The Pallilog

NFL Draft gives us some sports, and the SEC dominates again

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We're into week seven of no meaningful athletic competition, so the arrival of the NFL Draft Thursday night was most welcome. Interest in it around here wasn't great given the Texans had no first round pick, but the first round is always a big deal and this year provided a few hours of hope toward having sporting events we lust to watch being back by September at the latest. I'd have much preferred NBA and NHL playoff games to watch.

The Texans have the eighth pick of the second round and Bill O'Brien could go a number of directions. Emperor O taking a guard would be justifiable, likewise wide receiver with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills both free agents after the 2020 season, but the defense is in need of a bigger boost. A defensive tackle, edge rusher, corner, or safety who fills draft cliché number one (best player available) should be able to make some impact as a rookie. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney might be the guy most expected to go in the first round who did not. Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike would make sense if on the board for the Texans' pick at number 40.

For those who question whether the Southeastern Conference is overrated, stop. Nine of the first 15 selections were SEC guys. In all an amazing 15 of the 32 first round picks were SEC guys. LSU led the way with five. That's five more than the University of Texas which failed to produce a first rounder for the fifth year in a row. Going into Friday night UT produced just one second rounder in the last eight drafts.

In leading LSU to the National Championship against the toughest schedule any school has never negotiated its way through undefeated, Joe Burrow had the greatest passing season in the history of college football. 60 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. Still, Burrow is not a "can't miss" prospect the way John Elway, Troy Aikman and Andrew Luck were as they entered the NFL. If Burrow goes on to greatness, the four guys taken behind him will have to collectively be great if they are to match the collective careers of the top five picks in the 1989 Draft. The second pick in '89 was epic steroid-created bust Tony Mandarich. But picks one, three, four and, five? All Hall of Famers. Aikman went first to the Cowboys, Barry Sanders third to the Lions, Derrick Thomas fourth to the Chiefs, and Deion Sanders fifth to the Falcons.

Wonder what Aaron Rodgers was thinking as he called it a night. The Green Bay Packers took an offensive player in the first round for the first time since 2011. Rather than help for Rodgers, the Pack tabbed his prospective successor in quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State.


So weak of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to release his Red Sox investigation and punishment the day before the NFL Draft. The timing was not a coincidence. It was clearly designed to minimize coverage and blowback. Astropologists shouldn't go overboard in outrage at the relative wrist slap given the Bosox. At no point was there indication that the Red Sox' scheme was as extensive as the Astros' cheating. But for Manfred to completely exonerate Alex Cora of anything during his Boston tenure strains credulity to amazing levels.

Russell Westbrook told an amusing story during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. When he was 10 or 11 Westbrook attended a Michael Jordan basketball camp in Santa Barbara not too far from Westbrook's California home. As the last day of camp was winding down, each team was allotted time to get an autograph from and picture with MJ. When Westbrook's team's turn came, he blew it off, to keep playing whatever game he was in at the time. When Russ got home his parents asked "Did you get your time with Michael?" Mom and Dad Westbrook had bought a basketball that he could get signed. Russ explained that he didn't because he'd kept playing instead. Then he cried over the opportunity lost. At least somewhat ironically two decades later, Westbrook gets Jordan autographs, on checks! He is an endorser of Nike's Jordan Brand.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. Playing them is one thing, but sitting through whole video baseball or basketball games being played? Can't do it. 2. Don't have to be desperate for sports content to find the Jordan/Bulls "The Last Dance" documentary riveting. 3. Best last dance songs: Bronze-Last Dance, Dua Lipa Silver-Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters Gold-Last Dance, Donna Summer. Of course.





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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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