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April 27, 2008
Needs Based Draft

by Keith Weiland

The Texans made it obvious this weekend that this has been a needs-based draft. There was no secret as to what the team's biggest need positions were even as the 2007 season was finishing -- left tackle, cornerback, and running back.

Bam, bam, bam.

Toss in a sweet trade down to add a couple picks, and the 2008 player selection meeting will be long remembered as one where the Texans came into the warroom with a shopping list and found everying they needed in the aisles.

LT Duane Brown, Virgina Tech, 6'4" 315 pounds
Round 1, pick 26 (26th overall)

Duane Brown was acquired after moving down eight spots with the Ravens, picking up third and sixth round picks in the exchange. Brown was probably the team's third or fourth favorite tackle, but he was certainly their last of a first round grouping that kept them from wanting to move down any further in the draft.

With the full-blown emphasis on the Bronco-styled zone blocking scheme planned following the hiring of offensive line guru Alex Gibbs, acquiring a nifty and athletic left tackle was top priority. To find Brown, a converted tight end and quite possibly the fastest and most nimble of all the offensive linemen available, ought to be viewed by fans as a major success. To add a third round pick in addition is just nirvana.

Let me make this clearer. The Texans - finally! - used a first round pick on an offensive lineman and traded down in the process to get him. Eureka!

CB Antwaun Molden, Eastern Kentucky, 6'1" 198 pounds
Round 3, pick 16 (79th overall)

Even after the Texans spent their free agent dollars on bringing Jacques Reeves to Houston, cornerback was still a position of concern considering that Dunta Robinson will likely being the season on the PUP list, and oh by the way will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Play from rookie Fred Bennett was encouraging, but the position lacked depth.

Enter Molden. He has the height to cover bigger receivers, and his 4.39 speed indicates he has the raw athletic ability to succeed. A small school prospect, you get the sense that had Molden been on ESPN's Gameday cameras just a wee bit more, he would never of lasted into the second day of the draft.

RB Steve Slaton, West Virginia, 5'9" 197 pounds
Round 3, pick 26 (89th overall)

The bonus baby, this is the pick made possible by the Texans when they moved down in the first round. The Texans have some interesting pieces to a running back puzzle already on the roster - namely Ahman Green and the freshly signed Chris Brown, plus the younguns Darius Walker and Chris Taylor - but they lacked someone with hopes of being a complete back for the future.

Ironically, outside of Houston and probably Denver, Slaton is not that back. He has some speed and vision, necessary ingredients for the one-cut running game, but not the size and a lot of other well-roundedness that would cause the league's other 30 teams to label Slaton as a third down or change of pace back.

With durability concerns surrounding Green, Brown, and Taylor, Slaton joins a roster group with an opportunity to make an impact as a rookie.

LB Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech, 6'2" 220 pounds
Round 4, pick 19 (118th overall)

So when I said this would be remembered as a needs based draft, maybe I spoke too soon. Adibi is the third in four picks to hail from the Virginia's, and when adding Molden, the fourth of four to come from the southeastern U.S.

Surprised? Don't be. Dale Strahm, the team's director of college scouting, was once a regional scout for the Broncos. Any guesses as to which region? The southeast. As a coach, he collected paychecks from places like Western Carolina, Georgia, Duke, and Bowling Green.

As for Adibi, he is a bit small as a linebacker, but his mad quicks will track down ballcarriers. The Texans have a brilliant history of making their fourth round picks into stars, so maybe Adibi will become the weakside linebacker to push Morlon Greenwood out of his starting assignment.

DT Frank Okam, Texas, 6'5" 347 pounds
Round 5, pick 16 (151st overall)

The Texans lacked a true space-eating defensive tackle, and their 19th ranked run defense reflected that at times last season. Okam comes from a school that has produced effective defensive tackles in recent years, namely Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers, the latter being the pie-in-the-sky upside potential for Okam.

Okam though might best be used in a rotation, specifically for rushing downs. Not known as a high-motor pass rusher, Okam is rather intelligent though, and he's be wise to start clogging the rushing lanes for the Texans.

FS Dominique Barber, Minnesota, 6'0" 210 pounds
Round 6, pick 7 (173rd overall)

Using their second bonus pick from the trade to move down in the first round, the Texans plucked Barber from the Gophers to bolster their deep secondary.

Not particularly fast (4.68 forty), Barber has the NFL running through his veins, literally. The son of Marion Barber Jr and brother of Cowboys running back Marion Barber III, Dominique won't be carrying the football for the Texans, but he ought to excel at finding those doing the same for the opposition.

QB Alex Brink, Washington State, 6'2" 212 pounds
Round 7, pick 16 (223rd overall)

No, this is not the missing clue predicting the trade of Sage Rosenfels. Brink is, however, destined to carry Sage's shoulder pads after practice.

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