Friday of draft weekend is such a great day/night. First-round pick Tytus Howard and his family arrived on campus to celebrate his selection and the joy on his face was so evident as we interviewed him for the second time in two days. Then, the draft continued on into the evening and three more players became Houston Texans.
Let’s start with the first of two second-round picks - Lonnie Johnson Jr., cornerback from Kentucky.
Here’s my scouting report on Johnson.
OVERALL: Johnson wasn't a full-time starter at Kentucky, which was shocking after watching him compete at the senior bowl. He didn't arrive at Kentucky with a ton of fanfare because he was a JUCO product. Not only that, he had committed to Ohio State but he wasn't able to make it due to his grades. So, he went to not one but two junior colleges and he was prepared to go to Iowa State but his grades hadn't improved enough. He then gave up football in 2016, staying in school at Garden City Community College, to get his grades right for a proper transfer to a Division 1 program. Eventually, he put it all together to get to Kentucky but he was amongst a deep group of corners for playing time. He started the last five games of the 2017 season and all 13 games in 2018. In the process, he supplanted a three-year starter at the position. He's been slept on because of his background but the senior bowl gave us a glimpse of what he can do once he gets settled in the NFL. He's physically tough, has length and will fight to the death in coverage. He doesn't transition on quick routes as well as some in this draft, but he's smooth in transition and will stick in your hip pocket all over the field. He has all the measurables in a perimeter cornerback and he's going to be in this league for a long time as a result.
If you had given me $10 to go to Vegas to bet on a draft pick becoming a Texans, I’d have gotten Whataburger first and then put $1 on Lonnie Johnson being that guy. Gut feel. Doing the math. Whatever it was, I just had a feeling, so I was not surprised, yet extremely excited that Johnson’s name was called.
Then, with the very next pick, Max Scharping, tackle from Northern Illinois became a Texan.
Here’s my scouting report on the big fella from Green Bay, WI.
OVERALL: Want to feel small? Stand next to Scharping as I did at the senior bowl. This is one legitimately large human being. Unfortunately, at the senior bowl, he was dealing with a bit of a nagging injury which slowed him. But, he's a legit tackle prospect in this league. He's not athletically gifted as some are in this draft, but he moves well enough to play right tackle. He has some pop in his pads, but I want to see more on his down-blocks - he should really cave in that left side and he didn't do that to the degree I expected. He kick slides relatively well and slides up and down the arc well. He needs to stay latched on pass rushers and not get his arms/hands knocked off. I wouldn't say anything he does or any asset has is elite, but he has really good feet, moves well and get guys blocked. There's no sexy. There's nothing to ohh and ahh about, but he doesn't get beat. He gets rocked back on bull rushes, but he'll eventually anchor to keep the defender from the quarterback.
He did some work with legendary offensive line coach Larry Zierlein heading into the senior bowl and he noted that the work he did was extremely helpful in this draft process. I’m not sure how much Larry can improve on one sack in like 1,400 college snaps, but Scharping was thankful for the time spent with coach.
Then, a bit of a wild card came our way in the form of Kahale Warring, tight end from San Diego State.
Here’s my scouting report on Warring.
OVERALL: Warring might be one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire draft class. He's a former goalie, an all-league water polo goalie. He played basketball, tennis, swimming and cross country as well. He was recruited out of high school as a basketball player as well and he was a three-year star on the water polo team as its goalie. The water polo career ended, though, when he was convinced to join the football team as a senior in 2014. In that one year, his raw size and skills got some attention but not enough to keep him from leaving California. Over the next four years, he packed on 40 pounds and eventually became a starter in San Diego State's offense. Now, this was a run first offense that played a ton of 22 and 21 personnel so his 31 receptions/372 yards/three touchdown final season certainly does not indicate the type of player he can be once he truly learns the NFL game. I can't help but think about Travis Kelce (Chiefs) when watching Warring. Just the way he moves, gets open in the passing game, the athleticism he displays in all areas on the field. I don't think either one of them is truly accomplished as a blocker in the run game, but both will compete hard. Warring is still raw, but he'll strike with some pop. Like Kelce, he'll flex out A TON in the passing game, in particular in the red zone passing game. Against Arizona State on a two-point conversion late in the game, Warring lined up as the lone receiver in a 3x1 set and made catching a fade route look easy. I like his hands and he'll certainly go up and catch the ball in traffic. He runs excellent routes and can get open with his precision and/or his athleticism. He said it at the combine - "I think my ceiling is so high." There's nothing like potential and Warring has that in spades. Oh, and if you're looking for the next NFL slam dunk champion, Warring is going to be in that mix for sure.
I mentioned Kelce above and that’s the vibe that I got when I watched Warring, but when I asked him in our post selection interview, he said he was a tight end junkie. He watched everyone. College. NFL. It didn’t matter, he loves taking different aspects from the different tight ends that he watches all the time.
These three youngsters, along with Howard, will make a significant impact on this organization. Yet, there’s one day left for three more to join the party on Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait! See you on then, everyone.