Reviewing the 2013 Shadow Texans

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Unfortunately, I never actually got around to doing the 2013 version of this post, but I did make picks that were scribbled down hastily. Part of the deal of helping Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 get out on time is just that I simply lose track of a lot of my life in those summer months. Anyway, here is a review of the picks I wrote down, and how those turned out. But first, backstory!

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a shadow draft, it was popularized by John Sickels of Minor League Ball. Essentially, you pick at exactly the spots your team picks in the draft, and you aren’t able to move down or up on your own. It is taken for granted in my version that, due to your general familiarity with the draft process, you are aware of what players are going to be off the board by your next pick. Thus, you don’t get stuck picking someone rounds too early. All other players signed or traded for by the team are at your disposal, and you can’t keep players that leave.

I don’t actually aim to use this as a tool to show how smart I am, or how savvy of a general manager I’d be. I don’t actually think I could do a better job than any general manager given all the things that I don’t know about. I think of this more as a check for what a theoretical “replacement-level” of knowledge about the draft would get you — stuff you can read for a small price, or just general ideas that were known at the time.

(2012), (2011), (2010), (2009)

My team coming into the 2013 draft looked like this:

QB: Matt Schaub, Russell Wilson (2012-3rd), Case Keenum
RB: Arian Foster, Jacquizz Rodgers (2011-5th), Andre Brown (2009-4th)
WR: Andre Johnson, Marvin Jones (2012-6th), Keshawn Martin (2012-4th), Dezmon Briscoe (2010-6th), Lestar Jean
TE: Owen Daniels, replacement-level fodder
OT: Duane Brown, Michael Oher (2009-1st),  Bobby Massie (2012-4th), Andrew Gardner, Ryan Harris
OG: Wade Smith, A.Q. Shipley (2009-7th)
OC: Chris Myers, Matt Tennant (2010-5th)

DE: Geno Atkins (2010-4th), Antonio Smith, Jared Crick (2012-4th), Greg Romeus (2011-7th)
DT: Dan Williams (2010-1st), replacement-level fodder.
OLB: Robert Quinn (2011-1st), Martez Wilson (2011-2nd), Chris Carter (2011-5th), Bryan Braman
ILB: DeMario Davis (2012-3rd), Mark Herzlich (2011-7th)
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Janoris Jenkins (2012-1st), Davon House (2011-4th), Brandon Ghee (2010-3rd), Amari Spievey (2010-2nd)
S: Danieal Manning , Rahim Moore (2011-2nd), Rashad Johnson (2009-3rd), Ed Reed

K: undrafted FA du jour
P: Shane Lechler

So this is what I was working with to begin with, and here are the picks I actually made:

2013 – 1st round, 27th overall — Texans selected WR DeAndre Hopkins, I selected WR Cordarrelle Patterson

I really like the DeAndre Hopkins pick, and I thought it made a lot of sense in terms of selecting the receiver I thought would be able to contribute immediately. That pick was all about optimizing Houston’s window as a championship contender, and I think Hopkins has a very good chance of being a good receiver in the league for a long time.

But … I think Cordarrelle Patterson has the tools to be a superstar. And when I’m sitting lower in the draft than I’d like to be, I will always prioritize stabbing at a guy who could completely change the way things operate for the franchise. Thanks to Marvin Jones having a breakout year, it turned out the Shadow Texans didn’t really need Patterson to be an immediate contributor, but I’d like to think we would have found a few ways to use him that Leslie Frazier didn’t. And of course, he would immediately make Keshawn Martin’s Adventures in Returning Kicks (TM) irrelevant, which is an added benefit.

Looking purely at pro-football-reference’s AV, Patterson was one of the better choices I could have made. Other guys who piled up eight or more AV include Geno Smith, Alec Ogletree, Kiko Alonso, Travis Frederick, and Le’Veon Bell. If I had to pick someone, I’d say that Jamie Collins has the best future of anyone from 27 to 57 not named Patterson despite his middling AV. Justin Hunter is also a guy I could see blossoming into a star down the line.  Alonso had a better year than Ogletree in my estimation, and it would’ve been nice to have him and Keenan Allen instead of Patterson, but all-and-all this could have gone much worse.

