Rick Barnes did what he does best yesterday; sign another big-time recruiting class. Barnes is often criticized for not being a great in-game coach, but he routinely brings in big-time talent, even from outside the state, like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tristan Thompson; this year is no different.
Overall the Longhorns freshman group ranks 4th on ESPN, 9th on MaxPreps, 6th on cbssports.com, and 7th on Scout. The Texas class has 3 players on CBS Sports Top 100 including one 5 star prospect. On Rivals, the Longhorns have two 4 star prospects and 3 players on their Top 150 list (29, 55, 110).
The jewel of the class is center Cameron Ridley from Fort Bend Bush High School in Richmond, Texas. The Longhorns lacked a legit big man last season but now have two of them with Ridley and fellow Longhorn commit Prince Ibeh from Garland, Texas. Both Ridley and Ibeh are 6-10 and should team together nicely as a duo along with returning perimeter players Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, and Sheldon McClellan. Rounding out the rest of the class are 3 star guard Javan Felix from New Orleans, 3 star guard DeMarcus Holland from Garland, 3 star power forward Connor Lammert, and 3 star small forward Ioannis Papapetrou from Florida.
Texas will have to rely on new starters this season; like they do every year. They lost seniors Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene, along with losing junior J'Covan Brown to the NBA draft and losing freshman guard Sterling Gibbs via transfer. They'll go into the 2012-2013 season with unknown talent, but this group has a lot of upside.
This off-season has certainly opened up new holes for the Texans to fill and some new need positions going into the draft. However, I firmly believe in taking the best player available over reaching for a need position. Reaching for a need position gets you Kareem Jackson, reaching gets you Travis Johnson; hopefully the Texans have learned from their mistakes. That being said, their biggest need positions are WR, CB, DT, OLB, ILB, and OG/OT; so hopefully the best players available play one of those positions.
Today marks two weeks to go until the 1st round starts on Thursday, April 26th; let's take a look at some of the options the Texans will have during rounds 1-3.
Kendall Wright (WR Baylor) - Once thought of as a lock for the top 15, his poor performance at the combine in February has caused his stock to drop. His critics also have labeled him a bit of a one-trick pony with the fly/go route. He made the ESPN highlights each week by running by guys at Baylor, but his route running on other routes was sloppy at the combine. If Wright does slip to 26, his overall talent and upside is definitely worth a look for the Texans.
Coby Fleener (TE Stanford) - I know, tight end wasn't a position I listed as a need, but if there isn't a WR available that can start right away; I'd highly consider Fleener. If there is a run on WR, I'd rather have the Texans take the top tight end over reaching for the 6th best WR. Plus, remember the Texans offense uses their tight ends more than most teams; their 2nd TE is on the field and targeted more than their 3rd WR. Fleener also has the ability to split out as a slot receiver like Aaron Hernandez does for the Patriots, which along with James Casey at fullback would create serious matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Mark Barron (SS Alabama) - If the cornerbacks available at 26 are a bit of a reach, I'd consider taking Barron and moving Glover Quin back to CB. Barron is a tough, physical tackler, and from all reports a very good leader. With Manning and Barron at safety, and Joseph/Quin at corner; the Texans would by far have the best secondary in team history.
Rueben Randle (WR LSU) - Randle didn't put up great numbers, (only 717 receiving yards during his first 2 seasons) but remember who his quarterbacks were; he would have been better off throwing it to himself. Even without big numbers, Randle's size and speed numbers make him an intriguing prospect, but he did step it up in his junior year with 917 yards and 8 touchdowns. Randle is a physical receiver who should make a good blocker (very important in the Texans scheme), and would give them a down-the-field threat to either compliment Andre Johnson or replace him if he gets hurt again this season.
Vinny Curry (DE/OLB Marshall) - Draws comparisons to the Texans 2nd round pick last season Brooks Reed. Curry plays the run well and has a non-stop motor when rushing the passer; seems to be a perfect fit in Wade Philips defense. The Texans already have their starters penciled in at OLB for this season with Reed and Connor Barwin, but as we've seen with season ending injuries to Mario Williams last season and Barwin in 2010; they need depth.
