SCOUTING THE COMBINE

Lance Zierlein: Some potential offensive line targets for the Texans

Lance Zierlein: Some potential offensive line targets for the Texans
The Texans offensive line has been in shambles, even before they traded Duane Brown. They will be monitoring the combine. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So long, suckers! I’m off to Indianapolis for the 2018 Combine. As many of you already know, by morning I’m a sports talk host on “The Bench” with John Granato from 7 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. each weekday. However, the rest of my day (at least from November through April) is filled with watching college game tape and writing the player profiles for NFL.com. I’m also responsible for the team needs of all 32 teams which certainly helps with my mock drafts.

I can sense that there is no buzz surrounding the 2018 NFL Draft here in Houston, and why would there be any? The Texans are without a second round pick because Rick Smith felt like he had to give it away to trade away the contract of Brock Osweiller (rather than just sucking it up and taking a reasonable cap hit) and the first rounder was spent securing Deshaun Watson which was a plus move by the former GM.

If you are going to be watching the Combine coverage, check it out on NFL.com or the NFL Now mobile app because your boy is going to be part of the broadcast. Even if you are just watching on NFL Network, it’s my job as a local with inside player knowledge to give you a heads-up about offensive linemen who won’t get Deshaun Watson killed and who might be good fits for the Texans based on the draft picks they have. With three picks in the third round, the Texans have some ammo to move up into the second, so I will include a few second round types as well.

Guards / Tackles

Because the tackle position is so coveted (and light in talent this year), players will likely be pushed up the draft board so we’ll include some tackles the Texans may have to trade up for. As for guards, it is easier to find starters in the middle round so I would be less likely to trade up for a guard.

Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State: I’m a little higher on Jones that others, but that’s a relative term. He’s got good arm length and decent quickness and should have enough anchor and athletic ability to become a starter at left tackle. He’s not always pretty, but guys get blocked.

Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State: He’s not the greatest athlete, but he’s good enough to handle right tackle duties. He’s been well-coached and is an adequate run blocker with a strong punch in pass protection. Richardson also has the ability to play guard.

Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU: I will tell you right up front that I thought Noteboom looked more like a later round pick when I studied him on tape, but his solid Senior Bowl practices has made me reassess  who he can be. Noteboom has long arms and good foot quickness and showed better power than I expected. He could be a third round target by the Texans.

Braden Smith, OG, Auburn: This guy is a weight-room monster and proved against Alabama that he has the strength to fight power with power. The downside? He’s a little inconsistent in pass protection and that is one of the big concerns the Texans have had with Xavier Su’a-Filo. Smith is projected to be a mid-round pick.

Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada: I can almost promise you that Bill O’Brien and his staff will like Corbett. He has good size, big hands and has the ability play tackle or center if you need him to in a pinch. Corbett is a good athlete and he’s very smart. I think he’ll be an average run blocker in O’Brien’s scheme, but an above average pass protector.




 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome