Friday notes: One declares, one to follow, Houston’s dilemma

December 6th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s the time of year when we start to hear which underclassmen are declaring for the draft. The prospects involved in Bowl games will likely wait it out. For the others, there’s no reason to hold back their intentions.

Tennessee announced left tackle Antonio Richardson will turn pro today.

Despite suggestions he held back this year, Richardson has massive potential. And it’s not the only thing that’s massive — he’s 6-6 and 327lbs, but holds the weight well.

Teams are going to be all over this guy. I remember in 2010 — Anthony Davis was a late addition to the class after opting to leave Rutgers. He too was a huge, athletic tackle who faced claims he hadn’t played his best football during the season.

Ultimately, the potential won out. Davis looked the part of a NFL tackle, tested well and was drafted 11th overall by the 49ers.

Richardson has even more potential. He’s exactly what teams are looking for — quick on his feet, huge frame, long arms, rarely beaten by pure speed and forces defensive ends to take difficult angles to attack the quarterback. He also flashes a nasty streak from time to time, which is a big plus.

While a guy like Jake Matthews will be considered a ‘safer’ option, he simply can’t compare to the upside on show here.

In fact there’s maybe only Auburn’s Greg Robinson who can compete when it comes to pure potential. My favourite tackle in this class — Cyrus Kouandjio — can only dream of a ceiling as high as Richardson’s. Fortunately for Kouandjio, he’s much more technically and fundamentally sound. There’s less bust potential, but he’s not a freak of nature.

The question to Richardson will be — can you deliver on that potential? When scouts and coaches look into his eyes during this process, will they see a man determined to be as good as he possibly can be?

That for me seems to be the one thing that will determine how high he goes in the draft. If he can convince people he’s ready to dominate — he’ll go very early.

Tony Pauline is reporting that Louis Nix will likely begin training for the combine at the beginning of January.

It’s not a major shock that Nix is planning on heading to the NFL. He turned down the option of going pro last year.

Yet in terms of his stock, that extra season could be costly.

Twelve months ago Nix was seen as the dominating, immovable force of Notre Dame’s defensive line. Nobody came out of the National Championship smelling of roses, but Nix’s fantastic 2012 season had him touted as a likely top-10 pick.

This year, he’s struggled to emulate that level of play.

He’s looked heavier for a start — and it doesn’t look like good weight. It’s a good thing he’ll start his combine prep immediately — he could do with trimming down.

The league values speed more than ever, even with the big guys. Dontari Poe was a top-15 pick purely down to his athleticism and size. His tape was nothing special at all, with almost nothing to highlight and say, “that’s why we need this guy”.

It’s vital that Nix can show quick twitch movement and mobility — because we all know what he’s capable of when it comes to filling a gap in the running game. Even this year it’s hard to knock his ability against the run — he anchors well, he’s strong in the upper body.

It’s good to see he’s getting a head start as he tries to prove he can also have an impact against the pass. Two-down linemen don’t tend to go in the top-15.

Finally a thought on Teddy Bridgewater — the default early pick at quarterback this year. I say that with respect for Bridgewater, who is a pretty good player with a future in the league at the right spot.

However — I saw a lot of comments yesterday suggesting the Houston/Jacksonville game was the ‘Bridgewater Bowl’. Let’s take a rain check on that.

Bridgewater’s first half display against Cincinnati last night was a perfect review of how he’s played in the last month.


By half time this was his stat line: 6/14, 86 yards. One touchdown, one interception.

At that point he’d only thrown three touchdowns since the end of October. For whatever reason, he was in a slump.

Admittedly things picked up in the second half and he threw two more touchdowns. Louisville squeezed past Cincy and life was good again.

But it made me question, once again, Bridgewater’s status in this draft.

He is a good college quarterback with a reasonable skill set. Is he a special player though? That’s what I keep coming back to. Is he special enough for a team like the Texans to feel he’s worthy of the #1 pick?

Houston, I presume, aren’t seeing this as the start of a major rebuild job. Unlike Seattle in 2008, they have a ton of young talented players — including possibly the best all-round player in the league.

Whoever replaces Gary Kubiak will inherit a roster with enough players to bounce back quickly.

Owning the #1 pick is a bit of a luxury. And much like the Chiefs last year, they should be doing better. Everything is set for a rebound season in 2014.

