Texas Longhorns Defensive Player Draft - Fantasy & Reality (7)

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Cornerback Adrian Phillips #17 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates a fumble recovery against the Rice Owls on September 3, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

With the next picks in the draft, I’ve selected a fantasy player who was the last straw of a special era at his position at Texas. While he experienced huge success early on, the defense as a whole underperformed at times and changes were made. While he experienced dramatic changes in his final years on campus he carried talent, leadership, and a purpose with him that heavily fueled the success we experienced in his final years.

My reality pick is a player who I think is finally ready to help make the defensive backfield something special. I’d posit this group could be the best we’ve seen in a very long while if he steps up and turns his enormous potential into production.

Fantasy Draft 7th Pick (Position & Player): Defensive Tackle | Rodrique Wright

With the 7th pick of my fantasy draft I’ve selected Rodrique Wright. Rod’s career at Texas and beyond took a few turns but he almost always made the most of the cards he was dealt. I sometimes worry people forget just how strong of a player Rod was and the impact he had on the team as a leader.

Rod came into Texas on every All-American list you could imagine. Few freshman defensive tackles could match his level of production. DTs in Carl Reese’s defenses historically posted obnoxious stats and Rod’s were no different (65 tackles, 13 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks in his first year on campus). In his sophomore campaign he logged 80 tackles, led the team with 7.5 sacks, 12 TFLs, 30 pressures (damn near impossible today), and three forced fumbles. At 6’5", 315 lbs Rod had the perfect combination of size and athleticism to hold up in the run game and get after the passer from the inside of the defensive line.

Excuse me as I digress, but think about the DTs in Carl Reese’s tenure and how they produced. Casey Hampton, Shaun Rogers, and Marcus Tubbs all had years where they posted over 70 tackles and 20-plus QB pressures. We’ll never see numbers like that again from DTs. Offenses have evolved (defenses, too) since then. Rod was well on his way to finishing his career with those numbers but a change in defensive coordinator (for the better) in his final years, as well as an ankle injury his junior year, may have obscured just how well he finished for us both on and off the field at Texas.

Rod was essentially the leadership equal to Vince Young on the defensive side of the ball. Prior to his junior year he worked hard, led by example, and let his production speak for itself. He truly became the vocal presence that anchored and carried the defense through defensive coordinator transitions during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. With the option to leave after his junior season, his commitment to return was leadership exemplified and it enabled us to pull together and collectively push all our chips in on what we could accomplish in 2005. Although, Rod’s statistical production didn’t return to the levels of his first two seasons at Texas, there are very few players during my tenure who had both the talent and leadership to fuel a defensive the way Rod did. I anxiously look forward to see who might emerge as that guy this year.

Reality Draft 7th Pick (Position & Player): | Adrian Phillips

With the 7th pick of the reality draft, I select Adrian Phillips. I simply couldn’t pass up on a kid that’s bringing a cornerback’s skillset to the safety position. While we all know Kenny Vaccaro is the experienced difference-maker at the position, knowing the history of how Coach Akina has used his DBs, I look forward to what Phillips will do this year.

This isn’t the first time Coach Akina has moved a cornerback to safety. We’ve seen him go back and forth with guys like Nathan Vasher, Michael Huff, and Cedric Griffin. The reason Akina made those moves in the past is to ensure he has the best four DBs on the field at all times. With the development of Byndom and Diggs as virtually irreplaceable at their positions, Phillips proved that he was the talented enough to be in that first group of four.

When I think of Phillips’ game I can’t help but admire how he’s always where he needs to be. In limited time, he’s put himself in position to make plays. While I’ve never been concerned about him in coverage at the safety position, his ability to support the run has developed and we’ll need that security this year. With two years of studying the responsibilities and nuances of each position in the defensive backfield, he’ll be able to mitigate the strains and stresses we may have previously had in the defense.

Phillips is another junior on this roster that I expect to emerge as a leader before the season’s end. I believe he’ll eventually be capable of influencing the game in the same ways Vacarro will this year. The defensive backfield group has a chance to be something special. Phillips is the one new piece we’ll need this year to reach the tipping point.

Eighth Draft pick(s) coming soon...

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