortunate to have had him available at No. 26.
Third Round selection, No. 68 overall: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio St. 6'1" 211 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 71.50
Some Houston-area media professionals have questioned the selection of Posey, but they may be overlooking his tremendous work ethic. Posey, who has breakout speed and dependable hands, was one of Ohio State's most consistent receivers. He drew criticism for missing most of last season due to misconduct, which was a big reason he slipped from a potential first-round pick to the third round. Posey has matured since then, and bis things might be in store for the talented wide out. Posey may be the most under-rated receiver in the draft, and this pick could turn out to be a major steal for Houston. Smith can point to Posey's impressive sophomore season, where he recorded 60 receptions for 828 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games.
Third Round selection, No. 76 overall: Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH) 6'5" 343 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 82.50
The Texans really needed to address the offensive line, and did it in a big way. It's rather surprising that Brooks feel from an expected second-round pick to an early pick in the third round. Brooks is expected to make an immediate impact, and perhaps find his way into the starting lineup. Though the Texans usually keep their linemen under 300 pounds and athletic, Brooks's impact should not be underestimated. The selection of the mobile and massive Brooks was a wise selection because not only does he fill a need for Houston, but he was probably the most talented player available.
Fourth Round selection, No. 99 overall: Ben Jones, C, Georgia 6'2" 303; Expert Scout grade: 78.20
The Texans needed to add depth at center, and appear to have accomplished it with the selection of Jones. Lineman get their share of credit in the Houston zone scheme, and Jones could be turn out to be a solid pick, with his great technical skills. Jones knows how to move well, is good with his hands, and should be a fine fit in the Texans blocking scheme. Working under Chris Myers should strengthen Jones's development. He was one of the best players available at the selection, and the Texans were able to address a weak spot.
Fourth Round selection, No. 121 overall: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan St., 5'11" 192 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 76.0
The Texans needed to bolster their depth at wide receiver, and Martin might be an excellent selection if he develops. With Houston cutting ties with Jacoby Jones, Martin's great return abilities and breakout speed become a valuable asset. He is considered an average and rather raw pass catcher, but is capable of turning short grabs into big gains. Martin is expected to be the fourth-option receiver behind Posey, but ahead of Lestar Jean. Martin will make an immediate impact in the return game, and should soon develop into a pass catcher as he is hungry to learn behind the best wide receiver in the league. This is a good selection considering Martin's up side, as well as Houston's lack of receiving depth.
Fourth Round selection, No. 126 overall: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska, 6'4" 279 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 83.70
Many experts love the Jared Crick pick, as he was a highly rated run stuffer at Nebraska. However, Crick received high marks for his long-term potential, and not his immediate impact, and there have to be questions about how such a talent player slipped so far in the draft. Crick's senior season ended early due to a torn pectoral. The key for Crick is that he cannot be rushed because he is a great talent and can be a monster up front along side J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith, should he find playing time at nose tackle. While Crick has a high ceiling, there might have been better options, such as Josh Chapman of Alabama, and Kheeston Randle of Texas.
Fifth Round selection, No. 161 overall: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M, 5'9" 205 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 46.0
After losing free agent kicker Neil Rackers to the Redskins, the Texans needed a replacement and landed the best in college football last season. It is often hard for a rookie kicker to make a meaningful impact, but Bullock is needed on a team that may sorely miss Rackers.
Sixth Round selection, No. 195 overall: Nick Mondek, OT, Purdue, 6'6" 304 lbs; Expert Scout grade: 45.0
Smith appears to have blow this selection. Not only was Mondek not viewed as the best player available, he was also seen as one of the worst available linemen on the board. Of the following eight picks, four were linemen, and all were rated higher than Mondek. Viewed mainly as a prospect with a chance to impress in training camp, Mondek will be competing to just make a spot on the roster and most likely will be on the practice squad. Boise State's Billy Winn, who was more coveted, went 10 picks later. Though Houston was aware they needed to bolster the offensive line, they must know something many others don't by picking Mondek.
Of the Texans' 21 undrafted free agents, quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Dwight Jones are the most notable. Jones stands at 6'4", and 225 pounds, and has a good chance of making the active roster over Jeff Mahel and possibly Lestar Jean. Jones was T.J. Yates favorite target while at North Carolina, and could make strides at the position under the tutelage of Andre Johnson.