The NFL world gathers in Indianapolis this weekend and early next week to watch the top draft prospects run and go through a few drills. Things like the 40 yard dash matter, but I've always felt that you learn more about a player when watching their games. That being said, there are things I want to see out of potential prospects that the Texans may consider. I want to see the vertical jump and 40 yard dash from receivers. I want to see the big lineman run the shuttle to see if they're athletic enough to change direction quickly; a must in the Texans zone scheme. I want to see the linebackers in both the 40 yard dash and three cone drills to see how athletic they are compared to other prospects. Here are the top prospects I think the Texans should be focusing on this weekend as potential picks in the first three rounds.
Kevin Minter (ILB LSU - Projected 1st Round)
As of now, he's my top choice for the Texans with their 1st round pick. Even before Cushing went down, they needed to add another inside linebacker, but that need became glaring after watching Rudd and James as starters. Scouts don't think he's great in coverage, but he should excel against the run.
From NFL.com, "He might only have one full season in the starting lineup, but Minter was easily the most consistent defender on a very talented LSU defense during the 2012 season. The junior fills lanes with force and takes great angles to work through trash while finishing tackles authoritatively. Some evaluators may have a concern with his lateral speed since Minter seemed to reach running backs with just enough time to spare, not to mention his tendency to lose ground when forced to open his hips and drop in coverage. Minter's toughness against the run, specifically between the tackles, and reliable angles will likely land him in the top 64 picks."
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR Tennessee-Projected 1st Round)
He's an athletic freak, but only played one year of big time football after playing his first two seasons at a community college. Patterson posted nearly 1,000 combined receiving/rushing yards and 8 touchdowns last season and very much looks the part of a number one receiver.
He's raw and could take a few years to develop, but he's worth a first round pick if he's available at number 27. He needs to run crisp routes this weekend and prove he's more than just an athlete.
From NFL.com, "He may be considered raw with his ability to handle physical coverage, but Patterson is one of the more naturally talented pass catchers to come along in the last few years. He only has one year of tape against FBS level of competition, but from the first game Patterson showed his versatility by making plays from a variety of alignments. If the Vol can start using his hands to release off the line and tighten up some technique issues, he should be one of this class' top playmakers. He should be a first-round selection and could be the first receiver off the board."
Robert Woods (WR USC-Projected 2nd Round)
His best season was his sophomore year, but I'm not worried about the appearance of a drop off. As good as Wood is, every receiver is going to see fewer targets when lined up next to Marquise Lee who could be a top 10 pick next season. Woods has the size to fit the Texans system and his history of production suggests he could be a number one type receiver at some point.
From NFL.com, "The Trojans receiver racked up big numbers throughout his career with quarterback Matt Barkley due to his foot quickness and burst after the catch, though the right ankle that bothered him at multiple parts of his career must continue to stay healthy. Woods needs to catch the ball more consistently downfield if he wants to be a top receiver for a team in the NFL, but right now the junior thrives on short to intermediate patterns."
Dallas Thomas (OT Tennessee-Projected 2nd Round)
From Rob Rang of CBS Sports: Naturally large man with even weight distribution and the long arms to make the transition back outside to offensive tackle. This isn't the typical rotund blocker who is simply too un-athletic to compete on the outside. Thomas is an impressive athlete who plays with very good initial quickness as well as top flexibility and balance.
Thomas plays with excellent knee bend, giving him the base to handle powerful bull rushers, as well as the spring to easily move left and right to remain square to quicker pass rushers. Thomas has an explosive punch that he uses often to knock defenders back in the running game. He steps up quickly to seal off the reeling defender and erase him from the play.
Thomas exhibits good effort to get to the second level. He proved his mental toughness and team-first approach by agreeing to the position change as a senior. Is physically tough, as well, having started the final 37 consecutive games of his career.
Sean Porter (OLB TAMU-Projected 2/3 Round)
I like Porter as a replacement for Connor Barwin, assuming he leaves in free-agency. The Texans will still have Reed and Mercilus under contract, but you need at least three pass rushers to rotate, and it could also give the Texans the flexibility to experiment with Reed in the middle.
Porter showed good pass rushing ability in 2011 after Von Miller left when he posted 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, but his role changed for his senior season in 2012. His sacks numbers dropped in 2012, but scouts like what they saw with his ability in pass coverage. He's not Miller, don't get confused, but he's an athletic OLB who can rush the passer and cover tight ends. He needs to test well in the 40 yard dash and change of direction drills to prove he's athletic enough to be a full-time edge rusher. Having a guy on the outside that's not just a one trick pony could help in disguising the defensive looks and mixing up the coverage and pass rush.
Justin Pugh (OG Syracuse-Projected 3rd Round)
From Rob Rang of CBS Sports. Played tackle at Syracuse, but concerns over weight and arm length could make him better suited to play guard at the pro level.
Experienced player who started every game he played over three seasons. Effortless mover for a 290-pound tackle with good body control and coordination to take on blocks and mirror rushers in space. Good combination of speed and athleticism enables him to reach the second level as fast as any offensive lineman in this class. High ceiling.
Marquise Goodwin (WR Texas-Projected 3rd Round)
He's probably not big enough to play on the outside for the Texans, but he was a pretty good blocker at Texas. If you look only at his stats, you'll probably project him as a 6th round or lower type prospect. However, remember who his quarterbacks were for three of his four years with Texas. He's got Olympic level athleticism and should wow the scouts this weekend. Everyone knows he's athletically gifted, but he needs to catch everything and run crisp routes to convince coaches to overlook his small size. He's likely not an every down player, but could turn into a great slot receiver and kick returner. Depending on which positions they address in the first two rounds, I'd love to see the Texans select him in the 3rd or 4th round.
This Day In Sports History
The U.S. men’s hockey team pulls off one of the biggest upsets in sports history with a 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics in New York. Two days later, the Americans went on to beat Finland and take home the gold medal.
Going into the game, the Soviet team, which consisted of experienced athletes, was considered the best in the world, even better than any teams in the National Hockey League. By contrast, the American squad was mostly made up of college players. In an exhibition match shortly before the Olympics, the Soviets, who had dominated Olympic hockey since 1964, crushed the Americans, 10-3.