Breaking down one of the riskiest draft moves by the Houston Texans over the past 14 years:
Round/overall selection: First, first
Did the risk pay off: By unhappy coincidence for the Texans, the past two times they've had the first pick in the draft, there hasn't been a foolproof quarterback option. The first time they had the first overall pick, in 2002, there was a presumptive foolproof quarterback option in David Carr, but Carr's tenure never got the Texans what they'd hoped for. It's part of why they wound up again with the first overall pick in 2006.
Ideally, the first overall pick gets you a franchise quarterback, but that ideal fails more often than it succeeds. The 2006 quarterback class was not a good one. It included Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Kellen Clemens, Tavaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Brodie Croyle, Ingle Martin, Omar Jacobs, Bruce Gradkowski and D.J. Shockley.
Still, very few people viewed Mario Williams as the right selection to start the 2006 draft. Some, especially locally, wanted Texas hero Vince Young, who went third overall to the Tennessee Titans. Some thought Reggie Bush was the right choice out of USC. The running back went second overall to the New Orleans Saints. Neither player had the kind of impact that Williams did for the Texans.
It could have been better. Williams was the franchise's leader in career sacks when he left the team after the 2011 season (J.J. Watt has since passed him) and in career forced fumbles (Watt has also overtaken that spot). But Williams also finished the 2010 and 2011 seasons on injured reserve, and when it came time for his free agency, the Texans allowed him to leave.
Was there a safer move: I don't know if Young or Bush were safer alternatives. The player who has had the most consistent and lengthy career from the top of that year's draft is actually fourth overall selection D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Williams, Young, Bush, tight end Vernon Davis, safeties Donte Whitner and Michael Huff, linebackers A.J. Hawk and Ernie Simms and quarterback Matt Leinart were taken in the top 10 in 2006. Ferguson has spent his entire career with the Jets and never missed any time due to injuries. While he is causing some salary-cap havoc this season, if you have a solid left tackle for 10 years, that's as safe a pick as there is. The Texans got their long-term left tackle two years later, when they drafted Duane Brown 26th overall in 2008.