OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: One last look at the 2018 NFL Draft

Justin Reid was a terrific pick for the Texans. Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The first draft of Texan GM Brian Gaine was done without first-or second round picks.  Many teams had Stanford safety Justin Reid as a late first selection. With the first of his three third round picks, Gaine wasted no time in getting a starter.  Reid has also played corner for coach David Shaw. With his impressive length and fluid hips, Reid will start when the season opener. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has the Honey Badger and the second highest rated safety in the draft.

Like baseball, you must be strong up the middle. Past safeties were poor in coverage, with some taking the worst angle,  constantly giving up both yards and touchdowns.

 “The more you watch Justin Reid,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said, “you put him in the category with the top guys in this draft at his position. You see speed, you see athleticism, you see versatility, you see tackling in space, you see good coverage.

“What’s so good is this guy is a tireless worker. He loves the game of football. This guy’s going to wear out the (defensive backs) coach because he’s going to watch film on his own.”

As they announced the next pick, the Texans took Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State. He is a guard or center, not the desperately needed left tackle. The move gives them depth at guard for the next few seasons. This season he’ll be a backup right tackle, behind free agent Seantrel Henderson, who has been suspended a few times for smoking weed.

I would have taken Ian Thomas, a tight end from Indiana with the next pick, instead of Jordan Atkins from UCF.  The former minor league baseball player excels after the catch, but is only an average blocker and will replace Stephen Anderson

The Texans got a steal in round four with Texas Tech speedster Keke Coutee, a slot receiver and return specialist.

Say goodbye to Braxton Miller from Ohio State, a failed experiment drafted three years ago.  Unless he studied both tape and the playbook and learns pass routes he will get waived.

Sixth round pick Duke Ejiofor, defensive end from Wake Forest, would have gone higher.  But he is recovering from labrum surgery and should be ready for camp. He’s a local kid, from Alief High School and will probably be a practice squad candidate.

With the second sixth round pick they drafted another Mississippi State player, tight end Mark Thomas. At 6-5, 250 he played outside receiver, but will need to put on weight as a blocker and move inside. Here is the report from one NFL GM texted to me after the pick: ‘Monster size, but can he become a legit blocker?  Has very limited football IQ. Talented but would only bring in as a free agent.”

I really thought this was a dumb, wasted pick, when a kid from Wagner College, Greg Senatt was still there. He’s 6-8, 290 and only played two seasons after quitting the basketball team.

The last sixth round selection, Peter Kalanbi, is another Stanford product.  The edge rusher is 6-3, 252 and has underperformed in college.

The seventh-round pick, Jermaine Kelly, a defensive bank from San Jose State, was the best player on a terrible team.

The Texans did sign three street free agents as potential left tackles.

Jaryd-Jones Smith, a 6-6, 320-pounder from Pitt, Anthony Coyle, 6-6-305 from Fordham and Karl Malone Jr from LSU, an underclassman.  For those of you from the millennium generation, look up his dad Karl Malone, which will be most interesting.

Jets get their man

“Sucking for Sam” paid off for Jets fans, hoping USC quarterback Sam Darnold ends the fifty years of franchise history.  Since the legendary Joe Namath led them to the Super Bowl upset over Don Shula’s Colts, the Jets have never had a top tier quarterback.

I had Darnold graded as the top QB, followed by Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and the kid I think will be a star, Lamar Jackson.

Vince blows it

Former UT star Vince Young, a bust as a pro, announced the Titans first round pick. Instead of pronouncing the name Harold Landry, linebacker from Boston College VY called him Honor.

That must make all of his professors at Texas feel so proud.

Bad look

Perhaps the biggest moment on Thursday night was watching the Steelers’ Ryan Shazier walking across the stage with his fiancée to announce Pittsburgh’s first pick.  Upon reflecting a few days later on the emotional scene, the cynic in me could not help but shake my head.

It’s mindboggling that just five months after Shazier hurt his spine making a routine tackle the NFL is using  his horrific injury to sell the unifying power of football. Take into consideration how long the NFL and the Steelers refused to address whether he’d be able to walk again.

Many parents in our nation are at crossroads when it comes to allowing their sons to play football.  Ryan Shazier is the strongest argument against football, and the NFL used him to sell the future of the sport.   I don’t give a damn about the rule change on a rule on hitting with the crown of the helmet in the wake of the former Ohio State star’s injury.  the linebacker went to make a normal tackle, and he left on a stretcher. There will be more injuries like Shazier’s.

Someone picked over the weekend will have their career cut short by head or neck or spinal injuries.

That in itself is one of the major hurdles the once pristine NFL must deal with.

By the numbers

In an effort to suck in gamblers, Las Vegas wasted no time in publishing their first bet on number of wins each franchise would have in 2018.

The wise guys had the Texans winning 9.

Put me down for the under.

Chirp!

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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