NFL DRAFT

Long wait might have paid off for Texans as they fill three key needs in third round

Justin Reid should make an impact in Year 1 for the Texans. Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We all know why Friday night is when the Texans got their first crack at the draft board, so I’ll spare you the story. What I will say is that new GM Brian Gaine did a bang-up job with what he had.

Despite speculation that he might package a combination of mid-round picks to move into the back of the second round, he decided to stay put and pick the best players on the board. Kudos, Sir. Sometimes you just need to accept the hand you’re dealt and not throw away the future because of it.

With the 68th pick in the draft, the Texans chose Stanford Safety Justin Reid. They followed that by selecting Martinas Rankin with the 80th pick from Mississippi State to play on the offensive line. They wrapped up their night with another solid choice at pick 98; Central Florida tight end Jordan Akins.

All three picks addressed an immediate depth need for the Texans, but Justin Reid will probably be the only one to have a legitimate shot at significant playing time.

Rankin could easily slide inside for the Texans and will have a chance to compete, but the experienced veterans will most likely beat him out for a starting spot. His flexibility will be useful as he develops into a full-time role inside in the coming years. The Texans do hope he can play left tackle.

Akins is a perfect example of a late third round pick. He has a lot of upside but is in serious need of development. If the Texans can figure out how to use him right he has plenty of playmaking ability as a receiver, but will be a liability in the run game. He won’t be an every-down player like they want but he adds depth and potential to a huge area of need. Oh, and his speed and size should be useful in another area of need: special teams.

Considering the circumstances, this is a great start to the draft for the Texans. Three areas of need have been addressed in the best way they can by taking talent where the value is and not reaching because they didn’t have a pick in the first two rounds.

This looks to be a departure from the previous years of ineptitude in the middle rounds of the draft and Texans fans should be optimistic. There are still five more picks for the Texans to make on Saturday, but if Friday night is any indication then it might be a sunny day in Houston.

 

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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