Hindsight: St. Louis Rams Offseason Grade

I had started doing the NFC West piece in traditional fashion, with the intention of doing all four teams at once. However my writeup on the Rams was so long (as long as some of the entire other divisions combined) and contained so many controversial topics, that I felt their offseason analysis deserved it’s own article.

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Hindsight: AFC West Offseason Grades

I hope all our followers had a nice Memorial day weekend. We’ve been enduring the post-draft hangover, where the most interesting news is typically that a draft pick has signed. However, OTA’s have just begun for most teams, so we will start to see those rumors about how much teams love their draft picks. At this point, many guys will get talked up, but coaches will sound optimistic if they see any potential at all. Generally the rumors that are most accurate will come around training camp, so take what you hear now with a grain of salt.

We are now halfway through this “Hindisght” series, and next up is the AFC West. What was once one of the least competitive divisions in the league now has three teams legitimately contending for playoff spots. After the jump, let’s see how their offseasons tilted the balance.

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Saints Add Defense: Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ronald Powell

In the Drew Brees / Sean Payton era, the New Orleans Saints have been one of the best teams in the league, winning at least 11 games in four of the past five seasons. That other season, of course, was the year Payton was suspended as punishment for “Bountygate”, where the Saints had two different coaches as his temporary replacement, and the fallout essentially led to a lost season. During that 2012 season, the Saints defense was in shambles and, by most metrics, graded as the worst in the NFL. Skip ahead to 2013: Rob Ryan has taken over as defensive coordinator from Steve Spagnuolo, and the Saints now feature a top-notch defense. In this year’s draft the Saints used four of their six picks on defense, specifically targeting players who fit Ryan’s scheme. I’ll discuss two guys I liked that they picked up on days two and three, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ronald Powell.

 

ROUND 2, PICK 58

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a natural fit in New Orleans just based on his name. Okay, having covered that, we can move on to Ronald Powell… no? You want to hear more? OK.  SJB is a cornerback who fits the new bigger-is-better mold whisked in by the Seattle Seahawks’ championship defense. He stands 6’3″ and plays a physical press technique which Rob Ryan loves to utilize on the outside. For this column, I watched all five of SJB’s tapes available on Draft Breakdown. I saw a number of plays where he played well and some areas where he needs to improve. I’ve left out all running plays because there’s not much to say about them: His play against the run is adequate, with no standout plays or glaring holes.

Let’s start with an area of concern for Jean-Baptiste: his deficiency in running with receivers when he isn’t able to get his hands on them. (Now, as I stated, the Saints are not likely to use him in off-coverage like this, so it may not be a big deal.) In his game against Southern Missouri, SJB plays a ton of off-man coverage. So you see plays like this, where he bites hard on a double move. The receiver drops a perfectly placed ball there, but more to the point, this is not what we want to see out of our cornerback play. In this specific instance, perhaps he was fooled because earlier in the game he jumped a similar route and intercepted it for a touchdown. And on this play, we see SJB simply get burned deep on a slight-hesitation-turned-‘go’ route by second-round pick Allen Robinson. Against the Julio Joneses of the world, this is a touchdown.

Now, by no means does SJB consistently fail in off-man coverage. Again against Allen Robinson, this time in overtime, he mirrors him step for step— admittedly, on a play where Robinson doesn’t get out of his break properly. On another play, while facing one of the craftiest route runners in the nation in Jeremy Gallon, SJB is able to run with him while maintaining his responsibilities the entire time. He plays Gallon very well the entire game. One mental lapse stood out on this play; if you pause right before the snap, you can see only 10 defensive players on the screen, and SJB inexplicably runs with the slot receiver when it is unfathomable that he doesn’t have outside responsibility.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste shines is in press coverage where he’s able to reroute or shut out the receiver. His physicality shows up frequently in the Illinois game. On this play, his jam at the line causes the receiver to completely lose his balance. Here we see him utilize his hands to guide the receiver outside, where he can use the sideline as a defender and shield off any possible idea of an inside move. We see both his strength and weakness on this play, again against Allen Robinson. SJB first gets a nice jam, which forces Robinson further inside; however, both SJB and the safety bite on a double move. Fortunately for Nebraska, this did not result in a touchdown– this time.

