Some physical standouts for the Texans as the youngsters get to work

What you need to know from Texans rookie minicamp

University of Kentucky Athletics

The Texans hosted a part of their rookie minicamp Friday and here is what you need to know. Obviously, the caveat is these are all rookies or players with very little NFL experience at all so take it for what it is worth.

Kahale Warring is an absolute specimen

When people talk about physical specimens you usually don't get the full effect until you see them in person. Such is the case with the Texans new tight end. He had some very nice catches and reps going out as a pass catcher.

Just on his size and movement he had more than a few moments that turned heads. He is fluid in his movement on the field. You can tell every now and then he hasn't been playing the position long but those flashes are few and far between.

He will have to grow into a role and experience in joint practices and preseason games will be important for him this year. It is easy to see how he can eventually fit on a team.

The Bouncers at tackle

I don't know if I can get the nickname to stick but I want to see Tytus Howard and Max Scharping on one of those campy 90's posters with Deshaun standing behind them like he is already in the club.

Both of these guys are physically imposing for different reasons. Howard looks like a monster athlete and showcases it with ease. He moves so well for someone at his size and it is easy to see why he draws Duane Brown comparisons when people are discussing his body and body type. Scharping is built like a brick wall. He is thick and you can see how powerful he is from just looking at him.

There is obviously a long way to go, even to either one of these guys starting, but if it works out like the Texans hope Howard is the team's left tackle and Scharping is the team's right tackle of the future (and hopefully the near future).

Go Johnnie go

Johnnie Dixon is fast and he has a chance to work his way into the conversation at wideout. The former Ohio State pass catcher has crazy fast feet frequently showcasing his agility. He can scoot too and it wouldn't surprise me if he was one of the fastest players on the field Friday.

The wideout room is a little crowded. Obviously DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee are on the team without question. DeAndre Carter is the team's specialist with returns so he will have to fight to keep his special teams spot as well as his wideout spot. The other spot has Vyncint Smith as the early leader since he played with the team last year but he can absolutely be challenged.

I will be anxious to see what Dixon can do when he is catching passes from Deshaun Watson and A.J. McCarron.

Kentucky's imposing duo

Lonnie Johnson looks a lot bigger in person than he does on television. He is every bit his 6 foot 2 inch frame and has some thickness to his frame as well. The Texans have rarely had a cornerback with his physical makeup and presence. He had some nice reps staying with wideouts today.

His former Kentucky teammate Derrick Baity is on the team too. He is also huge standing an inch taller than Johnson. Though I didn't see a ton of his reps he had some success in a few team reps and forced one wideout come down with a ball out of bounds that would have not been a catch.

Johnson is obviously on the team but his former teammate's journey to be his teammate again is something to watch.

Duke Ejiofor's career on hold

The Texans announced second-year linebacker Duke Ejiofor was placed on injured reserve. He had a shoulder injury before last year's draft that caused him to drop and he also got injured with the Texans last year. Bill O'Brien addressed Ejiofor's placement on IR.

"It's been unlucky. Duke's a great guy and he just has had some bad luck. He'll be back, though. He'll be back at some point and he'll have a chance to be a good pro football player. He's a good guy, he can do a lot of different things, he's a versatile player. It's just one of those things. It's tough. It was a fluky thing. It's just bad luck really, to be honest with you."

Longshot to roster spot

It is early to be thinking about an undrafted player making the roster but Bill O'Brien laid out Friday there are plenty of Texans players who started as undrafted free agents.

"So, really the message is – the draft is important," O'Brien said. "Like, don't get me wrong. But it's a small portion of the roster building. You have seven draft picks, you have 35 guys out here. So, if you're on the 90-man roster, I think we've proven as an organization that it's what you do when you get here. It's not how you got here, it's what you do when you enter the building from that point forward."

The Texans entire special teams unit is made up of players that weren't drafted. New safety Tashaun Gipson carved out a role in the NFL after his name wasn't called. Brennan Scarlett and Brandon Dunn were two defensive role players who started as free agents who didn't get drafted.

Here is my early longshot to roster spot player: Chris Johnson, safety, North Alabama.

He ran a 4.42 at a regional combine. He flashed a little today with play recognition and athleticism. He will likely do most of his work when the pads are on and he can showcase a little more of what he brings from the safety spot. There is room in the defensive back room for someone to contribute right away on special teams.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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