Texans jump the gun

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Now that the Houston Texans have sucked the drama out of the opening pick of the NFL draft, there are other mysteries to be solved today.

The Texans spoiled the party last night by signing North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, a big snub and mild surprise toward USC running back Reggie Bush.

It was Bush and his explosive offensive talents who most had pegged as the top pick. But there were just enough question marks with his running style and just enough upside to the sack machine Williams for the Texans to think defence.

"We decided to go with defence as opposed to offence," Texans general manager Charlie Casserly said last night of Williams signing a six-year, $54-million US deal. "This was strictly a football decision. We wanted to get a defensive end."

So, apparently, did the New Orleans Saints, who will essentially pick first when the draft becomes official shortly after noon today. But with Bush available, they may be forced to take a serious look on the other side of the ball.

That's not the only question mark on a draft that will still be thick with intrigue.

And the No. 1 question may be what to do with Texas quarterback Vince Young winds up. The uncertainty surrounding the man who is arguably the most talented offensive player on the board, is part of what makes him such a dangerous proposition for prospective employers.

Draft him and take credit for your brilliance three years down the road when he leads you to the Super Bowl.

Ignore his undisputed talent and forever be known as the coach/GM/scouting staff that passed on a sure thing.

There are similar perils every year on draft day -- it goes with the territory of making college kids instant millionaires on the guess they will help carry a franchise.

But with Young - one of three marquee offensive players on the board -- the risk-reward ratio seems especially tantalizing.

"He's a spectacular talent, but he doesn't look like anybody," Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said this week, explaining the conundrum. "That tends to make us all nervous. He gets down-graded for that."

The skittishness Billick and others feel towards Young stems from the type of offence he ran at Texas. In 2005, he became the first player in NCAA Division 1 history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for another 1,000.

Along the way, he led the Longhorns to the U.S. national championship with a spectacular Rose Bowl victory over USC. In that 41-38 decision, Young outshown Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush, the other two glamour-boy offensive stars up for grabs today.

But there are a couple of big asterisks attached to the hype surrounding Young. First, he played in an offence that looks nothing like what most pro teams run. In the Rose Bowl, for example, Young rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

And second, in the Wonderlic intelligence quiz administered to potential picks, Young reportedly graded slightly above that of your average potted petunia.

In the glut of "mock" drafts circulating both in print and in cyberspace, Bush had been the consensus No. 1 pick for the Texans.

The Saints, at No. 2, may also pass on Bush and settle on tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson to block for newly acquired quarterback, Drew Brees.

Of course, as we learned last night, pre-draft talk comes cheap.

"You can tell people the truth, and everyone thinks you're lying," Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen said. "You can lie and everyone thinks you're telling the truth."


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