The Saints signed center-field safety Jairus Byrd to a 6-year, $54M contract this offseason to pair with the outstanding and versatile Kenny Vaccaro, their first-round pick from the 2013 draft. This pair should be one of the more formidable safety duos in the entire NFL. Rob Ryan’s defense counts on physical play outside with his corners and confusion around the line of scrimmage with multiple different looks up front. With Stanley Jean-Baptiste, I believe they have a player who can step right in and play that left cornerback role opposite Keenan Lewis. And as we’re about to see, with Ronald Powell, they added some flexibility up front as well.

 

ROUND 5, PICK 169

Ronald Powell, ER/LB, Florida

I first looked at Ronald Powell only a few weeks before the draft. Although he’s listed as an outside linebacker everywhere, Powell was used primarily as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, which is quite incredible when you realize he measures a mere 6’3″ and 237 lbs. His size didn’t seem to slow him down; he matched up reasonably well against the SEC’s offensive tackles, as we’ll see momentarily. In the NFL, I don’t see the Saints using Powell with his hand down often, but I do believe he has the athleticism and versatility to be used a number of ways in Rob Ryan’s defense. I took a look at Powell’s games against Georgia and Miami from 2013 and Florida State in 2011 (he missed the entire 2012 season due to two ACL tears).

On this first play, I want to show why you wouldn’t want to use Powell much as a true defensive end. It doesn’t require much explanation: Miami’s left tackle simply throws him to the ground, so you can imagine what might happen one-on-one against the Tyron Smiths and Duane Browns of the world. This isn’t to say he’s incapable of it, but it’s not optimal at his size. Powell is often much quicker off the snap than the offensive tackle, as in this play, where he gets a hit on Aaron Murray, disrupting a throw which otherwise results in a touchdown. His technique isn’t sharp, but his speed usually gets him there, as it does in this play against Miami. Here, Powell shoots a gap that opens between the tackle and guard and loops around for a sack.

I want you to watch these back-to-back passing plays against Florida State from Powell’s freshman season. In the first play, Powell wastes a number of steps on his path to quarterback E.J. Manuel and, as a result, is swallowed up by the left tackle. On the very next play, Powell attacks the edge from the outset, and at 1:22 you can that the left tackle has to extend his left arm to push Powell out of the pocket. It doesn’t work, as Powell is able to bend completely around the edge for a sack, showing off both speed and strength in the process.

His strength at the point of attack often depends on the size of the player trying to block him. He’s able to overpower weaker tight ends, as he does here tackling the runner for a two-yard loss. Here, he’s double-teamed by a tight end and running back tandem, and is simply unfazed, staying with the blockers to chase the ball carrier and coming off them to make the tackle. Now, against bigger and better run blockers, such as in this play against Georgia, he can be turned to create a path for the runner. If you watch these entire tapes I believe you’ll notice the same theme.

So far we’ve only seen Powell playing on the edge. As I said earlier, I believe his versatility is what the Saints crave. Florida primarily used him on the edges, but they also also moved him all around the place. On this play, Powell is lined up at middle linebacker. Now, make no mistake: when he is playing inside, he is coming on a pass rush, and the offense knows it. Nevertheless, Powell meets the guard at nearly full speed, and through his lower pad level, is able to briefly stun him. With the help of teammate Dominique Easley clearing away both the center and right guard, Powell is able to pressure the quarterback into a throwaway that nearly draws an intentional-grounding penalty. On a similar play against Georgia, he does draw the grounding flag, as he bursts through the gap on the right side of the offense.

Due to his pass rushing acumen, Powell doesn’t drop into coverage particularly often. When he does, it looks more or less something like it does in this play, where all Powell does is move into the flat with the fullback. I didn’t see a single play where he dropped into coverage over the middle or anywhere except the flats. If it happened, it wasn’t worth noting. I do believe that Powell has the athleticism to play in deeper coverages in limited packages. There’s no stiffness in his movements, as I’m sure you’ll agree. At Saints rookie camp, Rob Ryan has been working Powell out at SAM linebacker; you can read about it in this interview from the Saints’ own website, where Ryan also discusses Stanley Jean-Baptiste and the rest of their rookie class.

