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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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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