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 drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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