Texans director of college scouting Dale Strahm (left) talks with general manager Rick Smith in the Texans' war room before the first round of the draft on Thursday, April 22.
This* article is part of our 2010 Path to the Draft coverage presented by FOX Sports Houston*.
The Texans' scouting department put more than nine months of work and countless miles of travel into preparations for the 2010 draft.
Director of college scouting Dale Strahm, college scouting coordinator Mike Maccagnan, national scout Ed Lambert and the Texans' six regional scouts each did reports on an average of 350 players. Strahm slept in a hotel room for 192 nights, a number he estimates was similar for most of the team's scouts.
Those months of preparation boiled down to three days, seven rounds and nine picks last week. Strahm, a 12-year scout who coached college football for 31 years, raved about the chemistry in the Texans' war room and the draft class that the Texans put together as a result.
"It takes a collective effort by everybody to be successful, and I was so impressed this year by the pro department, our college scouts, Gary Kubiak and our football coaches, the leadership and visionary process that we had from Rick Smith, the cooperation from everybody in regards to what our goals were in trying to fill the needs of our team so that we would get better – and that's what we accomplished," Strahm said.
"You usually have about seven draft picks, one per round. We had so many needs when we first got here together that we had to address those needs. This year we had nine picks, and consequently what that allowed us to do was to go out and get a specialty returner, get some guys that can really help our football team on the special teams side, as well as individual position needs.
"It's an outstanding group. Two-thirds of the guys were captains, 80 percent of them have their college degrees. Over 85 percent have been three-year starters. We have a saying that what we're looking for is a 'Tough, smart, physical player with high character that has the competitiveness and the passion about the game of football.' That's our motto, and that's what we've found. If you can have those attributes coming in here, you've got a chance."
After the draft, Strahm offered a capsulized look at each of the Texans' nine picks in a special for HoustonTexans.com:
Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama First round (20th overall)
Strahm: "Comes from Macon, Ga., Westside High School. He attended Fork Union (Va.) for a year in '06, transferred to Alabama in '07. He's an early-out junior. Three-year starter. Very physical player, great passion for the game. His work ethic is outstanding. He's got great football instincts. He's a very tough competitor. He likes to do the dirty work – and by that, I mean on run support, he's active, he's a solid tackler. He's got a big upside. He's got a swagger in his play, and he plays with a lot of confidence. He comes from a complicated system at Alabama, and they have really tough coaching. They really get after you. They have an outstanding program, and he's benefited because of that. He's very mature with his thought process and his technique, so we think he's game-ready."
Ben Tate, RB, Auburn Second round (58th overall)
Strahm: "He's 5-11, 220, 4.38. From Newark, Md., Snow Hill High School. This guy graduated in three-and-a-half years from Auburn. He's got very good playing speed. He's explosive. He's got very good power as a runner. Has got very good field vision and speed to bounce his runs to the outside. We like his physical skill set and his toughness. He's just got to get in here and get a feel for our running style of what we're looking for, but he's a fine, fine addition to our team."
Earl Mitchell, DT, Arizona Third round (81st overall)
Strahm: "What we were looking for inside. 6-2, 300 pounds. North Shore High School in Houston. Interesting guy. Very versatile. In '06, he was a tight end and fullback and started six games. '07, they moved him to tight end – H-back kind of guy. They needed some girth, they needed some power in the middle on defense because they couldn't stop anybody, so they asked Earl to come over and play defense and he was a two-year starter at tackle. He's got great quickness. Very powerful. Love his motor. He's a team leader – co-captain. He needs to refine his pass rush skills. He started there 37 out of 49 games, so he's an excellent prospect inside. Big upside because he's so versatile."
Darryl Sharpton, LB, Miami (Fla.) Fourth round (102nd overall)
Strahm: "Two-year starter from Coral Gables (Fla.) High School. Inside linebacker, 5-11½, 230 pounds. What we like about this guy, he's got a quick trigger. He's a quick reactor to what he sees. He's got great what we call FBIs – football instincts. He's got great keys. He attacks downhill. We love his motor. He puts his hat on the ball carrier. He's an every-down player. Very aggressive in his style of play. Has his degree. Very bright, has a GPA of 3.0. Nephew of Rev. Al Sharpton – I think he was praying for us, because we were praying for this kid. But what he has is what we call body shock. It's like a prize fighter. I mean, when he hits you, boom – you feel it. He's got body shock on contact. We think he's really going to help us on special teams and be a role player for us with a chance to start."
