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A day for digressing


In today's entry, we'll do a little digressing – maybe more than a little.

Before we do, let's first say that for the No. 11 selection of the 2011 reader mock draft, we went with the readers' consensus – not because the senior writer felt pressured to do so, but because it made the most sense.

But just barely.

It was the just barely part that got the senior writer to thinking:

Just what makes mock drafts so difficult? And why is NFL Draft Day not only so often surprising, but often so aggravating, to fans?

The answer lies in something obvious, but surprisingly often forgotten – and that's where we'll do a little digressing today.

The day began as the reader mock usually does. The senior writer offered up cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska because the team with the No. 11 selection, the Houston Texans, struggled in pass defense last year.

To hear the media covering the Texans tell it, and to hear the draftniks tell it, and to hear most readers tell it, that reasoning is sound.

Most outside observers see a secondary that indeed struggled and figure a cornerback is needed. Most fans following the draft buy into that theory, and therefore, when a player such as Amukamara is on the board at the spot, they select him for a mock draft.

Problem is, that consensus thinking has come about during a time when the team understandably has said little – at least little with any true transparency – about what it truly believes it needs.

That makes the Texans' situation intriguing.

Yes, they struggled against the pass last season.

And yes, that makes Amukamara a logical selection on paper.

"Prince Amukamara has to be the pick here," Kevin Grab writes, adding, "While it would be very tempting to go after a nice blue-chip 3-4 end in either former Wisconsin Badger J.J. Watt, or former Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan, to help bolster Wade Phillips&39; new 3-4 defense, Amukamara has to be the highest value here. The premium nature of a cover corner prevails here and GM Rick Smith obtains both a great need as well as superb value."

Added "J-School" Corby, "Very simple post for today, because this should be a very simple discussion in the Texans&39; war room. Prince Amukamara is the best player on the board here. The Texans&39; secondary is like that Spider-Man musical: you want it to stop before it embarrasses itself further, but it never ends, and it just keeps getting worse. If the draft really does shake out this way the Texans would be insane not to add Amukamara to their secondary."

Valid points, and the senior writer for the most part agrees, but it's just as true that all of this is based on the consensus belief that Amukamara is the best player on the board. That may be "obvious" to readers and fans, but it is based on a consensus of mock drafts and analyst opinion, which often have little in common with team's actual draft board.

That, as much as anything, is why you see uncomfortable situations such as occurred in Jacksonville last April, when the Jaguars made what in retrospect was a solid, wise, successful selection.

Not that Tyson Alualu was perceived that way at first, not with local and national draftniks having educated themselves on mock drafts and analysts lists that incorrectly had Aulualu as "no better than a second-round selection." While perhaps true months before, by draft day, the real boards leaguewide – the ones GMs keep hidden behind smoke screens and locked, authorized-access doors –  had Alualu rising fast and very much worth the selection.

But we obviously digress.

What this has to do with the Texans and No. 11 is while Amukamara seems logical, it's just as possible the Texans see not only the board, but their own needs, differently – something noted by more than a reader or two.

"The Texans are switching to a 3-4 defense," Joe Sayers wrote, adding, "Prince is the popular choice and he very well might be the pick, but (Wisconsin defensive end) J.J. Watt fits the bill here. The Texans have no 3-4 personnel. Watt could make an impact there."

Wrote Gowani, "J.J. Watt. Perfect 3-4 end for a team that lacks 3-4 personnel."

What is Houston really thinking? Does Phillips consider pressure on the quarterback more important than air-tight coverage?

These are questions unlikely to be answered with transparency until after the draft, for the same reasons the Texans or any other team won't reveal their draft board.

It makes the NFL Draft intriguing, but aggravating, too.

But enough digression (more than enough, actually). Because the Texans secondary really did struggle last year, and because as far as we know, Amukamara is the real deal, with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2011 reader mock draft, the Texans go with Amukamara. That makes the board:

No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State

No. 3 | Buffalo | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

No. 4 | Cincinnati | Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

No. 5 | Arizona | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

No. 6 | Cleveland | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

No. 7 | San Francisco | Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

No. 8 | Tennessee | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

No. 9 | Dallas | Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California

No. 10 | Washington | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

No. 11 | Houston | Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Up next is Minnesota at No. 12. We'll offer up quarterback Ryan Mallett of Arkansas here. An obvious reason is the retirement of Brett Favre, but really, it's more to get the conversation started than anything else.

Beyond that, we'll cut it a bit short. All that digressing wore the senior writer out.

Have at it. 

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