Yet Kansas City needed a quarterback and didn’t take one with the #1 pick. They drafted a right tackle and traded for Alex Smith long before the 2013 draft.

Could the Texans take a similar path?

Here’s some names for you — Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford.

Cutler is a free agent next year, and the Bears have to decide whether to pay him a hefty salary to keep him. Their lukewarm approach to contract talks and public admission that the franchise tag isn’t ideal could mean anything. It could be leverage. Or it could be a sign that all is not well between the two parties.

The Rams look set to own a top five pick on top of their own selection. Will they go in a different direction, potentially leading the way to Bradford’s departure?

That’s just two examples. You may be able to think of more. Theoretically the Texans could look at either player, or another veteran, just like Kansas City did. And that would give them the opportunity to draft Jadeveon Clowney with the #1 pick.

Alternatively, they could just take a quarterback with the #33 pick. It’s a deep enough class to consider that option. They could even move back into the first.

What I’m trying to show here is — just because the Texans are picking early and need a quarterback, it doesn’t mean they’re just going to draft Bridgewater.

And right now, I’m not convinced Bridgewater — or any quarterback for that matter — is worthy of going before Clowney. For all his negative publicity this year he still remains a generational physical talent. He has the ability to come into the league and become a superstar.

Those chance are greatly improved if you’re lining him up next to J.J. Watt. That could be a duo for the ages.

If you’re going to say “no thanks” to that proposition, you better make sure the other guy you take is very good.

Is Bridgewater good enough to win Houston a title one day? Maybe. He’d have weapons. It’d probably be a better spot for him than Jacksonville.

But is Bridgewater + whoever you get at #33 better than Clowney and A.J. McCarron? Or Clowney and whatever veteran you can add?

That is the big question facing the Texans. And it’s far from a foregone conclusion they decide to go quarterback if they get that top pick.

23 Responses to “Friday notes: One declares, one to follow, Houston’s dilemma”

  1. SunPathPaul says:

    With the success of the hybrid QB’s like Wilson and Cam/Kaep, I still wonder who will go after Manziel, and how high they will go…? He makes great plays with his legs, and I have seen him throw better this year than last. He can go deep, and everywhere in between.

    Jacksonville does have some talent to apply on offense…Mercedes Lewis/Cecil Shorts/Ace Sanders/Brown, Etc…

    Houston would welcome him as a home state guy, and sell a TON of jerseys because of that.

    Both teams could add another WR/TE as an option and I feel Manziel could be of dramatic impact quickly. He seems to have his own unique 6th sense…

    What do u think Rob? I feel someone will gamble on him in the first round. Imagine if that team could grab him AND Evans!?! That would be sick…IMO

    • Michael M. says:

      “…and sell a TON of jerseys because of that.”

      I see this mentioned from time to time, and I can’t help but shake my head. It’s fairly obvious that this has ZERO effect on the personnel decisions of a football team. For starters, jersey sales are only a small slice of the revenue pie when compared to the money brought in from ticket sales and especially TV advertising and licensing. Furthermore, the revenue generated from Jersey sales falls into that very large “revenue sharing” bucket. The Colts and Jaguars would make just as much money from that hypothetical Manziel jersey as the Texans would. Lastly, the only people truly concerned with sales number of any kind are the owners, and for the most part, owners (the smart ones anyway) leave the football decisions to football people. I don’t think a single GM or coach (aside from Jerry Jones obviously) would have any incentive to make a draft pick for any reason not relating to the win/loss performance of their team. Accumulating wins, not dollars, is what allows coaches and GMs to keep their jobs.

      • FC says:

        I’ve always viewed that phrase as more meaning the increase in fan support that will come as a result of adding said player, not actual jersey sales.

    • Colin says:

      I think Manziel is pretty solidly a 2nd round QB who will go in the 1st simply because a team is desperate. I don’t think he has the upside that Cam/Kapernick had, nor the polish and pro-readiness of Russell Wilson. That’s not a guy I would want to bet my job on.

      The jersey selling thing is overrated. Winning brings fans, jersey’s bring bandwagoners.

      If Houston has the #1 overall pick, you take Clowney as a no brainer.

      Jacksonville has clearly benefited from the outstanding coaching of Gus Bradley, but I still don’t think it does them much good to add a guy like Bridgewater early in round 1- they need to build up the team some more unless there’s a QB they must have.

