Texans got it right
Williams vindicates Houston for risky No. 1 pick in '06
Posted: Tuesday December 11, 2007 2:32PM; Updated: Tuesday December 11, 2007 5:41PM
Vindication should be Charley Casserly's. It's still early, and we can't judge the top of the 2006 draft after 1 3/4 seasons, but the last major decision Casserly made before being nudged into the CBS NFL Today studio show (where, by the way, he's doing a thorough, cool and insightful job) has turned out to be brilliant.
The Texans had many needs before the 2006 draft, and they had the first-overall pick. Who to choose? Houston quarterback David Carr was failing, and hometown kid Vince Young was available. The Texans had no gamebreaker in the backfield, and electric Heisman winner Reggie Bush was sitting there. They had no franchise tackle, and a bright and quick D'Brickashaw Ferguson could be had. They had no great pass-rusher, and 20-year-old raw prospect Mario Williams was available. Who to choose?
Casserly, eight days before the draft, told me something owner Bob McNair echoed: The Texans loved all those other players, but what they were thinking about most was the ability to impact the defensive side of the ball. They wanted someone to put pressure on the Colts' Peyton Manning, who they'd have to face twice a year for the next decade. I didn't know if they were trying to sell me a bill of goods (you never know before the draft who's trying to send you on a misleading trail to create leverage), but they were telling me the absolute truth. They wanted Williams, and they took him.
Now we're near the end of year two. Still too early, particularly with a quarterback, to say one team team screwed up and one was brilliant, but Casserly clearly made the right call. Williams, still just 22, is one of the best right defensive ends in the game right now. He is second in the AFC among defensive ends with 9.5 sacks, and he has 5.5 sacks and 23 tackles in his last four games.
Contrast Williams' numbers to his competition. Bush, picked second by New Orleans, is likely out for the last month of the season with a strained knee ligament, but his production has been mildly disappointing: 82 yards per game in his first 28 games, and only 3.7 yards per rush in 312 carries. The breakaway plays from scrimmage have been nonexistent, other than his remarkable catch-and-run touchdown in the NFC championship loss at Chicago. He hasn't had a 25-yard rush in his first two seasons. Young has looked indecisive and inaccurate (56.5 completion percentage), and has 10 more interceptions than touchdowns. To be fair, a quarterback adjusting to a new offense in the NFL, which Young is doing, is much tougher than the adjustment of any player at any other position. But he's been a C-minus player so far, even for a young player. Ferguson, picked fourth by the Jets, has been an average left tackle, and not as good at his position as later pick Nick Mangold has been at center for the Jets.