Many thanks to steeler lifer for finding a way to get his pick in despite some access issues this past couple of weeks. Hopefully he'll be back in full sooner rather than later. BadMaafala and the Philadelphia Eagles are next up.
With the 18th pick of the first round, the Houston Texans select Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall (5-11, 224 pounds). This is a pick the Texans might be looking to trade away to gain extra draft picks. They have no second-round pick and three or four clear areas of need: Offensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker and running back. Running back is not their top need despite the absence of a first-rate contributor. Cornerback Dunta Robinson and once-promising left tackle Charles Spencer have both suffered significant injuries and may not even be able to play this year. Those two positions are probably the most important for the Texans to address. They are building a solid defense anchored around DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans but could use another linebacker in addition to more talent in the secondary.
The choice here for me is between four players: CB Michael Jenkins, LB Keith Rivers, RB Jonathan Stewart and Mendenhall. With the top OL off the board there is no one available here that would be worth such a high pick. I decided to go with an offensive playmaker rather than use another first-round pick on a defensive player, which the Texans have done the past four years. Of the two RBs, I think Mendenhall is a slightly better prospect. He is a good north-south runner who makes quick cuts and can power through tackles. He has an excellent combination of strength (26 bench reps at the combine) and speed (4.45 40). Playing for Illinois he had 262 carries for 1681 yards, a nifty per carry average of 6.4 yards. He also had 34 receptions for 318 yards. He had one of his best game in the most important one he played, the Rose Bowl against USC's tough defense: 155 yards rushing (9.1 per carry) and 5 receptions for 59 yards. He tested well at the combine and the only question mark about him is perhaps his lateral mobility. The other issue is that, as a Junior, he had only one outstanding college season. But there seems little doubt that he has all the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level: the ability to run with power, some speed, to catch passes and carry a fairly heavy workload.
Mendenhall has an opportunity to step into the starting lineup immediately. The Texans' top running back last year was journeyman plowhorse, Ron Dayne (773 yards). Overall, the team was 22nd in the NFL in rushing. Ahman Green is over the hill and can't stay healthy. Undersized Darius Walker is a useful third-down back only. FA acquisition Chris Brown also has injury problems, as does promising holdover Chris Taylor. The Texans already have the makings of a good passing attack with WR Andre Johnson emerging as a classy receiver. A top running back will help protect QB Matt Schaub and give the offense some much needed balance, as well as a long-term solution to a position that has plagued them since injuries halted the career of Domanick Davis.
#1 - Miami Dolphins, Darren Mcfadden
#2 - St. Louis Rams, Chris Long
#3 - Atlanta Falcons, Sedrick Ellis
#4 - Oakland Raiders, Vernon Gholston
#5 - Kansas City Chiefs, Jake Long
#6 - New York Jets, Glen Dorsey
#7 - New England Patriots, Dominique Rodger-Cromartie
#8 - Baltimore Ravens, Jerod Mayo
#9 - Cincinnati Bengals, Keith Rivers
#10 - New Orleans Saints, Aqib Talib
#11 - Buffalo Bills, Malcom Kelly
#12 - Denver Broncos, Ryan Clady
#13 - Carolina Panthers, Chris Williams
#14 - Chicago Bears, Brandon Albert
#15 - Detroit Lions, Leodis McKelvin
#16 - Arizona Cardinals, Jeff Otah
#17 - Minnesota Vikings, Derrick Harvey