2013 – 2nd round, 57th overall — Texans selected S D.J. Swearinger, I selected TE Jordan Reed

Even beyond the fact that the shadow Texans needed a second tight end that I didn’t have since I never picked Garrett Graham, I loved Jordan Reed coming into this draft. If it wasn’t for the shadow element and research that let me figure he might be on the board in the second round, I would’ve rated him higher than Patterson. I was higher on his blocking than most, and I felt he could be a matchup problem in the NFL ala Aaron Hernandez. He quickly proved me right once Washington put him on the field, but then he was concussed and lost the last month of his season to it. That’s frightening on a lot of levels. I really hope he fully recovers. He wouldn’t be the first pick I’ve had ruined by concussions (Amari Spievey), and as you’ll see below, he won’t be the last, either. It’s a brutal sport that we love.

Even had I not gone with Reed, I wouldn’t have picked Swearinger. Much as I liked him, safety was one position where I was well-fortified. Ed Reed wasn’t my favorite free-agent signing in the world, but I thought he would at least be credible, and I had two other highly-drafted safeties in front of him, as well as Danieal Manning. From 57 to 89, the best AVs were Eddie Lacy, Keenan Allen, Hugh Thornton, Mike Glennon, Terrance Williams, and Larry Warford. After already picking a first-round wideout, I wouldn’t have selected another one this early. I also considered myself stacked enough at running back to avoid that position this early. Glennon was someone that advanced statistics were so down on that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable making him my selection. That leaves the two guards. Larry Warford had a fantastic season and probably would have been the best pick, but my general line of thought is draft the tackle over the guard, because you can always move the tackle inside if he can’t hold up on the edge.

It’s much harder to figure out who I like the most out of this section going forward, but Sio Moore, Tyrann Mathieu, and Logan Ryan also probably merited a look in retrospect.

2013 – 3rd round, 89th overall — Texans selected OT Brennan Williams, I selected LB Khaseem Greene

I had a major crush on Greene coming out of this draft, but it’s hard to say that he was any better than a guy who didn’t play at all this year. Chicago’s run defense was very sad without D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs — they had a 10-game streak of allowing at least 10% DVOA to their opponents on the ground, and most of them were much worse than 10% — Greene was a part of that. I still like his athleticism in the long-term, and think he can help in the middle of a 3-4. With Williams, I think the Texans were trying to draft a tackle with premium mobility. We didn’t get to see that play out on the field this year, but I don’t think it was flawed reasoning at all. I just liked this next guy a little better.

2013 – 3rd round, 95th overall — Texans selected DE Sam Montgomery, I selected OT David Bahktiari 

My eyes on Bahktiari were really opened courtesy of Lance Zierlein, who had glowing reviews of his potential on The Sideline View in the leadup to the draft. As you know, he seized the reins at left tackle rather early in Green Bay as Bryan Bulaga was lost for the season again. In Shadow Houston, he wouldn’t have been counted on to do quite that much probably, but I think either he or Bobby Massie would have had a chance to put Wade Smith on the bench.

I still don’t really understand the Sam Montgomery pick a year later. I thought he was a 3-4 end, and the Texans wanted him to play outside linebacker. I’ve heard from multiple scouts and sources that he was considered a character risk. So it was a bad schematic fit in my mind, and not a guy Houston would normally take anyway. What the hell happened here?

Looking back from 89 to 124, Bahtkiari was the only player with more than 5 AV. Akeem Spence and Brian Schwenke were the next tier with 5, and 4, respectively. Knile Davis had 3, nobody else had more than Greene’s 2. I really loved Tyler Wilson coming out, but didn’t select him because I already had enough quarterback depth until Schaub walked. Sometimes, it’s the picks you don’t make.

2013 – 4th round, 124th overall — Texans selected DE/LB Trevardo Williams, I selected WR Ryan Swope

Well, it’s not often a pick you make is irrelevant before the year even happens, but here we are. Swope retired prior to training camp due to his multiple concussions and the fear of what more would do to him. A smart move on his part, and no one should begrudge him for that decision given how science has been trending with regards to CTE. The Texans didn’t have a fifth-rounder, so not only did I have to jump the gun to get Swope, I had to jump it to an obscene degree. It happens.

Trevardo Williams also spent the year on IR. Better picks between 124 and 176 for this season would have been: Jordan Mills (10 AV), Zac Stacy (7 AV), Kenny Stills (5 AV), Josh Evans (4 AV), Luke Willson (3 AV), Micah Hyde (3 AV), and Devin Taylor (3 AV). Had I not picked Swope, I probably would’ve selected Johnathan Franklin, who was stuck behind Eddie Lacy in Green Bay but was regarded as a second-round talent in the draftnik circles that I paid attention to. I was also high on Taylor, Montori Hughes, and Jesse Williams. If I had to pick one of those guys today, it would probably be Taylor, because as good as Stacy is the running back position is still pretty fungible.

