Drafting from the Lone Star State
DCTF's Greg Tepper breaks down the 7 players with Texas ties taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Mock drafts are so very rarely correct. With all the wheeling and dealing that goes on at the NFL Draft itself, it’s a bit of an exercise in futility to attempt to predict past the first two or three picks of any NFL Draft.
And last night’s first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was no different.
How’s this for an amazing statistic: of the 32 picks in last night’s first round, 16 of them – exactly half of them – were part of some sort of trade. Half of the picks were traded at some point! That’s incredible.
What’s not incredible: once again, players with Texas ties made a huge impact on the first round of the NFL Draft. In all, seven players taken on Thursday night have something to do with Texas – either they played their high school football here, they played their college football here or they will play their professional football here.
And it all starts at the top…
No. 1, Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (Houston Stratford HS)
It’s been official-official for a couple of days now that Luck would be the first pick in the draft, but it’s been unofficially known since Peyton Manning was released by the Colts a couple of months ago. In steps Luck, the Stratford product, to become the new face of the franchise for Indianapolis. Luck becomes the third quarterback from a Texas high school ever taken No. 1 overall (joining Highland Park’s Matthew Stafford in 2009 and Brazosport’s King Hill in 1958), and the 11th Texas high school football player taken No. 1 overall. And you can see why: Luck is as polished a quarterback prospect to come out of the college ranks since, well, probably Peyton Manning. Any criticism you would levy against him – like that he’s only kind of mobile and the very occasional poor decision – would qualify as nitpicking. He’s the real deal, and another in a long line of outstanding Texas high school products turned No. 1 picks.
No. 2, Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Copperas Cove HS)
The Heisman Trophy winner – and DCTF Winter Edition cover boy – cost the Redskins an arm and a leg, and they haven’t even signed him to a contract yet. By going second, the NFL Draft had two Texas high school quarterbacks go 1-2 for the first time ever, a testament to the depth of high school training available across the Lone Star State. In fact, the last time that there were two Texas high school QBs taken in the first round was back in 1992, when David Klingler (the other Houston Stratford superstar) and Tommy Maddox (Hurst L.D. Bell) went in the same round. As for RG3, well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? He’s an Olympic-caliber athlete who can make all the throws and make good decisions while doing it. He was a super-special player in college, and the Redskins are banking on him being just as special as a pro. Now, I don’t think Griffin is a lock to be a superstar – he’s been bitten by the injury bug before, and one has to wonder if he can translate from the Baylor system to Mike Shanahan’s West Coast Offense – but Griffin has a chance to become nothing short of the face of the NFL.
No. 6, Dallas Cowboys: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
You can always trust Jerry Jones to make Draft day interesting. The Cowboys had a couple of areas of need, and one of them was cornerback. When they sniffed an opportunity to move up in the draft, they pounced, packaging the No. 14 pick and a second-round pick to send to St. Louis (who had already traded down to Washington from the No. 2 pick) for the No. 6 spot. Their reward: the best cornerback in the draft in Claiborne, the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner. Claiborne is a terrific cover corner who will be a complement to the newly signed Brandon Carr, likely squeezing Mike Jenkins out of the picture (or, at least, to a reduced role). Now, there are some red flags with Claiborne – he reportedly did very poorly on the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, and has a tendency to take some plays off – but Claiborne is the best cornerback on the board for a reason: he’s super talented.
No. 8, Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M (Big Spring)
Attention must be paid to our friend Brent Zwerneman at the San Antonio Express-News, who has literally been telling us for months that the A&M quarterback would be a first round pick. He absolutely nailed it, and the Dolphins jumped at the chance to make Tannehill their franchise quarterback with the 8th overall pick. Tannehill’s drafting made history, too: it marks the first time ever that three Texas high school quarterbacks were taken in the first round…and in the first eight picks alone! Simply stunning. And he becomes the second Big Spring player taken in the last 12 years, as TE Bubba Franks was a first round pick for the Packers back in 2000. And what an amazing transition for Tannehill, a guy who just under two years ago was a wide receiver for the Aggies and now is the face of one of the NFL’s premier franchises. Now, Tannehill is as polarizing a figure as you’ll find in this year’s class – some scouts love him, some scouts don’t think he’s an NFL quarterback. In short, he’s this year’s Tim Tebow. I have my doubts about Tannehill – I’m not sure the tools are there to be an NFL-caliber quarterback, specifically I wonder about his ability to make the throws necessary – but here’s what’s not in doubt: Tannehill is an elite-level athlete and as smart a player as you’ll find. That alone makes him a special player.
No. 14, St. Louis Rams: DT Michael Brockers, LSU (Houston Chavez)
Remember that No. 14 pick that the Cowboys dealt to the Rams? Well, here it is, and it’s used on another Texan: the big defensive tackle from one of the nation’s dominant defenses. At 6-5 and over 320 pounds, Brockers is a monster in the middle of a defense, a physical beast who will fit in just fine with the all-of-a-sudden-scary defensive line in St. Louis alongside Chris Long. Brockers, however, is not a finished product: he needs a good amount of coaching to realize his talent potential. But when he does, his size and athleticism should make him a mainstay in the middle of the Rams defense.
No. 20, Tennessee Titans: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor (Pittsburg)
3A football, stand up! The pride of the Pittsburg Pirates had his name called 20th on Thursday night, becoming the newest member of the Tennessee Titans (a couple of picks before the Texans had a chance to nab him). After a brilliant career at Baylor, including last season in which he caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns, Wright will take his talents to Nashville to join what is a pretty depleted receiving corps (save Nate Washington). It’s going to be a pretty big shift for Wright – he’s going from a wide-open spread offense to a pro-style with Jake Locker as his quarterback (or, I guess, Matt Hasselbeck) – and that’s going to take some getting used to. But anyone who watched Baylor over the past couple of years knows how talented Wright is, and that he has a chance to become a true impact player for the Titans.
No. 26, Houston Texans: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
The Texans stayed put at No. 26 and had a fabulous player fall to them in the hard-hitting (and awesomely named) Mercilus out of Illinois. When I wrote about the Texans’ needs in the draft, I mentioned that you could certainly say that picking up another edge rusher would be a need, but I didn’t list them as a Top 3 need (instead going with WR, OL and CB, in that order). Instead, the Texans said “in your face, Tepper” and picked up the best edge rusher on the board in this fearsome Illini. Mercilus is as pure a pass-rusher as you’re going to find, using terrific speed and power off the edge to get to the quarterback (he racked up 16 sacks last season, his only season as a starter). He’s not totally technically sound, but the Texans basically just replaced Mario Williams and made one of their strongest assets – their pass rush – even more lethal.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.