April 22, 2010
by Keith Weiland
When the Texans let cornerback Dunta Robinson walk away in free agency without filling his Pay-Me-Rick shoes, the team immediately signaled their need to find a replacement in the 2010 NFL Draft. So with the 20th pick overall, they sent a card to the podium with Kareem Jackson's name on it.
Jackson, a three-year starter for the national champion Crimson Tide, was described by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay as "the most NFL-ready defensive back in this entire draft class". Jackson was obviously favored by a Houston warroom that had other more fashionable cornerback options available at the pick, namely Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty. And as one scout told Pro Football Weekly before the draft, “Kareem Jackson is overrated. He plays too much on his heels and is not as strong or physical as you would expect."
So it's an inexact science, this drafting business. With the success of last year's first round selection, defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing, the Texans front office and scouting staff deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to picking Jackson, especially given that they didn't back into selecting him. They chose him with other intriguing talent still available.
Make no mistake: This was a needs-based pick. Oh sure, expect the Texans to spin that Jackson was the best player available. They have to say that. In a year without a salary cap, however, it is fair to wonder whether Jackson might have been the pick had the team opened the pocketbook to keep Robinson or sign a free agent like Leigh Bodden.
Jackson has a first round pedigree. Measuring a little more than 5'10" and weighing 196 pouds, he proved to be a willing tackler and aggressive around the line of scrimmage, not unlike Robinson, the player he will be expected to replace as a starter this season. Jackson clocked a 4.48 forty at the Combine, and used a veteran's awareness to play even faster. Believed to be better in press coverage, Jackson played his man tight for the Alabama defense, and he performs with a competitor's level of confidence.
With the talent hole effectively filled at cornerback, the Texans can likely focus their attention on Friday to another need, adding depth at the running back position. As last year's Cushing pick has shown, drafting a solid, needful player from an established and successful college program is sometimes the best decision a team can make on draft day.
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