 

THE WRAP UP

The Saints only had six picks in the 2014 draft, and as I’ve detailed above, I like both SJB and Ronald Powell. As for the rest: I believe wide receiver Brandin Cooks will immediately be able to contribute to the Saints offense as a nice weapon for Drew Brees. He’s a fairly polished route runner and can get open all over the field (and is crazy fast). His diminutive stature might limit his catching radius and his success on 50/50 balls. I do not see him as the next Steve Smith– perhaps the next Mark Duper, but hey, that wouldn’t be a bad result at all.

I didn’t watch enough of either fourth-rounder Khairi Fortt or fifth-rounder Vinnie Sunseri to comment. (ed note: I watched Sunseri and I saw someone whose instincts, open-field speed, and tackling abilities could make him a special-teams ace. The notes some of our other writers have on Fortt suggest someone whose technique needs improvement and who finds himself out of position, but whose sheer athleticism has been able to make up for it.) The Saints sixth-round pick, Tavon Rooks, is a complete project at offensive tackle. In the only game I watched, Rooks was consistently overpowered by FCS powerhouse North Dakota State’s defensive line. At 6’5″ but only 299 lbs, Rooks will need to add significant core strength before he’ll be able to see the field. Zone Reads editor and Saints homer Nath tells me the Saints have had success developing late-round offensive line picks in the past, and that appears to be the idea behind this selection. (ed: See: Zach Strief, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod, Brian de la Puente, Terron Armstead…)

Overall, the Saints had an intriguing offseason. They fortified their defense both via free agency and through this draft class (while also adding a new weapon for the offense). If they are hoisting another Lombardi trophy in New Orleans next year, then it’ll almost certainly be in part because this rookie class was able to produce immediately, along with the continued addition of new players in the secondary and the growth of the ones already there. Of course, in the end, it all comes back to the two guys who have been the foundation of this era of Saints ball: Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

Hindsight: AFC South Offseason Grades

Sorry for the delay between posts, my sister just graduated from college and I’ve been busy with a few other things. In an attempt to rekindle interest, I’ll move onto the AFC South which has some of the more interesting off seasons to grade; three rebuilding teams with two of the top 3 draft picks, and a team that traded away its first round pick.

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Lions Outside Rush: Kyle Van Noy and Larry Webster

The Lions have rebounded from a recent history of failure to field a watchable team over the last several seasons. Heck, they even made the playoffs in 2011. Calvin Johnson is perhaps the most exciting player in the game, and the cupboard of roster talent is certainly not empty. However, a 4-12 2013 meant a coaching change: Jim (Schwartz) is dead, long live Jim (Caldwell)!  Being watchable is all well and good, but Detroit fans want to see a Super Bowl contender, or a team good enough to win one with the right breaks, which hasn’t happened in a long time. In this draft, the Lions addressed an assortment of needs– now, as for drafting the best players, I would say they were not as successful, but history cannot be reversed. These are the players we are stuck with, and hey, it isn’t all bad. Right? Let’s all agree to answer yes. And now to Kyle Van Noy and Larry Webster.

 

ROUND 2, PICK 40

KYLE VAN NOY, ER/LB, BYU

With the 5th overall pick in last year’s draft. the Detroit Lions selected my absolute favorite player in the 2013 class, defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. I bring him up because Kyle Van Noy was his teammate at BYU. Because of that, we’ll take a brief look at some plays where they played side by side in 2012, along with how Van Noy played without him in 2013. Kyle Van Noy is a player who throughout the process stood out to me as a “jack of all trades.” At BYU, he played essentially every linebacker position in their 3-4 scheme. We’ll see him lined up outside against the offensive tackle as a pass rusher, behind the defensive tackle in a role that’s closer to what I believe he’ll play with the Lions, and even matched up against slot receivers on many passing downs. As is often the case with a “jack of all trades” player, Kyle Van Noy is good to very good at all of these roles and elite at none.

First, let’s look at a handful of plays from 2012, where Van Noy is playing with Ziggy Ansah. Just to get Lions fans salivating, I’ve selected this play first. Van Noy and Ansah are lined up side by side, and from the snap, it’s a race to the quarterback, as both men are essentially unblocked and nearly kill that poor passer. Good game, NFL. (Well, this was against Hawaii, but let’s hope they can repeat it.) Now on the other side of the field, again next to Ansah, Van Noy is unblocked as the quarterback bootlegs to his right, away from him. It doesn’t matter, as Van Noy has the speed to chase him down, and if the ball stays in the playing field, this is a turnover. Last, we have Ansah at nose tackle with Van Noy standing right behind him, and on a perfectly timed blitz, Van Noy shoots the gap opened by the pulling guard and drops the runner for a six-yard loss.