2013 – 6th round, 176th overall — Texans selected OL David Quessenberry, I selected DT Chris Jones
2013 – 6th round, 195th overall — Texans selected WR Alan Bonner, I selected TE Ryan Griffin
2013 – 6th round, 198th overall — Texans selected DT Chris Jones, I selected WR Charles Johnson
2013 – 6th round, 201st overall — Texans selected TE Ryan Griffin, I selected DE/OLB David Bass

After doing my leg work on these picks, I liked the last two. Griffin wasn’t special or anything, but I thought he had a chance to be a second tight end someday, while Jones produced plenty for Bowling Green (20.5 sacks his last two seasons) and I found him undersized, but thought he might make a good nickel rusher. I also had holes at both of those positions coming into the draft, so I figured I’d go with it. Jones, of course, wound up being one of New England’s many waiver wire stars that held that defense together. Griffin was about what I thought he’d be, although I don’t understand why he was on the field so much down the stretch.

With the last two picks, my Charles Johnson selection was betting on the tools. He crushed weak competition at Grand Valley State, and ran a 4.35 40-yard-dash at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. That, along with 31 touchdowns in two seasons, caught my eye. I figured I’d take a flyer on him. Bass was someone that SackSEER identified as a deep sleeper, for much the same reasons as Johnson: small school dominance. Johnson got the practice squad red shirt, while Bass found his way into a sack and an interception return touchdown as an Oakland backup. I think his passes defensed give him a credible shot to be an outside linebacker with coaching.

Alan Bonner and David Quessenberry didn’t play NFL football this year. I understood and liked the Quessenberry pick. I barely know who Alan Bonner is. Nobody really did when he was picked.

Other guys who managed 3 or more AV besides Jones from the sixth round on included Marcus Cooper (3), Michael Bowie (4), Vince Williams (5), Stacy McGee (3), Andre Ellington (7), Mychal Rivera (3), and Tourek Williams (3).

So that left the 2013 roster looking like this:

QB: Matt Schaub, Russell Wilson (2012-3rd), Case Keenum
RB: Arian Foster, Jacquizz Rodgers (2011-5th), Andre Brown (2009-4th), undrafted FA stew (Ray Graham? Jonathan Grimes? Cierre Wood?)
WR: Andre Johnson, Marvin Jones (2012-6th), Cordarrelle Patterson (2013-1st), Keshawn Martin (2012-4th), Dezmon Briscoe (2010-6th), Charles Johnson (2013-6th), Lestar Jean
TE: Owen Daniels, Jordan Reed (2013-2nd), Ryan Griffin (2013-6th)
OT: Duane Brown, Michael Oher (2009-1st), David Bakhtiari (2013-4th), Bobby Massie (2012-4th), Andrew Gardner, Ryan Harris
OG: Wade Smith, A.Q. Shipley (2009-7th)
OC: Chris Myers, Matt Tennant (2010-5th)

DE: Geno Atkins (2010-4th), Antonio Smith, Jared Crick (2012-4th), Greg Romeus (2011-7th)
DT: Dan Williams (2010-1st), Chris Jones (2013-6th)
OLB: Robert Quinn (2011-1st), Martez Wilson (2011-2nd), Chris Carter (2011-5th), David Bass (2013-6th), Bryan Braman
ILB: DeMario Davis (2012-3rd), Khaseem Greene (2013-3rd), Mark Herzlich (2011-7th)
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Janoris Jenkins (2012-1st), Davon House (2011-4th), Brandon Ghee (2010-3rd), Amari Spievey (2010-2nd)
S: Danieal Manning , Rahim Moore (2011-2nd), Rashad Johnson (2009-3rd), Ed Reed

K: undrafted FA du jour
P: Shane Lechler

Certainly there are holes there, though I think obviously one of the tackles would be playing guard. I don’t think this Shadow Team would have folded quite as egregiously as the 2013 Texans actually did, because Russell Wilson has several non-Matt Schaub qualities and is generally good at football. But it would’ve been hard to overcome the loss of Geno Atkins on a defense that’s not quite as deep as the Bengals are up front.

This year the Shadow Texans have the No. 1 pick. That feels weird given the talent I have put together, which makes me feel pretty bad about the job Rick Smith has done. But ultimately this is a league about quarterbacks, right? I won’t be chasing one, so I think that makes my No. 1 pick pretty obvious. Houston’s should be too, if you aren’t just trying to put up mock drafts that generate hits.

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