The Texans hosted their sixth annual draft party at the Verizon West Club at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. This is an extremely popular event with Texans fans. Combine the excitement of draft day with the opportunity to get back to the stadium for the first time in several months to enjoy the camaraderie of other fans, meet some players, watch the cheerleaders or do whatever you do and it makes for an exciting day.
This was one of the better attended draft parties. Doors opened at 10:00 a.m. and when I arrived at 9:15 a.m., the line to get in was already a block down Kirby.
From the time I walked in and secured my seat in front of one of dozens of big screen televisions, I sensed a different mood in the crowd when compared to last year when people were arriving angry.
This was a tremendously upbeat crowd and I saw only one Titans jersey the entire day (a McNair No. 9 in case you were wondering).
As fans waited for the draft to begin, the Texans Bull Pen Pep Band played some classic riffs from NFL Films and the 2007 Texans Cheerleaders were introduced to the camera wielding, photo-opportunity-seeking crowd.
The SportsRadio 610 crew of Marc Vandermeer, Lance Zierlein, and Matt Jackson were broadcasting live and provided outstanding coverage as usual. Many fans watched the better part of the first round from the chairs set up in front of the broadcast stage.
As the draft coverage began (we were watching the NFL Network feed, which is very good - with the exception of Steve Mariucci), I couldn't help but notice the boos for Brady Quinn when the five invited player guests were introduced to the crowd. That was certainly a foreshadowing of how the next four hours of his day would go.
The draft got off to a no-surprise start with the Raiders selecting Jamarcus Russell. When the Lions opted to go WR for the fourth time in five years, the best offensive lineman in the draft, Joe Thomas, fell into the Browns' lap. That was the first step in the Quinn free fall, but little did he or Browns' fans know at the time that he would become Thomas' teammate 19 picks later.
You could feel the excitement building among Texans fans as the top 10 started to play out. One of the funniest things I heard in the crowd was when LSU safety LaRon Landry highlights were being shown after the Redskins selected him at No.6, the person sitting a few seats from me said in all seriousness "he's big for his size." That comment provided a nice humor break for the nail biters sitting around us.
At No. 7, who would have ever thought that the Vikings would have a choice between Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn?
As the Vikings were on the clock, I placed a call to a family member who lives in Minneapolis and asked who they wanted.
"They call him All Day" he said without hesitation. They got their wish.
I almost breathed a sigh of relief when "AD" went off the board.
There was a very noticeable AD vibe at the Texans draft party (I even saw someone wearing a Palestine H.S. t-shirt) and while Peterson fell tantalizingly close to the Texans, I was worried about two things: 1) would AD's durability be an issue if the Texans went there, and 2) the riot that would ensue if the Texans chose to trade down if AD was still there at No. 10. Those worries were short lived as the Vikings picked Peterson at No. 7.
What happened next set the stage for the Texans being able to snag Amobi Okoye at No. 10.
Almost everyone (including Okoye) expected the Falcons to take the talented soon-to-be 20-year-old with the 8th pick – considering Atlanta's new head coach Bobby Petrino was his coach at Louisville. But in a slight surprise, the Falcons, with what used to be the Texans' No. 8 pick, selected DE Jamaal Anderson from Arkansas.
With the Dolphins on the clock at No. 9 (Brady Quinn no-brainer, right?) it was obvious that the Texans would have an opportunity to draft Okoye, Mississippi LB Patrick Wills or trade down, which was still a possibility, in fans minds at least, considering the Broncos' rumored interest in Willis.
Then the Dolphins made the head-scratcher of the draft, selecting Ohio State WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr. at No. 9. I saw video later in the day of Miami coach Cam Cameron addressing Dolphins fans at their draft party. Cameron appeared to quell the masses with his justification of Ginn, but saying "this guy can really return punts" rang a little hollow with Dolphins fans. If you take a WR/punt returner at No. 9 overall, he better be your No. 2 starting WR at least.
The reaction at the draft party to the Texans' selection of Okoye was overwhelmingly positive. I couldn't find too many people who were upset with the pick (for reasons other than "he's only 19.") If you are familiar with the Okoye story, you know he is wise and strong beyond his years.
In a post-draft interview, Okoye admitted that he is keenly aware of the other Lagos, Nigeria native who made his mark on this city and he is excited to follow in his footsteps.
The thought of having Okoye line up next to last year's No. 1 pick Mario Williams is intriguing to say the least. With Jethro Franklin and Frank Bush added to the defensive coaching staff, I'm excited about the possibility for the Texans' defensive front this season.
After the Texans pick, some fans started to filter out while others shifted seats or moved around to check out all the other attractions at the draft day event.
I spent the next nine picks in front of the SportsRadio 610 broadcast booth where Wali Lundy and Owen Daniels were brought out as special guests. Wali and Owen took turns being interviewed on air, and both also took time to talk and have their pictures taken with happy fans.
All in all, it was a great day at Reliant. The Texans finished off Day 1 by selecting a much needed WR in Jacoby Jones. Jones is big and fast and a tremendous athlete, but he's a bit of a risk because of his lack of experience in high quality competition. Head coach Gary Kubiak thinks he has a tremendous upside and the scouting report on him is that he is a good route runner who can also help out as a return man and special teamer.
As I'm wrapping this up, the Texans have just traded with the Saints, dropping down 16 spots in the 4th round and picking up an extra fifth rounder in the process. I have a few thoughts on this.
One is that if the Texans apparently saw no major difference in the talent available at No. 107 vs. No. 123 and are confident that they will have an opportunity to fill any number of needs by picking 16 slots later, then that's great.
Two is that having seven draft choices instead of six is always good, even if the extra pick is 'only' a 5th rounder.
Three is the reminder that the Texans are still making up for past mistakes. Having no second-round pick this season and next is the only bitter pill in what otherwise looks like a team and an organization headed in the right direction.
Note: I took my time finishing this up and just saw that the Texans took South Carolina CB Fred Bennett with their fourth round pick acquired from New Orleans. I guess fellow Gamecocks, Texans Owner Bob McNair and CB Dunta Robinson, will be happy. Hopefully Bennett can make a positive impact on the 2007 Texans.
I'll have more thoughts on this and the rest of the draft in upcoming blog entries.
Let me know your thoughts.
You can email Alan Burge at: email@example.com