One skill I love with Kyle Van Noy’s game is how well he sees plays developing and how well he reacts to them. There’s no hesitation in, for instance, this play in the red zone (now in 2013 sans Ansah). He sees the toss left, makes a beeline towards Bishop Sankey, and tackles him for a big time loss of yards on 4th-and-1.

I haven’t yet shown him playing in coverage. He’s used more often around the line of scrimmage, but as I said earlier, he does occasionally split out in the slot or behind defensive linemen and drops into coverage. Here’s a play where Van Noy is in the slot and makes a tackle on the receiver where he squares up and doesn’t get out of position versus a faster opponent. What he doesn’t do there is get his hands on and jam the slot receiver as he’s releasing into his route. Failing to jam receivers is a common problem of his play in the slot; it’s something he should be doing and that shouldn’t be difficult to teach, but he almost never does, at least on the plays I looked at over a number of games. When he drops into coverage, he’s almost always “spying” the quarterback, as he does in the play here. Van Noy is playing the quarterback and, on that specific play, is able to read where the throw is heading and tips it in the air.

Kyle Van Noy’s biggest strength is rushing the passer. You can split him out in the slot or in a zone and he’s not going to play badly, necessarily, but certainly you want to make use of his strengths. Van Noy will bring the kind of pressure from the outside that the Lions simply did not have in the absence of Cliff Avril, albeit as a linebacker rather than a defensive end. Van Noy does need to use his hands more often on his engagements; often he’ll rely on his speed to get around the corner, and when he’s met by an offensive tackle, he doesn’t always make use of his hands to help him out. He did in most of these plays I showed, but if you watch several games, you’ll see this is an area he can improve in. In any case, I like the pick and the reunion with Ziggy Ansah. Looking forward to what he can bring to the table.

 

ROUND 4, PICK 136

LARRY WEBSTER, ER, BLOOMSBURG

The selection of Larry Webster in the fourth round by the Lions is a bit more puzzling. Mind you, I don’t have much film on him: there are only two games available on Draft Breakdown, both against the same opponent. So perhaps he looks like Lawrence Taylor in other games (I can dream), but against the great Shippensburg University (who? what? where?), he only flashes here and there. If you look at Webster’s combine performance, the pick starts making more sense; he measured in at 6’6″ and 252 lbs., ran a very speedy 4.58 40, with an incredible 36.5″ vertical. Hey, maybe he can play tight end if Eric Ebron doesn’t work out.

Larry Webster is positively primordial in his development. The first tape I looked at was his 2012 game against Shippensburg. It ain’t pretty. On this play, Webster does ‘beat’ the left tackle inside, but he’s standing straight up, allowing the tackle to simply control his momentum and drive him completely out of the play. Now this does force the quarterback to climb the pocket before making a strike downfield, but I don’t think I’d call it a ‘good’ play from Webster. On the very next play, Webster once again is too tall when he meets the tackle, and this time, he’s also slow as molasses off the snap: just look how far away he is from engaging at the 1:26 mark. Yikes. These two traits of being too tall and too slow are common themes of his play in this game. Not only that, the steps he takes in his pass rush are very short and purposeless, as in this play, where he once again engages incorrectly.

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The above is a frame from the last play. It’s at the point of contact or engagement. The yellow line represents where his weight is distributed. I don’t have a compass on me to measure it, but it doesn’t take a physicist to understand that this is not how you want to engage a blocker. His left foot isn’t even on the ground. Webster meets the blocker with barely any force. A better tackle could plant him into the dirt here. Pancakes for all. For comparison’s sake, watch the speed and efficiency of Barkevious Mingo’s steps in this play against Clemson. Now, yes, he was the #6 overall pick in the draft last year, but he was considered a raw prospect; this is why I used the word “primordial” to describe Webster.

Fortunately, it gets better. In Webster’s 2013 game against Shippensburg, he’s still making similar mistakes, except now we can see flashes of that athleticism and a better grasp of the game. I’ll focus on the positives here. The first thing of note is that in many plays he’s now standing up before the snap, whereas in the game the prior season he played entirely with his hand down. Did you watch the Mingo play earlier? Well, notice on this play how Webster wastes no motion on an inside move and blows by all the blockers, forcing the quarterback to roll to his right and throw a quick pass. At no point in the 2012 game did he show off this kind of burst or fluid motion. Now at least he’s flashing.

