From the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Texans combine storylines

Brian Gaine and his staff have work to do at the combine. Houstontexans.com

SportsMap is live at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Here's a look at the stories swirling around the Texans at the combine.

Is blocking help on the way?

The Texans offensive line had disappointed for a couple of seasons now and this class is loaded with linemen set to go in the top three rounds. ESPN 97.5 and SportsMap's own Lance Zierlein has five tackles rated as immediate starters.

A personal favorite of mine is Washington State's Andre Dillard who has held down the left side of Mike Leach's impressive Washington State offense.



Offensive linemen went fast and furious last year with six going in the first round. With offense being the trend in today's NFL protecting quarterbacks will be of high importance. This will push linemen up in the draft.

Who can cover?

The Texans also have quite the conundrum at cornerback as well. Johnathan Joseph is set to be back as is Aaron Colvin coming off a season where injury led to a disappointment. Kevin Johnson's future is up in the air. Kayvon Webster played very little due to injury. Johnson Bademosi is primarily a special teams player. Jermaine Kelly Jr. hasn't played a snap in the NFL after being on injured reserve all last year. Shareece Wright didn't play well enough to be back. Kareem Jackson, who was better at safety than corner, is a free agent.

With all those player's situations the Texans have need for some young and talented help at corner. If there isn't an offensive tackle the team is in love with in the first round cornerback could be the move. Certainly it will be on the table with the two selections in the second round.

Michigan State's Justin Layne is a former wide receiver turned cornerback for the Spartans. His interception numbers aren't great but he had some of the best pass deflection numbers in the nation last year.

The Clowney conundrum

Both Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Brian Gaine will speak this week and it will be a massive upset if they aren't asked about Clowney. They've had a couple months to start thinking about, and maybe even start negotiating, Jadeveon Clowney's next contract with the team.

On SportsMap: Texans can't desire Bell, spurn Clowney

Depth on defense

While the Texans focus on big holes on the offensive line and the issues at cornerback they also have to find some depth players. Gaine did an excellent job at this last year finding Justin Reid, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas who ended up playing significant snaps for the team. Peter Kalambayi contributed late in the season. Duke Ejiofor and Keke Coutee helped when they weren't hurt.

If Tyrann Mathieu or Kareem Jackson move on from the Texans the safety spot will need some young bodies. The team could use another pass rusher be it from the edge or up the middle on the defensive line. Combine interviews will be important for the Texans as they try to prepare for the free-for-all that is the undrafted free agent market.

Skill positions in play

The Texans have plenty of investment throughout the skill positions on offense, but can you ever have too much? There is a need for another running back to go along with Lamar Miller, who is in the last year of his contract, and D'Onta Foreman. As for wide receiver, someone to push Vyncint Smith on the outside wouldn't be the worst idea but perhaps that is better suited for a free agent.

Tight end isn't out of the equation either. The right draft pick could set the team up at the position for at least the next three seasons.

Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger is a favorite of mine but he might go a little high for the Texans to invest another mid-round pick in the tight end position.

My favorite running back prospect is Devin Singletary.


NFL Storylines

Kyler Murray can dominate the combine this combine if he measures out well on height, weight, and hand size. How he interviews and if he runs will be huge stories around the league. If he decided to skip interviews he would be one of the most polarizing prospects ever.

Remember Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown?

He had one of the worst combines ever for a top prospect. He fell like a rock in the draft going three picks after Martinas Rankin to the Ravens. He started at right tackle for Baltimore from week seven forward. He ended up with a better Pro Football Focus rating than every Texans offensive lineman.

The combine workouts aren't everything, but they're something. A bad combine performance shouldn't eliminate a prospect from a team's board but it should add extra attention if the team might think he is ultimately worth it.

Ed Oliver's big week is about to start. For Oliver, everything about this week matters. It will be the difference in millions of dollars. I could see him going as high as three to the Jets and as low as the 20's. Oliver going high is one of the coolest potential stories in the draft. He could have gone to a number of different schools but he chose Houston in his own backyard and was every bit the dominant force he was expected to be. He is a freak athlete and should test off the charts in almost every drill. Expect Ed Oliver to be one of the "wow" workouts this week.

This is a monster year for defensive linemen. Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Alabama's Quinnen Williams are the top two names with Kentucky's Josh Allen and Clemson's Christian Wilkins right behind them. If teams covet other positions there could be plenty of movement in the top ten.

The start of trade discussions begins in earnest this week. With so many decision-makers in close proximity the talks around players like Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown will start to heat up. It isn't just the huge names that start making moves though. There are plenty of mid-tier players to be discussed as well. We have seen the trade market be red hot in recent years in the NFL. There is no reason to think it will stop.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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