Jared Crick (DE Nebraska) - I know what you're thinking; they don't need a defensive end. However, Antonio Smith is their only defensive starter over 30 years old; they can use some younger depth at the position. Crick played DT at Nebraska but still recorded 9.5 sacks in both 2009 and 2010. He looks like almost a carbon copy of JJ Watt with his size, strength, and non-stop motor. He'd be a perfect fit as a 3-4 end and could even play some nose tackle; allowing them to take one of their lesser starters (Shaun Cody) off the field.
Mohamed Sanu (WR Rutgers) - Sanu lacks the top end speed to be a deep ball threat, but has everything else the Texans look for in a receiver. He has good size (6-1, 211 lbs), blocks well, has reliable hands, and put up big numbers during his junior season at Rutgers. Sanu posted 115 catches for 1,206 yards with 7 touchdowns last season. He's being knocked down the board due to concerns over speed, but I like him more than guys like Stephen Hill and Alshon Jeffrey who rank ahead of him on those draft boards.
Mychal Kendricks (ILB Cal) - Kendricks is one of the rare players who performed at a high level both on the field, and at the combine, and yet is still not projected to go in the 1st round. The knock on him is his height, but any team that passes on him because of that is either blind or stupid. Kendricks was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season and impressed at the combine in February with the best 40 time and vertical jump among all linebackers. He has great instincts for the ball (106 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss last season) and I think would replace DeMeco Ryans very well.
Zach Brown (OLB North Carolina) - An amazing athlete with a questionable motor; we've heard that before. If Wade Phillips can light a fire underneath him, he could be a steal in the 2nd round. The big knock on Brown is his tackling in the open field, but he has great potential as a pass rusher.
Josh Robinson (CB UCF) - Probably won't slip to #58, but if they don't address CB in the 1st round; I'd take him if he's available. Still a bit raw, but as a pure athlete, he's a rare prospect. Robinson posted the top 40 time, top broad jump, top 3-cone drill, and 3rd best vertical jump among cornerbacks at the NFL combine. He's not just a workout warrior though, during his 3 seasons at UCF he recorded 10 interceptions, 36 passes broken up, and was a two-time All Conference USA first team selection. Most had him as a 4th round pick before the combine, so he's shooting up the board; question is, how far.
Jayron Hosely (CB Virginia Tech) - Hosely dealt with injury problems last season that hurt his performance, but is just one season removed from leading the nation with 10 interceptions in 2010. According to scouts, he has good footwork and reaction skills, but lacks elite speed which can get him in trouble at times when he guesses wrong and tries to jump a route. Might be a bit of a reach here, would have better value in the 3rd round if he lasts that long.
Janoris Jenkins (CB North Alabama) - Classic case of talent vs. off-the-field problems. Jenkins, who originally went to Florida before being kicked off the team for multiple arrests, has top 15 talent, but there is a "Pacman" fear surrounding him. Jenkins was a 3-year starter at Florida and made 1st team All-SEC as a junior; held future 1st round WR's AJ Green and Julio Jones to an average of 38 yards per game in 2010. The Texans will have to do their homework on Jenkins, but if they believe that his issues were either overblown or in his past; I'd consider taking him.
**Note, Texans have the Eagles pick in the 3rd round. #13 in the round, #76 overall**
James Brown (OL Troy) - Played tackle at Troy but projects better at the NFL level at guard and worked out some at that position at the Senior Bowl. Scouts rave about his athleticism and upside but say he's still a bit raw and will need to work on his technique. Brown wouldn't start right away, but at the very least he provides depth (which the Texans could use). Long term, my hope would be for him to replace Caldwell at right guard.
Mitchell Schwartz (OL Cal) - Started 51 games at Cal and according to scouts was very impressive at the Senior Bowl. Schwartz also made the All Pac-12 first team last season. At the next level, he can play either tackle position. The Texans need depth badly on the O-line and Schwartz would probably spend the 2011 season as their swing tackle. Long-term, he could replace Butler at right tackle or perhaps provide insurance if the Texans aren't able to re-sign Duane Brown.
Disagree? Tell me about it!