On this play, Webster gets a sack. He’s still playing too tall, but at least he’s shooting his hands into the right tackle’s chest, which allows him to toss the tackle aside and bend around the corner for a sack. Will this work in the NFL? No, but it’s an improvement. Right here is a play that will translate to the pros: Webster again explodes off the snap, and he uses his right hand to swat the left tackle’s left shoulder, which gives him the momentum to bend around the edge, allowing him to “dip” under the tackle and nearly get a sack. And here the exact same move does lead to a sack.

If you watch the entire 2013 game, there are more good plays, and yet, he still has more plays where he’s playing too high or he’s slow off the ball. Larry Webster manages to look sluggish and awkward one play and explosive and talented the next. Seeing as he looked in the 2012 game like a player that had essentially no ability, and in the 2013 game he’s flashing an awful lot of ability, the pick starts to make sense as you picture him showing that athleticism more consistently and developing skills to go with it. I’m not going to ask if he was selected too high relative to other athletic pass rushers, because Larry Webster is the one who is on the team. From what I can gather, he seems a ways from being any kind of impact player, but the Detroit Lions did have some success with a similarly athletic, lanky fourth-round project in Devin Taylor last season. Lions fans will be rooting for the same kind of improvement for Webster.

 

CONCLUSION

By picking Kyle Van Noy and Larry Webster, the Detroit Lions added some much needed pass rushing talent on the outside. They already have it in spades at defensive tackle. As for the rest of their 2014 draft class, they picked up a big bodied receiving tight end in Eric Ebron. They got younger and bigger at center with Travis Swanson. In the fifth round, they went searching in the Ivy League for standout defensive tackle Caraun Reid. With their final selections, the Lions tried to add some depth at cornerback and receiver. And of course, Detroit went and drafted a kicker with their seventh-rounder. While I’m not so sure the Lions picked the best players available at each turn, they did address major needs for the team.

Texans Trench Warfare: CJ Fiedorowicz and Louis Nix III

It was a rough season in Houston last year, going from two consecutive playoff appearances to two wins. Long-time coach Gary Kubiak was fired, and a new regime headed by Bill O’Brien was given the reins. In the draft this year they really added some power in the trenches. Plenty of ink has been spilled on the #1 overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney, and rightly so. I’ll discuss both of their third round picks: tight end CJ Fiedorowicz & defensive tackle Louis Nix III.

ROUND 3, PICK 65

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa

Fiedorowicz was one of my favorite tight ends in this class; he performed well both on the field and at the Combine. He’s 6’5″ and 265 lbs, ran a respectable 4.76 40, and benched 25 reps. He’s the same height and weight as the Jets 2nd-round pick, Jace Amaro, with similar workout numbers across the board. The biggest difference between the two is that Fiedorowicz actually plays tight end, whereas Amaro is more or less a slot receiver– a gigantic, smooth-route-running slot receiver, but a slot receiver nevertheless. I know everyone is drooling in anticipation of seeing some great in-line blocking, so I’ll cut to the chase.

Fiedorowicz isn’t going to dazzle you with his route tree, but he does show ability to get open in tight spaces and make some tough catches. His go-to move, outside of the usual seam and drag route, is this little number I’ll call his shimmy move, where he plants his left foot at the top of his stem, follows it quickly by doing the same with his right, and flashes out towards the sideline. It’s not mind blowing, as I said, but it works. He’s a tough guy, as you can see here, where he wades through some traffic (while avoiding a jam from the linebacker) and gets blown up after catching the ball. But, hey, if you’re going to get destroyed, it makes a hell of a difference if you catch the ball, and he does.

He’s a very effective red zone player in both aspects of the game. First, as a receiver: On this play you see him run a delayed corner fade where he engages the defensive end and pushes him upfield momentarily before leaking out towards the back pylon. It’s a well-orchestrated play by Iowa, and all it takes is one false step by the defense for Fiedorowicz to high-point the ball and bring it down for six points. Second, as a run blocker, he can be relied upon to seal off the defensive end and making way for the runner. Let’s watch more, as run blocking is where he really shines.

