Skip to main content

2009 Draft Pass: Smith evaluates draft


For the first-time ever, is offering fans exclusive access to all of the major figures in the Texans' 2009 NFL Draft process. In Wednesday's Draft Pass segment, Texans TV's Brooke Bentley sat down with general manager Rick Smith to discuss his talent evaluation process before this year's draft.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): Rick, the 2009 draft is in the books. The Texans drafted five defensive players and three offensive players, but the common theme for all these guys is versatility. Did you put a premium on versatility and did you see a need for versatility on this team?

General manager Rick Smith: It's always an added benefit when you have a guy who can play multiple positions. We certainly felt like that was the case with Antoine Caldwell in the third round. We were very fortunate last year because we played with our entire offensive line intact for the whole year. That's not typically something that happens in the NFL. On game day, if you have a guy who can back up multiple positions, it's a benefit. He's one of those type of players, a very intelligent young man, a two-time captain and graduated in three-and-a-half years. We really felt good about his addition.

{QUOTE}Probably the other guy is (James) Casey; everybody is talking about his versatility in the sense that he can play fullback, tight end, you can split him out, he can throw the football. He's just an unbelievably gifted athlete. Even in our first round with Brian (Cushing), Brian is a multiple-position player. He can play all three spots in the linebacker group. We see him playing the SAM position to start off with, but I think he has demonstrated that he understands the passing game and understands underneath zone coverage, and he can be a nickel back as well. We are excited about him.

Brooke Bentley: Even your second-round pick, Connor Barwin, converted from tight end to defensive end and had 12 sacks last year. He sees the field from both sides of the ball.

Rick Smith: He may even be able to go play for the Rockets. Again, another versatile guy. The thing I like about him is he is obviously another very explosive athlete. But he is not just a height-weight-speed player, he is a football player. This guy was highly productive, as you indicated, last year as a defensive end. We like him being able to help our group rush the passer, and that's something that's important and one of our priorities and we think he'll be able to help us with that.

Brooke Bentley: This talent evaluation process, many people don't realize, takes a lot of time and scrutiny. You have scouts across the country evaluating talent at the college level, and then they are peeling back the layers to make sure you know almost every detail about them guys – what kind of players they are and what kind of students they are. Talk about that evaluation process, because you had to know almost every detail about Brian Cushing before you drafted him.

Rick Smith: It's an exhaustive process, and it should be because there is a lot that we will depend on these players to come in and add to our team. But you are right; we have seven or eight area scouts, and they go out in August and they start working and start gathering information and start evaluating these players. We have a national scout who goes out across the country. We have a director of college scouting who also goes out across the country. We talk to high school coaches, we talk to counselors and we talk to everybody so that we can to get as much information on these players as possible. What we are trying to do is paint a picture, and to be quite honest with you, Brooke, we are trying to predict. When you can get as much information as possible to predict future behavior, the more information, the better, so long as it's organized and it takes you to a decision. It's one thing to have a lot of information coming in to you, but there's no process to lead you to a decision. But we feel good about our process, in the sense that it's organized and we have information coming in. Hopefully, it's information that guides us to good decisions, and we certainly feel like this year in the draft we were successful in that way.

Brooke Bentley: Now I'm going to hit you with some fan questions. One fan writes in, "I have heard that your philosophy is to draft the best players available, regardless of position. Is that true?" And, then, "All things being equal between players in the 2009 draft, what were the Texans' priorities?"

Rick Smith: It is true. We try to let our process run itself and we try to rank and evaluate some of these players based on the information that we were talking about earlier, as well as their football personality and what they do on the field and how hard they work in the weight room. All those things like height, weight, speed, measurables and comparative positions – that's how we rank and assess guys and put values on players. And then as the draft unfolds, we try to take players that we need but at the value of where the pick is, and that's what we try to do.

A lot of people have talked about the fact that we did not select a running back this year in the draft, and that was due in a large part to fact that every time we had a selection, we had a different player rated at a higher value at that particular point than we did the running back. And so we took those players who were versatile or that we thought were tough and fit needs on our football team.

Brooke Bentley: Is that what happened with James Casey?

Rick Smith: It is. We were sitting there in the fifth round and we had a deal actually to move back; another team wanted to come up and take that slot. About 10 picks before, we started talking to the team about potentially moving, and we made a decision that if he was there, we couldn't pass him up. So, sure enough, he was still there when our time came and so we made the call to the team and said we are going to pick our guy right here, and we took him.

