Texans make nine picks, three trades in 2010 draft

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This* article is part of our 2010 Path to the Draft coverage presented by FOX Sports Houston*.

After making nine picks and three trades in the 2010 NFL Draft, Texans general manager Rick Smith let out a deep breath and smiled.

"It's bright up here," Smith said to the media assembled in the press box at Reliant Stadium. "It's been dark down there in the dungeon."

Smith, of course, was referring to the Texans' war room, located on the ground level of the stadium. That's where he had spent most the of the last 72 hours gathered with Texans coach Gary Kubiak, scouts, assistant coaches and other front office personnel for the three-day draft.

"I feel extremely proud of our group," Smith said. "I just talked to them and told them how impressed I was with who we chose. They did an outstanding job of evaluating the class, and I think we got a good group; I'm excited about them. Our football team is better, and that's the ultimate goal of the weekend."

The Texans filled their two biggest needs with their first two picks, cornerback Kareem Jackson of Alabama (20th overall) and running back Ben Tate of Auburn (58th).

Jackson (5-10, 196) started 40 games for Nick Saban at Alabama and will have a chance to start immediately for the Texans at right cornerback. The position opened up when Dunta Robinson signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent, and every first-round draft pick under Kubiak has started as a rookie in Week 1.

Tate (5-11, 220) gives the Texans a physical running back to go with Steve Slaton, who's coming off of neck surgery, and a stable of ball-carriers that includes 2009 rookie Arian Foster.

"He's not only a big back – and we were looking for some power there from that standpoint – but this guy has 4.4 (speed), also, shows the ability to make big plays," Kubiak said. "We just think he fits exactly what we want to do. We like his size, but it's always nice to have someone who can hit a home run when everything works out."

{QUOTE}The Texans thought highly of Tate and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. They had their choice of either with the 51st pick of the draft, but Smith traded the pick to the Minnesota Vikings to move down 11 spots and acquire an extra third-round pick.

After the Vikings selected Gerhart with the pick, the Texans decided to trade back up to the 58th spot to grab Tate. Smith later made another trade in the third round, giving up the 91st pick to move down.

The net result of the three trades: The Texans ended up with Tate, an extra fourth-round pick (102nd overall) and a fifth-round pick (144th) that was six spots higher than their original selection at 150.

With the extra fourth-round pick, the Texans got Miami (Fla.) linebacker Darryl Sharpton (5-11, 236), who Kubiak said could compete for a starting spot on the weakside. The fifth-round pick was spent on another cornerback, Sherrick McManis (6-1, 195) of Northwestern.

"We love his football personality," Smith said of McManis. "He's a very intelligent guy, a good leader for that team, and when we talked to the coaches or anybody from that school, they rave about him and his abilities."

In the third round, the Texans added Earl Mitchell of Arizona to their defensive tackle rotation. A Houston native, Mitchell (6-3, 296) was a tight end for his first two seasons at Arizona before switching to defense. He had 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

"He isn't a big 360-pound guy, but he is a 300-pounder and he moves (well)," Smith said. "We need guys who are athletes and who can play on their feet and can run and chase and also have some gap integrity. We think he can do that."

The Texans had one offensive lineman in their 2010 draft class, Colorado State guard Shelley Smith (sixth round, 187th overall). Kubiak said that Smith (6-4, 300) has the ability to play either guard or center.

Houston raised some eyebrows by appearing to select two tight ends in Garrett Graham (fourth round, 118th overall) from Wisconsin and Dorin Dickerson (seventh round, 227th) from Pittsburgh. The Texans had drafted two tight ends in 2009.

But immediately after the draft, Kubiak clarified that Dickerson (6-1, 222) will play wide receiver. Graham (6-3, 243) will have an opportunity for plenty of reps in OTAs and mini-camp with three of the Texans' four veteran tight ends coming off of surgery.

On special teams, the Texans added a player they think could be a game-changer in Trindon Holliday of LSU (sixth round, 197th overall). A return specialist, Holliday (5-5, 159) ran a 4.34 40 at the combine and won the NCAA 100-meter sprint championship in 2009 with a time of 10.00.

Now, the Texans will begin the process of signing undrafted free agents. They signed 13 in 2009, including running backs Foster and Jeremiah Johnson and defensive end Tim Jamison.

"(We'll) see where we can continue to improve or what we need to go to training camp, but I'm not big on just signing players to fill lines," Smith said. "We want to go and try to find guys that can come in and compete and have a legitimate chance to make the team, so that's what we've got to do here as soon as we go back downstairs."

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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