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

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

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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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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