Garrett Graham, TE, Wisconsin Fourth round (118th overall)
Strahm: "6-3, 247. From Memorial High School up in Jersey. Two-time captain, three-year starter. Has his degree. A very versatile athlete. Full-speed player. Excellent, excellent catching radius. He's got great hands. Shows a lot of production in the passing game. Could be used as a slot receiver, a wing guy, a movement type of guy. He's got natural hands. Very business-like in his approach. Almost a protégé to our other tight end, (Owen) Daniels. Big upside. I think he had over 50 receptions and seven TDs this year. We really like this kid. He's really on the come."
Sherrick McManis, CB, Northwestern Fifth round (144th overall)
Strahm: "5-11, 190, 4.5. Richmond High School in Peoria, Ill. Captain. 3.0 GPA. Has his degree. Three-year starter. He's got excellent measureables. Had some injury issues this season, which knocked him down in the draft, but we see a tremendous upside with his potential and his ability. Is very tough in his style of play. He's got very good ball skills. We see him as having nickel back potential for us. He loves contact. Very versatile player. We see a big upside with this kid."
Shelley Smith, G, Colorado State Sixth round (187th overall)
Strahm: "We tried to address this issue in the draft early, but there were very few interior linemen. It was very thin in the position, and we were very fortunate in our sixth round pick to get him. 6-3, 300 pounds, from Westview High School in Phoenix. Three-year starter. Captain. Has got a degree. He's got great toughness. He's athletic. He's got good lateral range with good C.O.D. (change of direction). He can strike and sustain his run blocks. He's got good mobility for a big interior kind of lineman, good in-line strength. He's got power to gain what we call movement off the line, so he'll come out and do that. We see this guy having a chance to soak at that position and eventually help us interiorly."
Trindon Holliday, KR, LSU Sixth round (197th overall)
Strahm: "To me, there's three things about pro football. Number one, it's about speed, and it's about field position and it's about matchups. When you grade him in those three areas, he gets an 'A' in all three. This guy is 5-5, 165, but he plays like he's 6-4. There's no fear. He's physically tough, mentally tough. He's from Northeastern High School in Zachary, La. Had the fastest time in the world in 2008 – he was the fastest human being on earth – when he ran the 60 meters in 6.54. Fastest time in the world. In 2009, he won the NCAA 100 meters in 10 flat. That's going over 10 yards-plus once in every second. The guy is amazing to me. I think he's going to bring a special presence to our special teams. He averaged 25 yards in kickoff return per try and he averaged almost 15 yards in punt return, so right now, we've got better field position. Obviously, he's a tremendous threat just because of his natural catching abilities and his raw speed. A great, great pick in the sixth round as a specialist, and in the past we haven't had the opportunities to go get that kind of guy."
Dorin Dickerson, WR, Pittsburgh Seventh round (227th overall)
Strahm: "This guy is really interesting. For him to be sitting there in the seventh round was unbelievable. Some people had him in the late third, early fourth. We couldn't wait to get him. He's 6-1, 220, and he's not a tight end; we're going to put him as a wide receiver. He's from West Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. Extremely versatile athlete. There's nothing that this kid can't do. I'll give you an example: His senior year in high school, he ran for over 1,400 yards and 30 TDs. So his running skills after the catch or anything else are exceptional. Played wide receiver, running back, outside linebacker and tight end. Excellent worker. He's a dynamic athlete and a diverse talent. He needs time on the job at the wide receiver position, but he will come in and make all of our special teams. He's going to be a great contributor on special teams. Has very good playing speed, natural quickness. A hybrid-type player at this stage with a terrific upside. He had a 43½-inch vertical and a long jump of over 10½ feet. I mean, that is exceptional."