NFL Draft 2014: 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Check out our slideshow of the Texans welcoming Jadeveon Clowney.
Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher It's obvious why #1 is smiling.
On Texans Radio on Saturday, covering Day 3 of the NFL Draft with my buddies John Harris (smartest football guy I know) and Ted Johnson (3-time Super Bowl winner, great on the radio himself and all-around good guy), I made the comparison of the NFL Draft to a "three-day version of Christmas Day."
Teams spend three days opening up brand-new presents that they assume are going to make their lives better, to varying degrees. The main difference between Christmas Day and the NFL Draft (for people who open their presents in a normal order) is that during the draft, the big gifts all get opened first.
(Normal people open the big stuff last. You hear me, Paul Gallant?!)
Day 2 and especially Day 3 are more like stocking stuffers -- they may or may not become something that you use and are enthused about receiving.
One thing is for certain, though -- much like December 26, if you're an NFL fan in a city where the draft matters (and in Houston, this is the most important draft in franchise history), the day after it's over there's a bit of a letdown.
So now it's on to the next step, to see how all of the pieces fit together. All weekend long, there were winners and losers, not just in Houston, but league-wide. Here are a few of them...
Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher This man has many winning days ahead, we're sure.
4. Texans' front seven
Heading into Thursday night, the Texans' defensive front seven barely had seven bodies on the entire depth chart. By the end of the weekend, thanks to the selection of South Carolina beast Jadeveon Clowney, the trade up to take Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix, and the third day pick of underrated Jeoffrey Pagan of Alabama, the Texans have immediately fortified the front seven, rejuvenated the pass rush (or the pass-rush-not-named-Watt), and all of that should improve life for the secondary, as well. A front seven of J.J. Watt, Nix, Clowney, a healthy Brian Cushing, a moved-inside Brooks Reed, a single blocked, motivated Whitney Mercilus, and whoever at the other defensive end (Pagan? Crick? Hell, ME?)....Wow. (Underrated draft subplot: All three of the front seven guys the Texans drafted -- Clowney, Nix, Pagan -- all wore single digit numbers in college. I know this sounds trivial, but that matters. Generally, if you wear a single digit number as a defensive lineman, it means you're a beast.)
3. Culture change on Kirby
The transformation of the front seven of the Texans is a microcosm of the culture change going on within the team, a culture change covered in Bill O'Brien's fingerprints. Clowney is a guy who, talent-wise, was too good to pass up, and the common criticism with him was that everything came too easy to him, that he was handed these God-given gifts (not his fault, by the way). The Texans seem to have vetted that criticism enough to where they're cool with giving him over $20 million. But look at some of the Day 3 draft picks:
* Tom Savage (QB, 4th round) transferred schools twice, sat out from football for nearly three years, and worked construction in the interim just to get a shot at Pitt.
* Jay Prosch (FB, 6th round) transferred from Illinois to Auburn to be closer to his sick mom, who eventually passed away, and then endured a coaching change after his first year at Auburn.
* Andre Hal (CB, 7th round) grew up in Baton Rouge, went to get an elite education at Vanderbilt, and was captain of a team that eventually set every record for team success at Vanderbilt. (Note: We interviewed him on Texans Radio during the draft, and when I asked him about being a part of Vanderbilt's rise to relevance in the SEC, he began listing all of their upsets, like Michael Corleone rattling off his list of enemies in The Godfather. It was awesome.)
* Lonnie Ballentine (CB, 7th round) was the final pick in the draft and said he would use the title of "Mr. Irrelevant" that comes with it as motivation in camp. Also, his Twitter handle is @Big_Play_4. Love that.
Adversity, doubt, hardship have followed these guys and made them stronger, better people and players. The Kubiakian ways of old have been steamrolled by a culture of toughness and perpetual competition. It's about time.