Draft Grades  

 

Transitioning Texans try to close gap by focusing on defense


NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks is handing out grades for each team following the 2011 NFL Draft. Check back daily as he breaks down each team, division by division.

Texans' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
11
DE
Wisconsin
2
42
DE
Arizona
2
60
DB
Miami (Fla.)
4
127
DB
Virginia Tech
5
144
DB
Idaho
5
152
QB
North Carolina
7
214
OL
Arkansas State
7
254
DL
Rice
» Texans' pick-by-pick analysis

Houston Texans: B

The Texans were a solid defense away from making the playoffs, so it was imperative that they took advantage of the draft to upgrade the unit. The team added a high-motor defender in J.J. Watt and got another energetic pass rusher with the selection of Brooks Reed. The team added much-needed secondary help with the addition of Brandon Harris, Rashad Carmichael and Shiloh Keo. Coach Gary Kubiak might have identified a developmental quarterback in T.J. Yates with upside. With the defense seemingly shored up with the influx of young, athletic talent, the Texans have the pieces to make a surge in the AFC South.

Key picks:

Round 1 (11th overall): J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt is an ideal five-technique with the strength and power to dominate offensive tackles at the point of attack. He not only improves Houston's rush defense but gives them another pass rusher.

Round 2 (42nd overall): Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
Reed is a high-motor rusher with strength, power and quickness. He could develop into an ideal complement to Mario Williams in their new "30" scheme as a hybrid rush linebacker.

Round 2 (60th overall): Brandon Harris, DB, Miami (Fla.)
Harris gives them an instinctive cover corner with ball skills. He has experience playing nickel corner and should quickly work his way onto the field as a versatile contributor.

Colts' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
22
OL
Boston College
2
49
OL
Villanova
3
87
DL
LSU
4
119
RB
Syracuse
6
188
DB
Michigan State
» Colts' pick-by-pick analysis

Indianapolis Colts: B

Bill Polian addressed the Colts' offensive line woes with their first two selections. Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana provide strength, toughness and power to the frontline, and they should help the Colts find their punch in the running game. Fourth-round selection Delone Carter also adds some juice to the ground attack. The Colts needed to become tougher on the offensive side of the ball to retain their grip on the AFC South, and their solid draft could keep them at the top of the division for the next few years.

Key picks:

Round 1 (22nd overall): Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College
The Boston College star enters the league with a ton of experience and is one of the most technically sound prospects at the position. He gives the Colts a potential starter at left or right tackle along with some flexibility in configuring a rebuilt offensive line.

Round 2 (49th overall): Ben Ijalana, OL, Villanova
Though he is a bit of a developmental prospect, Ijalana has outstanding physical tools and upside as a potential right tackle. He will team with Castonzo to give the team a pair of young bookends to protect Peyton Manning for a long time to come.

Round 4 (119th overall): Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
Carter gives them a rugged runner with strength and power to pick up tough yards between the tackles. With the Colts' running game a major disappointment over the past few years, Carter could become the workhorse the unit needs.

Jaguars' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
10
QB
Missouri
3
76
OL
Lehigh
4
114
WR
Mount Union
4
121
DB
Wyoming
5
147
DB
Middle Tenn. State
» Jaguars' pick-by-pick analysis

Jacksonville Jaguars: B

Gene Smith has quietly rebuilt the Jaguars into a playoff contender by using the draft as the primary vehicle for talent acquisition. He aggressively moved up to nab his quarterback of the future in Blaine Gabbert. While the team already has an established starter in place, the decision to get a young quarterback is sensible. Smith added more weapons to the offense with the selections of William Rackley and Cecil Shorts. Both should be immediate contributors, and their instant production could push the Jaguars' class over the top. In the end, this draft will be judged by Gabbert's success, so it might take time to truly evaluate Smith's draft.

Key picks:

Round 1 (10th overall): Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert gives the team a quarterback to groom behind David Garrard, and the slow development plan could pay significant dividends. Gabbert's physical tools and potential are off the charts, and the ability to sit behind a veteran will allow the team to avoid pressure to put him on the field immediately.

Round 3 (76th overall): William Rackley, OL, Lehigh
While Rackley dominated the small-school competition as an offensive tackle, he should make a smooth transition inside in Jacksonville. He has a chance to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber guard in the Jaguars' system.

Round 4 (114th overall): Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union
Shorts is a polished route runner with outstanding hands and big-play ability. If he transitions quickly to the pro game, he could become a pivotal part of their passing game.

Titans' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
8
QB
Washington
2
39
LB
UCLA
3
77
DL
USC
4
109
LB
Miami (Fla.)
4
130
RB
Clemson
5
142
DL
Iowa
6
175
OT
Louisville
7
212
DT
Auburn
7
251
DB
California (Pa.)
» Titans' pick-by-pick analysis

Tennessee Titans: C+

The Titans shook up the draft with their decision to grab Jake Locker over Blaine Gabbert at the eighth pick. Although the "fit" within the scheme likely drove the decision, Locker's production in comparison to Gabbert and others will go a long way toward determining the Titans' final grade. Akeem Ayers and Jurrell Casey are solid players with the potential to emerge as Week 1 starters. Colin McCarthy and Jamie Harper were interesting picks in the middle stages of the draft, and they could pay dividends for the Titans down the road. Regardless of their success, it will Locker who defines this draft.

Key picks:

Round 1 (eighth overall): Jake Locker, QB, Washington
As one of the top athletes in the draft, Locker gives the Titans a dual threat with the ability to make plays on the perimeter. While his accuracy problems raised some red flags, his leadership, work ethic and intangibles outweighed any concerns.

Round 2 (39th overall): Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
Ayers is an energetic edge rusher with first-step quickness and burst. He has the potential to blossom into a disruptive player in the Titans' new defensive scheme under Jerry Gray.

Round 3 (77th overall): Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Casey is a high-motor defender with the combination of quickness, strength and power to be a factor in the middle. He adds depth and talent to the defensive-tackle rotation.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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