You’ll consistently see his ferocity in the running game. On this play, Fiedorowicz takes on the opposing linebacker and drives him ten yards downfield. Sure, the runner is tackled for a mere two-yard gain, but Fiedorowicz keeps pushing his man even past the sound of the whistle. No harm, no foul. Here, he takes the 15th overall pick, Ryan Shazier, and does the same thing. And, for good measure, let’s end on a passing play where he positions himself perfectly to hedge off the defensive back away from the receiver.

ROUND 3, PICK 83

Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

College football fans will be well aware of the man who dubs himself “Irish Chocolate.” Louis Nix’s personality is as big as his belly; all you need to know is that he’s 6’2″, 331 pounds, and he’s not winning any 40-yard dashes. His task in Houston will be very simple: Occupy blockers, so that J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and the rest of the Texans defensive front can get to the quarterback, and plug up the middle in the running game. He gritted through a torn meniscus in 2013, and his play suffered as a result, so we’ll look at a few of his 2012 plays from the Oklahoma and Stanford games instead. Your enduring memory of Notre Dame’s season may be Eddie Lacy running over Manti Te’o on his way to the end zone in the National Championship, over and over, but before that game, Notre Dame fielded an all-time great defense that season, and Nix played the biggest (literally) role.

On most of the plays in these games, Nix is double-teamed, and he consistently gets a stalemate at the line in both the running and passing game. Very rarely does a double-team run block result in Nix getting moved backwards; I only recall seeing it happen once. While Nix does not have the have the type of speed which results in sacks for himself, his burst off the line in 2012 is awe-inspiring. Watch this play, where his first several steps are faster than every single player on both teams, resulting in pressure on the quarterback. This tends to be the result when Nix is not double-teamed; on this play against Stanford, he similarly uses his burst to push the pocket, and his pressure forces an interception. You simply cannot afford not to double-team Nix. He can also clog the throwing lanes by batting down passes at the line, much like J.J. “Swatt” is famous for doing.

As you might imagine, Nix’s burst off of the snap can make running the ball a chore for opposing teams. On this play, Nix quickly swims over the center and gets in for a tackle. At first glance, this next play might look ordinary– Nix makes a run tackle. Look again, and you’ll recognize that Nix’s momentum is moving him to the right of the play, allowing the center to use his position to shield Nix from the run. But as the quarterback takes off, Nix simply tosses the center to the ground and sprints out to his left to make the hit. That smarts, doesn’t it? Last, but not least, take a look at what happens on this play where Stanford pulls a guard and attempts to run away from Nix. By the time the handoff occurs, Nix is already four yards behind the line of scrimmage, with a full head of steam, and is able to bring down the runner for no gain shortly thereafter.

So, these were, of course, his highlight-reel plays. As I said earlier, most plays end with Nix in a stalemate with a double-team. For a smaller defensive tackle, expected to penetrate upfield and sack the quarterback, this would be a problem. Nix’s role in Houston is simply to occupy blockers. They already have the best defensive lineman in the world in J.J. Watt, who occasionally commands triple-teams. With the #1 overall pick, the Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney, widely considered the best defensive end prospect since Julius Peppers. Consider the scenario where both Clowney and Nix are as good as advertised: while I am certainly not knowledgeable enough to think of a scheme to stop them, I am not sure anyone has that blueprint.

Conclusion

The Texans decided with this draft to establish dominance at the line of scrimmage. With the selections of Jadeveon Clowney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Louis Nix III all within the first three rounds, I believe this has been accomplished. Nix has health concerns, as I mentioned; he will need to return to his 2012 form in order to be a dominant force, as he just didn’t make the same impact in 2013. Fiedorowicz needs to add a few more routes to his repertoire before he can become a dangerous threat in the passing game. I believe he has the necessary tools. Now comes the work.

Not many of us at Zone Reads thought much of Tom Savage when he was rumored to be an early-round selection, but it turns out that talk was all smoke and mirrors, as the Texans picked him late in the 4th round, which is fine. I believe Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback next year, and while he’s not a player likely to win games with his arm without help, I do think he’s a player that doesn’t necessarily condemn the team to another losing season. Texans fans should be optimistic with a new regime in town and the talent acquired in this draft class. I certainly am.