Why the most exciting thing about the Houston Texans draft may surprise you

Why the most exciting thing about the Houston Texans draft may surprise you
The Texans could go a number of different ways at No. 12 overall. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The scouting combine is done. Pro days are upon us. Soon, in person visits will be taking place. Free agency has seen a flurry of signings. The NFL offseason is in full swing right now, with about a month before the draft is to take place. Teams are flipping cap space like pancakes. Vets are being cut now or have post-June 1 designations to be cut. Franchise tags have been placed with some guys getting new deals, but others left waiting.

The Texans have taken another conservative approach to free agency this offseason; much to the chagrin of some fans in the fan base. With the draft ahead and the team owning the number two and 12 overall picks in the first round, speculation is running rampant. For the most part, number two is considered to be the top quarterback left on the board after the Panthers pick first overall. They're a quarterback-starved team who made a splash deal to get the top pick.

Who Carolina takes first isn't of much consequence to me. The Texans need a franchise quarterback to build around. C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young are widely considered the top two at that position. Drafting the one the Panthers don't still leaves the Texans in a good spot. At number 12 overall is where things get really interesting. More intriguing than number two in my opinion.

The main reason I say 12 is more interesting than two is stated above. I wholeheartedly believe quarterback at two is where they're going. The team hasn't traded for or signed a guy who could be deemed a future franchise guy or even a bridge at quarterback. Case Keenum fans and Davis Mills truthers can all have several seats. Neither of those guys can sniff being a franchise guy, and neither are bridge quality quarterbacks. They're both backups. Drafting Stroud or Young gives this team what they desperately need most to get on the road to competing for the division and playoffs. It's the most important position, the most glaring need, and therefore the least exciting pick. Everyone knows what they're most likely going to draft.

Another reason I feel 12 is more exciting than two are the other needs of the roster. Despite the excitement around some of the young talent on this roster, there are still some holes to fill. The trade of Brandin Cooks leaves a bigger void at receiver. Pass rush has been abysmal. There's a need for playmakers on both sides of the ball. Imagine what Derek Stingley Jr would look like if he had another top flight corner on the opposite side? What if he had a beast of a pass rusher getting after quarterbacks? How much easier would life be for the rookie quarterback if he has a big time receiver, and fellow rookie, to throw to? Imagine those guys growing together? What if DeMeco Ryans identifies a guy he can mold into a centerpiece for his defense? What if they see a guy like Bijan Robinson as the centerpiece for this offense? 12 is a sweet spot to get a guy that'll contribute from day one, especially if one falls from a projected top five slot.

The final reason I feel 12 is more exciting than two is the trade option. Whether it's trading up for a guy they feel is a must-have, or trading back to acquire more picks, trading that pick is a million times more likely than trading two. Let's say Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson falls to the Falcons at eight, and the Texans want to get to one of them before the Bears do at nine. Or how about a team in the 15-22 range sees a guy they're willing to pony up the price to move up to 12 to draft? Do you turn down a golden goose package for that pick? I think the Texans would entertain the offer at minimum. I also think they'd use some draft capital to move up and get a game changer if the price is right. Another interesting thought I had about 12: what if there's a player that wants a new contract/fed up with his current team and this regime feels he's worth that pick, or being a piece in a trade back scenario?

There are so many options and scenarios at 12 that are way more exciting than what'll happen at two. I'm truly looking forward to that pick and what surrounds it more than two. It's as if you know what you're getting for your pre-Christmas December birthday, but are more looking forward to your Christmas gift. My fellow December babies will get this. I'm so excited about this pick, it made me think of one of the funniest scenes from Step Brothers. “With the twelfth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans…”

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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