Let's do some draft observations from this historic entire NFL Draft weekend.
NFL Draft: Round 1
The Texans were the only team in the NFL to sign its first round pick this weekend. Okay, you got me. I'm trying to be funny, in some respect, but it was tremendous to see Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil sign his extension with the Texans on Friday and remain in Houston for, at least, the next four years. Back in 2016, I had him at No. 1 in my Harris 100. Here's what I wrote on him…
"The class of the 2016 NFL Draft class...playing the most important position, outside of QB, he's a bona fide left tackle and I've thought that since his first start as a true freshman in 2013...exactly what an NFL LT looks like...missed half of the 2015 season due to suspension but returned with something to prove...had a season-ending injury in 2014 Peach Bowl the year prior...plays with great knee bend...powerful base...quick and explosive in all of his movements...great lateral quickness...technique-sound...seemingly never gets rattled...doesn't crossover his feet."
Here's what I didn't say...I hope one day he becomes a Houston Texan. I didn't say it then because I knew he would never be. Thankfully, I was wrong. Now, he is and will be for a while. All in all, that's one heck of a first round pick for the Houston Texans.
NFL Draft: Round 2
When I saw Ross Blacklock's name in the second round, I had almost forgotten he was still on the board. I first saw him back in 2017 when TCU had a few future NFL prospects on the field. Then, all of a sudden, #90 kept making plays, like shop-wrecking plays. He just took over on the interior. I looked up who it was and, lo and behold, I learned that Blacklock is just a sophomore. I realized I've got to wait a while. Then, he got hurt in 2018, so I wasn't sure what to totally expect in 2019. Uh, more of that shop wrecking. Here was my write-up on him in the Harris 100 in 2020; I had him at No. 21 overall.
"I first noticed Blacklock in 2017 as I was studying another prospect. About five plays into the game that I chose, I kept seeing #90 in purple wrecking shop on the inside; he had about three plays in a row where he completely disrupted blocking schemes or made a play in the backfield for a TFL. I have a list on my desk at all times that has names of underclassmen that I need to follow for the rest of their careers. I wrote Blacklock's name down, but knew I'd have to wait a few years to assess his draft prospects. Early in fall camp in 2018, he was injured and missed the entire season, so he wasn't on too many radar screens heading into 2019. He re-emerged after a strong season for the Horned Frogs. I, honestly, don't think he's anywhere near his ceiling, but his quickness, agility, hand usage, ability to rush the passer and relentless nature will make him a valued interior line prospect. He never stops coming and never stops countering moves. If a lineman stops one move, he's ready to throw hands and use a different move. Considering interior pass rushers are about as valuable as a three leaf clover, Blacklock is going to get plenty of attention on draft weekend."
NFL Draft: Round 3
Now, let's look at this third round, Gareon Conley, Duke Johnson and Jonathan Greenard. All three should play a role for the 2020 Texans and the Texans have two of them signed already. Okay, same trick, huh? But, it applies, really. The Texans used that third rounder in a trade with Seattle to go get Conley last season and used their comp pick in the third round with Cleveland to get Johnson. That left Greenard on the board at No. 90. Now, I don't get much right, but I called this one on the air on Friday night. Marc Vandermeer asked me who I thought would make a great pick here and I told him, and our listening audience, that Greenard was a guy I really liked. BOOM. Then it happened.
When we first started with the shelter in place, my family and I were down in Galveston, sheltering in place on the beach. Before we left, I had gotten some help from my man Tommy in our film department and asked for a number of games including Florida v. Missouri from the 2019 season. There were current prospects and future prospects all in that game, including Greenard. So, thanks to Tommy's help, I walked out on the deck, took an ice water, grabbed my remote and the Surface...and walked back in an hour or so later with a sunburn and an intense desire to want Greenard on my team. In that game, he COMPLETELY dominated the Missouri offensive tackles and he made it look easy.
I had seen him throughout the year and knew that there might be a chance to draft him so when I went to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, I made a beeline over to interview him and he was awesome. He then had a strong week rushing the passer, but that game against Missouri showed me that he was definitely an NFL pass rusher in the future. In the end, the third round became a highly productive round for the Texans, taking it all into consideration.
