*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
A position-by-position look at the 2012 NFL Draft (April 26-28), featuring exclusive analysis on potential Texans draft picks from Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post*
State of the Position (@NickScurfield)
With Joel Dreessen leaving in free agency, the Texans could be in the market for a tight end in the 2012 draft.
Dreessen was the always-reliable complement to Owen Daniels, a strong blocker who led the Texans with six touchdown catches last season. Daniels is coming off his first fully healthy season since 2008, when he made the Pro Bowl. He led the Texans with 54 catches and 677 receiving yards in 2011.
James Casey could help replace Dreessen, but he moved to fullback in 2011 after two seasons at tight end. He's currently the only fullback on the roster and could stay in the backfield as an H-back type who creates matchup problems for opposing defenses.
The Texans' only other tight end is Garrett Graham, a fourth-round draft pick from Wisconsin in 2010. Graham has drawn comparisons to Daniels, a fellow Badger, since the day he was drafted. He has just one career catch for 24 yards after battling shoulder and hamstring injuries in his first two seasons.
"The biggest thing for Garrett is to get healthy," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, before Dreessen signed with the Denver Broncos. "He's been one of our guys who's been in the building every day since the season's been over. This is a huge offseason for him. He's got to be driven on his own to put some weight on, get bigger and go out there and compete with O.D. and Joel and James, but I think he has the ability to do it. Sometimes, it takes guys a couple years. He's been a little unfortunate. He's been hurt."
If the Texans draft a tight end, Kubiak's history suggests it will be in the fourth round or later. When Kubiak was with the Broncos, they drafted tight end Jeb Putzier in the sixth round in 2002. With Kubiak in Houston, the Texans have drafted Daniels in the fourth round (2006), Casey and Anthony Hill in the fifth (2008) and Graham in the fourth (2010). Kubiak also coached Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, a seventh-round pick in 1990, and Dreessen, a sixth-round pick of the New York Jets in 2006.
"We've been able to find tight ends later in the draft," Kubiak said at the Combine. "That's kind of been my m.o. through Denver and in Houston."National Football Post Analysis
(@WesBunting, @JoeFortenbaugh for HoustonTexans.com)
DAY 1 TIGHT END OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. Coby Fleener, Stanford (6-6, 244): A four-year contributor at Stanford with 51 games under his belt, Fleener is coming off a prolific senior campaign that consisted of 34 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 23-year-old is an impressive pass catcher who can win both down the field and underneath vs. man coverage. He has the frame and flexibility to develop into a solid blocker as well and looks like a future starting-caliber NFL tight end.
2. Orson Charles, Georgia (6-3, 241): Having racked up 94 receptions for 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns in 40 career games at Georgia, Charles has the upside and athleticism to land in the first round on draft day. He's a gifted athlete who can create a lot of mismatches in the passing game and should be able to improve as a route runner as well. Not quite as polished as Aaron Hernandez as an H-back, but could end up playing a similar type role.
DAY 2 TIGHT END OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Dwayne Allen, Clemson (6-4, 256):
Allen is coming off the most impressive collegiate season of his three-year career at Clemson, which consisted of 50 receptions for 598 yards and eight scores. He's a solid, strong athlete with good hands and body control when asked to go get the football. Lacks ideal balance/leverage into contact as a blocker and we would like to see him be more sudden in tighter areas with defenders who want to be physical. However, Allen is an NFL talent who can be used in a number of ways on an NFL offense.
2. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, 236): With four years of playing time and a collegiate career that featured 149 receptions and 22 touchdowns, Green has as much experience as any tight end in this year's draft class. He's a big slot guy who can make plays down the seam and can release off the line. However, Green is not an in-line blocker and doesn't play well in tight areas vs. man coverage. He has the tools to be productive in the passing game, but there are limitations and you need to be creative to get the most out of him.
DAY 3 TIGHT END OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. Rhett Ellison, Southern California (6-5, 245): Ellison only logged 53 career receptions in four years at USC, but he certainly looks the part of an NFL tight end. He isn't an elite straight-line athlete or dominant in-line guy, but he has the ability to be successful in both the run and pass game at the next level. Doesn't look like a starter to us right away, but may be able to earn playing time early during his NFL career.
2. Chase Ford, Miami, FL (6-6, 245): Ford has just 21 appearances under his belt that resulted in only 16 receptions, but he had a good showing at this year's East-West Shine game and for a guy his size with his body control, Ford looks like a option you can draft late and try to mature into an every down type player. Has the frame to add weight and get much bigger.