TEAM BUILDING

Texans wrap up NFL draft with focus on special teams, depth

Brian Gaine focused on special teams and depth in the 2018 draft. Houstontexans.com

Saturday was it for the 2018 NFL Draft and Texans GM Brian Gaine continued down the path he started in the third round Friday night. He continued to select players of value that will be important to the 2018 roster.

One thing of note: in all the conversations I have heard in the media, conversations I have had with friends and co-workers, and internal thoughts regarding the roster; I don’t think I’ve ever thought about getting players to fit the dual role of depth at their position and special teams impact. From the look of this draft it’s a good thing the GM did.

Not only did he draft players who fit a need at their position, but he brought in valuable bodies to run the gauntlet on special teams. If you really think about it, the third round and beyond should be guys who can contribute immediately in that regard. If the Texans can solidify that aspect, the talent they have on the rest of the roster should improve along with their win/loss record.

They started strong in the fourth round by selecting wide receiver Keke Coutee out of Texas Tech at pick 103. Then they had to sit back and watch through the fifth round, but with the third pick in the sixth round (177) they chose Duke Ejiofor, the defensive end out of Wake Forest. Not to rest on their laurels they went out and took another tight end at pick 211, Jordan Thomas out of Mississippi State. They came right back three picks later (214) with linebacker Peter Kalambayi from Stanford. With their final pick of the draft they chose defensive back Jermaine Kelly from San Jose State.

Five picks, five potential contributors on day three of the draft. Special teams have long been a knock on the Texans overall team play. On more than one occasion field position felt like a vital part of the Texans’ losses. Getting athletic players who can contribute right away on special teams will be a huge upgrade in 2018.

On the down side, the Texans have taken on a lot of project players with respect to their position. Martinas Rankin, taken in the third round, is a project at offensive tackle and might not be ready for that role in his rookie year. Their third round tight end Jordan Akins has a lot of potential as a receiving tight end but his deficiencies at the line of scrimmage will need to be addressed right away. And Jordan Thomas in the sixth round? This guy will need a lot of work to eventually be a contributor at tight end.

Houston took a lot of athletic talent in this draft that fit a lot of needs. They lost 12 games last year because when their starters went down they didn’t have a well-rounded roster to support the replacements. This draft seems to be a direct attack on that issue.

It will be about three years before we know how to grade this class of incoming players but without a first or second round pick; I think the Texans did the best they could. I look forward to seeing these players compete in training camp for roster spots. Despite their position; special teams may be their immediate calling.

All in all, this looks like a solid draft for the Texans. They didn’t make any trades and picked the best value for the team at the position they were at. As a fan you can’t ask for much more. The depth at need positions will be better when training camp arrives and as a whole; special teams should improve.

For information on the first three picks, please check here.

 

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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