      • SunPathPaul says:

        I intended not for it to be about money per se, but about the effect on the fan base. I’m from Texas and football there is pretty insanely worshipped from youth on up…

        Houston thus, would make a lot of Manziel’s fans happy, and probably convert a lot of Dallas fans into Texans… (Cause who can believe in Dallas w that dumb egomaniac jerry jones thinking he is doing a good job)

  2. Nolan says:

    I agree with you rob if you can pair Watt n Clowney you have to do it. Qb can’t be forces or you end up stuck like the Rams with Bradford or the Bengals with Dalton. If the Texans can nab cutler or even Vick or a different young player at QB that would be great but if they went with kennum again that wouldn’t be terrible

  3. AlaskaHawk says:

    They have tried both Keenum and Schaub multiple times, playing them for a half in the last few games. It just isn’t working out. They both have been prone to interceptions. Did they ever play Yates this year?

    This is truly a tough choice, but only because Clowney has so much potential and there is no clear star among the college QBs. Clowney would be a better pick for a team that has a good QB already. He would also help Texans defense.

    A good QB would put them back on top of their division. If they didn’t mind picking lower they could trade for a lower first and a second or third draft pick. That would give them an extra pick. There will probably be a successful QB or two out of this group, it is just hard to identify them.

    This might be Texans only shot at getting a low pick because next year they may be in playoffs.

  4. Dannn says:

    Rob I was curious what you think of the Mizzou WR core. They look big, fast and like game breakers.

  5. williambryan says:

    The Texans have quite a situation. It was posited that perhaps Bevell would be the choice along with Manziel to try and recreate Russellmania, but after watching Houston’s owners press conference, he doesn’t seem like a guy whou would welcome Manziels “style” both on and off the field. I don’t know if its in the realm of possibility, but considering the criteria Houstons owner laid out, I could see him keeping Wade on as DC, drafting Clowney with the top pick, Bringing in Mike Holmgren, trading a late pick for Matt Barkley, letting him compete with Keenum, and bringing in Hasselbeck as a mentor in the west coast offense, maybe Zorn as OC. Think about the offense compared to Holmgrens best in Seattle. Arian Foster is very similar to Alexander (though he is at the post injury Alexander stage as well…) Andre Johnson is what we all dreamed Koren Robinson could be, Deandre Hopkins is Darrell Jackson, they have good tight ends… Makes sense to me.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Personally, I hope Holmgren doesn’t show any interest in that gig. His reputation took a major hit in Cleveland. It was one disaster after another, zero clarity, no direction. It started with them sticking by Mangini for a year (why?) then making a completely underwhelming appointment to replace him. They drafted badly and thought Brandon Weeden was a franchise quarterback.

      If Holmgren goes to Houston, I’d be worried about seeing more bad headlines. His system has always been a slow burner that takes time to implement. It’s also a bit out dated these days — this is a very different NFL. I doubt he’s going to be able to plug in one of his guys at QB and see things just click. Adding a meltdown in Houston to his disaster with the Browns would be tough to watch. For someone who talked about retiring quite a lot after leaving Seattle, I wish he’d not got the itch to get back involved.

      Having said that… if I were running that franchise, I’d definitely go after an offensive minded coach. Even if Wade Phillips decided to resign as a consequence. The fact is, you put Clowney next to Watt, Cushing, Mercilus, Joseph etc — one of us on here could coach that unit. They need a creative offensive mind who can bring things together, put some direction on the field and create a striking identity.

      For me Bevell would be perfect for that. Despite the ridiculous grief he gets from Seahawks fans, the guy can coach. And he’s worked wonders with Russell Wilson and putting together a run first offense that isn’t predictable in the slightest and has just the right amount of attacking shots and trick plays to compliment the bread and butter stuff. I’m guessing they’ll probably go after a name instead. Someone like Gruden. But Bevell would be my choice for them. I hope the NFL is dumb enough to let us keep him in Seattle.

      • Michael M. says:

        I really hope we can hang onto Bevell for another year or two. Don’t think it’s gonna happen though. I thought at the beginning of the season that Bevell would end up with the Jets next year given the Idzick connection and the idea that FO’s typically flip from a defensive to offensive minded coach (or vice-versa). If Rex get the ax, I still think that could happen. Even if it doesn’t, there are gonna be some jobs open.

