For the second consecutive year, HoustonTexans.com is offering fans exclusive one-on-one interviews with key figures in the Texans' NFL draft process in our "Draft Pass" series.
In the first segment, Texans general manager Rick Smith sits down with Drew Dougherty of Texans TV to evaluate the team's 2010 draft class, including first-round draft pick Kareem Jackson.
Drew Dougherty: Did you set a target of wanting to get nine players in this year's draft, or is it a fluid process?
Rick Smith: No, you're right: it's a fluid process. We certainly are always open during the draft process to moving up or moving back. The opportunity presented itself over the last few days to do a little of both. We feel good about this class and about the group of men that are coming to join this football team and the contribution that they can make.
Dougherty: Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson is the headliner of the class. How far back, months ago, weeks ago, was he targeted as being one of the guys you really wanted?
Smith: You turn the tape on and you see a really productive football player. He's only a junior, so he was not a guy who was on our list early on. Once we found out that 'Hey, this guy's going to enter the draft', then you start the process of evaluating him and boy, you get excited immediately. We really feel like he can come in and help our football team. Frank Bush talked about the fact that he is NFL-ready, today. A lot of that has a lot to do with the fact that he played in a big time program, week in and week out, that prepares you that way. He had a tremendous amount of success. He has a skill set that is going to be very good for our team and our defense in terms of what we're going to ask him to do. So we were really, really excited about that pick.
Dougherty: Playing under Nick Saban at Alabama certainly was a pressure-filled environment. But did the year he spent in military school at Fork Union possibly help in the maturation?
Smith: I don't see any way that could hurt him. When you talk to him and visit with him, you do see a very mature guy. A very competitive young man. A guy that has his stuff together, quite frankly. Whenever you can add high character to the group and aggressiveness and all that in one, I think you hit the home run.
Dougherty: With nine more players, it really amps up the competition at a few more positions. How happy with that are you?
Smith: That was one of the things, years ago, when I first got here, that we wanted to improve. That is, the competitive environment on the football team. I think over the last few years we have done that. That's the only way you really get better. Guys have to understand that they've got to perform. This is a performance-based league. The more you understand that, the more you understand the situation that they're competing, that only raises the level of play and execution.
Dougherty: It looks like you've added more weapons to an already potent offense. What might be possible?
Smith: That's what you try to do: you try to add dimensions. Whether it's toughness or aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball or up front. Guys who can make plays with the football in their hands on offense, or special teams, in the case of Trindon Holliday. Guys who can make plays on the ball defensively. That's one of the things we like about Kareem. We just continue to try to add dimensions to our football team and when you do that, you give guys opportunities. That's how games are won in this league. They're so competitive. The difference in our league in winning and losing is very small. To the degree that you can add guys who can add dimensions that can give you a better chance to make that one more play that wins the game for you, hopefully you find yourself on the better side of winning than losing, more often than not.
Dougherty: The casual fan might think now 'The draft is over, so the work is done for Rick Smith.' But that's obviously not the case.
Smith: No. At this point right now, I would assume the draft is winding down. We came up to do these interviews with a little time left. So immediately when the draft is over we will start the process of calling players who were not fortunate enough to be drafted. Guys, in a lot of cases, who we had draftable grades on who we think can come in and be college free agents and provide some depth. A guy like Arian Foster, for example, from last year. That was a player we signed after the draft and that was a player that came in and produced for us at the end of the season. That's what we'll start doing here in the next few minutes hopefully. I can't speak highly enough about our group and our staff and the way they prepared and the process that they went through. I feel really good about their contributions because they went through and worked extremely hard and I think we got some good picks from it.