With all of the public turmoil surrounding what the Texans should do with their top overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, general manager Charley Casserly sounded surprisingly calm when addressing the media at Reliant Stadium on Thursday.
The look on Casserly's face resembled a poker player with all the chips sitting in front of him. The Texans, in fact, do have some significant bargaining power given the top names in the draft, which include quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Vince Young, not to mention running back Reggie Bush, who declared today that we would forego his senior year at the University of Southern California to turn pro.
"What you have is a very strong top of the draft with Vince Young, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart," Casserly said. "I think most people feel those three players are going to be the first three players taken in the country. What order has yet to be determined. Clearly, what it does when you have the first pick is that it strengthens the top there for potential trade options. So you've got three players who will be highly sought after, so it gives you a lot of potential to talk about and entertain as you get ready to pick."
Casserly is well aware of the public fervor, both locally and nationally, regarding the Texans' decision. The talk generally has centered around Bush and Young as the top-two options. While Bush was the talk of the town a few weeks ago, a large contingent of fans has had a change of heart since Young's performance in the Rose Bowl.
"Vince Young is a local hero, a great player at Madison High School, a great player at the University of Texas and he's certainly a terrific pro prospect," Casserly said. "He is a very talented quarterback. He can run and he can throw. If he ends up here, then he's certainly an outstanding pro prospect."
Many people, including league scouts, anticipated Bush declaring months ago, whereas Young was less of a certainty. With that in mind, Casserly admitted that many of the Texans' head coaching candidates during the recent interview process were asked what they would do with Bush in the lineup.
Asked what he sees in Bush, Casserly didn't mince words.
"He's an explosive player," he said. "Hands on the ball, he can score any time he gets it. He can be a runner. He can be a receiver. He can be a returner, and he could be a decoy, if you will. Why would you have a decoy? Well, you put him in motion and all of a sudden he can free up coverages. You're now dictating the defense by moving him around.
"I think he gives you a lot of options, plus he gives you a touchdown maker and another playmaker on offense."
It's premature to say there's a favorite to be the top pick, especially given the fact that the Texans haven't even decided on a new head coach. Once that matter is resolved, and a new coaching staff is hired, Casserly expects to sit down and discuss personnel matters more in-depth.
The Texans have interviewed seven coaching prospects at this point.
"In all the interviews, the coaches gave us a rundown of our personnel, but admittedly said they would need to study more tape to feel comfortable about it," Casserly said. "So the coach comes in, analyzes the team, looks at it and he's going to have opinions on it. Certainly, no decision is going to be made here without the head coach having a tremendous say in it."
From this point, Casserly and his staff will continue breaking down tape and evaluating players up until the April draft. The Senior Bowl is at the end of the month in Mobile, Ala. The annual NFL scouting combine will be held at the RCA Dome in late February, and there will be workouts from some of the top prospects later in the process.
The Texans hold four picks in the top-66 spots in the draft, and Casserly looks forward to selecting excellent players with each choice, even if the focus remains on the top one.
"In theory, (the leverage with the top pick) happens every year with the beginning of the draft, but some years there are better players than other years," Casserly said. "I think this year we have a much better situation than a year ago, and I think we'll let it play out over the next couple of months and see what happens."