NFL Draft: Round 4
Being the son/daughter of a coach can be difficult. I was one and there are times that it sucked, horribly. Fourth round offensive tackle Charlie Heck is also a coach's kid and I'm sure, like me and many others at that age, he's sick of hearing about it. But, there will come a time, maybe it's now, who knows, when he REALLY respects having a coach for a dad. We do know how it goes for all young adults - parents, well, they can be a bit annoying. I'm one right now and I'm the King of the Annoying. Watching Heck, though, it's clear that he's been listening to Pops (Andy Heck, offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs) and his great coaching staff at North Carolina. He's technically sound, versatile and plays with toughness like his Pops who played in the NFL for many years.
At the Combine in 2020, there were some unique changes to some of the on-field drills which opened the door for a number of prospects to just pass on the Combine altogether. As I heard at the bench press throughout the weekend, "I'll do it at my Pro Day." Well, Pro Days didn't happen for most players, unfortunately, but Penn State cornerback John Reid did ALL of that testing at the Combine and it paid off. He ran well - 4.49 in the 40 - but it was his change of direction drills that truly got my attention. He was one of the few prospects in the entire Combine to have a sub-four seconds short shuttle AND a sub-seven seconds 3-cone drill. And, that's what you see on tape too. He can transition, flip his hips and redirect as well as anybody in this draft. Oh, by the way, he's a coder/game designer so my son is going to LOVE him.
NFL Draft: Round 5
When I was a junior at Brown University, getting ready for the last off-season in my career, we had gotten a notice that we were getting a new defensive coordinator. His name was Jim Fleming from Boise State (well before the Statue of Liberty and Boise State becoming a FBS powerhouse). Why do I bring that up? Well, it's not every day that your college coach at Brown, coaches a prospect that ends up with your team the Houston Texans. Fleming has been the head coach at Rhode Island since 2014 and recruited the Texans fifth round pick Isaiah Coulter to campus. All Coulter did was dominate FCS competition, catching 72 passes for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season. His spot in the fifth round was cemented when he lit up the Combine at 6-2, 200 lb., running 4.45 in the 40 yard dash.
Memories of 2020 Draft
This was a unique draft. It was a unique draft class. The NFL, the teams, the prospects, the families, the fans and the IT departments all across the country deserve more than THANKS, but it's the best we can all do. But, how about a virtual hug from me to everyone? Commissioner Roger Goodell did a masterful job of putting this product on display for the entire world to see and everyone associated with it will remember it forever. Some memories that'll stick…
1. Goodell reclining in his basement making picks, running on fumes on Friday night.
2. Bill O'Brien with his two boys Michael and Jack holding up signs, thanking the healthcare workers all around the world that have helped Coach and his family for years and all of us during this pandemic.
3. Families reactions from their homes. Poor Antoine Winfield Jr. - he gets selected by Tampa Bay and his whole family starts running around the house and he's left standing there all alone. I guess, they felt like social distancing at that moment. I think it was Jalen Reagor's mom who was so amped she was storming around her living room, ready to fight Mike Tyson. I think Philly is going to like her...and her dynamic son.
4. Joe Burrow's understated celebration with his parents. Just the three of them on a couch to start this draft set the tone for the entire thing. A tremendously appropriate tone from Joey B.
5. Cardinals' coach Kliff Kingsbury's bachelor pad.
6. The city of Houston spitting out some major NFL talent - the Texans ended up with one of them in Ross Blacklock from Missouri City (Elkins HS).
7. Bill Belichick's dog at his computer.
8. Harry Connick's national anthem to get everything under way.
9. The reaction to Jordan Love getting picked by the Packers.
10. Every dog, kid, garbage truck, ocean wave, computer ding, family member that found a way to make a noise on a broadcast in this three day festival. It was cool. It was really, REALLY cool to hear from all of you.
It's time for sleep. Love all of your support and we'll talk/see you soon. Thank you to everyone. Just thank you for letting us do what we do. Hope you enjoyed it all.
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