Brooke Bentley: If Malcolm Jenkins had slipped past the New Orleans Saints, would that have changed things for you?

Rick Smith: Well, Jenkins is one of the guys that we would have loved to have added to our football team. We had run mock scenarios where we had both players (Cushing and Jenkins) there, so we had a game plan about what we would have done had that been the case. We were on the phone talking to teams about perhaps even moving back. So he absolutely would have been in the discussion about what we would have done at that point.

Brooke Bentley: What led to the Texans drafting two tight ends? Did you expect Casey to be there in the fifth round?

Rick Smith: No, we didn't. People talk a lot about the fact that a lot of teams are moving to a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3 defense. A lot of players in this draft were good players for that transition. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the offenses have to go - 3-4 defenses have big outside linebackers and big defensive ends, and if you want to run the football effectively, you have to have guys who can block on the edges. So, we really felt good about Mr. (Anthony) Hill's contribution and his ability to go help us in that respect. So that was the thought process in adding him. And then, like we talked about before, when you have a guy like James Casey sitting there in the fifth round with everything he can do for your football team versatility-wise, you just can't pass him up.

Brooke Bentley: That's what a lot of people don't realize is that these tight ends are completely different. Anthony Hill is a blocking tight end for those big linebackers in a 3-4 defense and can open things up for Steve Slaton.

Rick Smith: That's exactly right. They are totally different. That seems to be the deal: There are very few tight ends who can do both effectively. But we think both of those guys are specialists in their own rights.

Brooke Bentley: What are your plans for depth at running back, and did you ever consider Liberty running back Rashad Jennings?

Rick Smith: We did. We thought about it. I think he went in the seventh round. With our seventh-round pick, we took (Troy) Nolan out of Arizona State. Again, another need position. He's a good-looking free safety who started two years in the Pac-10 and had a very productive career there at Arizona State, so we felt better about him at that spot.

We were able to add a couple of running backs through the college free agency process. We signed a young man from the University of Tennessee, Arian Foster, who had a very, very productive junior season, over 1,000 yards there at Tennessee as a junior. He was not as productive as a senior, but he's a very, very talented young man. He's 6-0, 225 pounds, so he fits that bigger back/complement kind of guy that we were talking about. And then we added another young man from Oregon, Jeremiah Johnson. He's not as big; he's a 5-9, 205-pound running back; but he's very shifty with good feet and good hands out of the backfield, another versatile player. So, we feel good about that and we will continue to look as we keep marching our way toward training camp, and if there's a veteran player or another young player that's out there and is available and looks attractive to us, then certainly we will entertain those options.

Brooke Bentley: You didn't draft any defensive tackles this year. Are you satisfied with the group of Amobi (Okoye), Travis Johnson, and Shaun Cody, to name a few?

Rick Smith: I do, I think we have a good group of guys there. I think we improved our defensive line. Inside, I like the group. I like the competitiveness there. Amobi's got to step up. He understands that we are counting on him to take that next step this year. The addition of Shaun Cody via free agency is another thing that I think makes us feel comfortable at the position, so I think we are happy there.

Brooke Bentley: Finally, this fan writes: "I have been a fan of the Texans since they were first introduced to the NFL. I want to applaud you on the work you have done in improving the team. I am currently in Iraq and always staying updated with the Texans. I am eager to know, how are things with Dunta Robinson and does drafting two cornerbacks change anything?"

Rick Smith: First of all, thank you very much. We appreciate the support and we appreciate what you are doing over there where you are. That's much more important than anything we could possibly be doing here. Drafting two corners – I'm an ex-DB. I'm an ex-DB coach. So I put a premium on defensive backs. I don't think you can ever have too many guys who can run and cover and hit. Offenses throw the ball a lot in this league, and people want to come to the games and see some scoring. So, you have to have guys that can go out and cover those guys. That's really what we did. We really, really liked the two young men that we added. Glover Quin is a good-sized guy; a lot of people had projected him at safety because he is such a physical guy, but we see him at corner and a guy who could possibly play inside at the nickel. Brice McCain is just extremely fast. He's a little bit undersized, a smaller guy, but very, very fast, explosive and has good ball skills. I don't think you can have too many of those guys on your football team.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content