The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Even with no early picks, the Texans hit in the draft

The Texans added Keke Coutee in Round 4. Houstontexans.com

All in all, I was very pleased with the Houston Texans draft. They stole a future starting safety in the third round while adding to obvious positions of need. Brian Gaine said they wanted to get faster and they did just that and they also added players at the end of the draft who should help improve their special teams unit. Here are my thoughts on the players drafted by the Texans.

Round 3, (68th) Jordan Reid, S, Stanford: To be honest, I had a first round grade on Reid, but expected him to go sometime in the early second round. Reid is what teams are looking for at the safety position. He's a plus size/speed prospect who has the athletic ability to help with man coverage and the instincts and ball skills for ball-hawking duties on the back end. Reid can get himself into some trouble when he's overly aggressive, but his positive plays far outweigh the negative. He has the talent to become an early starter and a good one. Tyrann Mathieu is at his best when he’s free-styling in space so even though Reid can play a combo safety role, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Texans used him as a safety on the back-end. Make no mistake, Reid has the talent to become an instant starter in this secondary.

Round 3 (80th) Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State: In my personal opinion, the further Rankin kicks inside the better he will be. I’m sure the Texans will give Rankin the first look at tackle, but  Rankin may have issues as a run blocker handling the power he will face. He’s played at a relatively high level in a good football conference and offers position flexibility which is key. He has heavy hands and good instincts in pass protection. He could become a good NFL starter but I’m not sure it will be at tackle. The Texans are bamking on the fact that he can make it work at that position.

Round 3 (98) Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida: Akins has decent size, but flashes with his speed and ability to challenge man coverage down the field. Akins saw 43.7 percent of his catches go for 20-plus yards this season, but he also has the necessary talent with the ball in his hands to take a short throw and turn it into a first down. Akins is a move tight end with the ability to separate and create throwing windows, but he won't offer much as a blocker. Many teams were turned off by the fact that Akins is going to be a 26-year old rookie.

Round 4 (103) Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech: Lanky speed merchant with an ability to take the top off of a defense as well as handle the nickel and dime catches underneath. Coutee's lack of route experience and play strength could lead to a bumpy initial season, but his ability to separate both vertically and out of his breaks should make him a coveted slot target capable of adding chunk plays to an offense or return game in need of some juice. Coutee can handle kick return dutie and he can also handle the duties that were supposed to go to Braxton Miller in the slot. There isn’t going to be much need for Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, and Coutee on one roster.

Round 6 (177) Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest: The only reason Duke Ejiofor fell to this spot was because there were concerns about his medicals. He’s not a naturally gifted athlete, but he’s a very advanced pass rusher in terms of his skill level. Ejiofor's game revolves around his heavy hands and his ability to finish as a rusher if a blocker gives him an opening. Ejiofor needs to play faster as an edge rusher, but don’t sleep on his ability to rush from the interior in sub-packages. He consistently harassed the quarterback as an interior rusher and might be able to do the same with the Texans if he’s healthy. Great value pick.

Round 6 (211) Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi State: Thomas has rare size, speed and athletic traits as a converted receiver-to-tight end that is intriguing. He'll need simpler routes as a tight end and has to be coached up on how best to utilize his frame to wall off defenders. I wasn’t sure I saw enough toughness to envision him as an in-line blocker, but the Texans said after the draft that they believed he had the “want to” in order to make it happen when they worked him out.

Round 6 (214) Peter Kalambayi, EDGE, Stanford: Kalambayi is a well-built athlete with adequate strength, above average wingspan and sudden feet who hasn't been able to match the production to his traits. Kalambayi is an explosive athlete who never seemed to get much better after his freshman season, but he does have some talent. I see him as a backup 3-4 linebacker who will used as a core member of the special teams.

Round 7 (222) Jermaine Kelly, CB, San Jose State: Kelly fits the mold of height-weight-speed cornerbacks that Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien wanted to start adding to the roster. He can really run and could land a roster spot with his special teams abilities alone. As a cornerback, it will take some time and it may never happen for him. He had just one career interception.

 

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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