        Is Mike Smith gonna be in trouble? Leslie Frazier is almost certainly gone. And who knows what happens in Washington? I thought we dodged a bullet last year by only losing Gus Bradley in a year with so many vacancies. I really wanted to have that offensive continuity for Russell going into his second year. Luckily there will probably be fewer jobs available this year, and even if Bevell does leave, it won’t be nearly the blow that it would have been between year 1 and 2. Russell Wilson is so damn good now.

        • Phil says:

          I hate to even bring this up, but PC is 62 and he may decide some day that he wants to retire. Or, more likely IMHO, some owner like Daniel Snyder (Redskins) may decide to make him an offer that he can’t refuse. ( I would hope that Paul Allen would match it.)

          Anyway, I wonder if offering Bevell an “Assistant Head Coach” position like Cable’s current position would entice Bevell to stay, especially if there is some sort of unwriiten succession plan that says that Bevell is the heir apparent to take the head coaching position some day? This scenario would be more likely if Cable was to leave to take a head coaching position elsewhere.

          • Rob Staton says:

            I think Carroll would rather retire than work for Snyder. He’s wanted a situation with complete control ever since the NE/NYJ days. He can forget about that in Washington.

        • Rob Staton says:

          They seem to be saying Mike Smith is good for now. Bet he’s on a short leash next season.

      • Hay stacker509 says:

        Agreed with you 100% Rob! Bevell gets a lot of crap from us fans but he’s good at using everyone’s strengths on offense. If Bevell goes there he’d have Foster and Tate at RB (scary), Johnson, Hopkins, and Posier ( solid 3 wars plus a Hopkins will have had a full season… Scary), Daniels and graham at TE (scary) then you throw in who ever they draft (clowney) and that team is very dangerous!
        Please NFL no one look this way for coaches… Of course Gus left and we worried and look what PC/JS did. So I’m not to to worried

      • williambryan says:

        I too am disappointed about how it ended for Holmgren and that’s why I think he would be tempted to do it. It is true his system takes time though. I think it would be an upset if Bevell is still here next season. It’s also been reported that Tom Cable is in the running for the Houston Job (Checks experience boxes and zone scheme fits the personnel). What worries me a little about Bevell leaving is it doesn’t seam like there is a logical choice for replacement on staff (unless Cable were to stay as well) Unlike the defense where Carroll is still there and I feel like either Norton Jr., Travis Fisher and Kris Richard could all do well. I don’t feel like Carl Smith, Kippy Brown, Sherm Smith would be up to the job. I also wonder is Russell Wilson is already into Peyton Manning territory where he will become a defacto coordinator. If Bevell leaves and Cable stays, that would make sense.

  6. Hay stacker509 says:

    Rob, don’t know if you have access to tonight’s DUKE vs FSU but I’m watching it and am impressed after the first qtr how Duke is playing. 2 things pop out so far and it’s where do you see FSU’s Timmy Jernigan is going to be drafted? Also what about Seattle looking at him to replace mebane or Bryant? His size and production would atleast merit some top quality competition I think. A lot will also come into play during the combine

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think Jernigan is a round 2-3 guy. Hasn’t had the year everyone hoped. Definitely has a lot of upside but there’s not too much tape out there to back it up. Good athlete for his size. Seattle has tended to go after tall and big, I think they might stick to that and there are some 6-5-to-6-7 guys in this draft they could look at.

  7. Stuart says:

    The talk of losing Bevell certainly brings up the poaching question (after we win the Superbowl).

    Possible poaching casualties:

    -Offensive Coordinator, Bevell-new Head Coach
    -Offensive line coach etc.,Cable gone-new Head Coach
    -Offensive coaches, carrot dangled for greener pastures, possible Offensive Coordinator, gone

    -Defensive Coordinator, Quinn, gone-new Head Coach
    -Defensive coaches, promoted to D coordinator, gone

    The fact is that all our coaches are awesome!

  8. bigDhawk says:

    If Blake Bortles declares then Clowney plus Bortles at #33 would definately be better than any other package deal. That is assuming, of course, Bortles is still there at 33, which may very well be unlikely.

  9. Hay stacker509 says:

    Rob, what do you think about hill and mayowa being out so much this year, do you think they will release either of them due to being injured so much and not playing? Looking back I’d rather have let mayowa go back in the beginning and kept someone else. Of course a year from now. Mayowa may be the new and improved Clemons (doubtful but hey it could happen)