KAZ’S KORNER

On February 8, 1936 the first National Football League draft was held in Philadelphia without any media coverage.

Tomorrow the 82nd NFL draft returns to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time since 1961 and 11th time overall with more media coverage than can be imagined.

Also more than 200,000 people are expected to visit the one-half mile area where the draft will occur and should enjoy all of the festivities that accompany this year’s event for free.

It should be the largest fan experience ever produced by the NFL and is predicted to generate $80 million in economic impact for the city of Philadelphia.

The full cost of the NFL draft is estimated at $20 million with the league covering $20 million and the remaining $5 million is coming from private funding secured by the city.

The NFL selected as its headquarters for the three-day draft one of the world’s most famous movie locations—the steps leading to the Art Museum that fictional hero Rocky Balboa made famous in the series of Rocky movies.

“We had talked about a couple of different venues for the NFL and they wanted the Rocky steps and they wanted the art Museum,” Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney told The Associated Press last week. “So that’s what we gave them. It will be a terrific event.”

Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is expected to be the first player taken by the Cleveland Browns tomorrow night.

Three quarterbacks—Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, Pat Mahomes of Texas Tech and North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubiski—are expected to go high in the first round and may not be available when it comes around to the Houston Texans turn at the No. 25 slot.

Drafting a quarterback is the top priority for the Texans but they may have to settle for whoever is available in the latter rounds if none of the top three choices are available or they may have to nab a free agent, trade for one or sign an undrafted free agent.

Quarterback Tom Savage is at the top of the Texans’ depth chart with veteran Brandon Weeden as the backup, but both will play the 2017 season on the final year of their respective contracts.

This could very well be the first time in franchise history that the Texans will focus on a quarterback since David Carr was taken as the first choice in the first round in 2002. General Manager Rick Smith says as quarterback will be chosen in the first two rounds.

In Smith’s first 10 drafts three quarterbacks have been selected—Alex Brink in 2008 (7th round), T.J. Yates in 2011 (5th) and Savage in 2014 (4th round).

Besides quarterback, Houston wants to beef up the offensive line in this week’s draft. Head Coach Bill O’Brien prefers bigger, more physical offensive lineman. Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk might be an option in the first round if the stellar quarterbacks are already gone.

Now that veteran nose guard Vince Wilfork is retired, J.J. Watt’s replacement when he was injured Christian Covington is more comfortable as a rotational player and D.J Reader, who started opposite Watt will move to nose guard. So the Texans may find a potential starter on Day 2 in Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson or Michigan’s Chris Wormley.

And with safety Quintin Demps moving on to Chicago, the Texans must replace his production of six interceptions and could take Jabrill Peppers early.

As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned, owner/general manager/head coach wannabe Jerry Jones says his Number One priority in this week’s draft is to find a “war daddy” pass rusher. They will look hard for an edge rusher in the draft. The Cowboys recently added local college product Damontre Moore and hopes he can live up to his potential.

Cornerback is another desperate need after both Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr left for greener pastures. Luckily, the draft is full of competent potential starting cornerbacks and they could very well earmark one in the first round.

The same situation exists at safety after J.J. Wilson and Barry Church went the free agent route. The middle rounds should have some talented candidates like Justin Evans or Eddie Jackson.

The front office is not happy with kick returner Lucky Whitehead both on the field and off and will target one either in the late rounds or in free agency.

Jones believes the offense is all right but is concerned about the defense. Otherwise Cowboy fans may have to settle for basketball scores this football season.

KWICKIES…The Houston Rockets were hopeful of winning the Western Conference first-round series over Oklahoma City last night at the Toyota Center in Houston. The Rockets held a 3-1 advantage going into last night’s big game after posting wins of 118-87, 115-111 and 113-109 and losing on the road to the Thunder 115-113.

And while on the subject of the NBA, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr will be out indefinitely after suffering complications from back surgery he had two years ago.

The West Orange-Stark boys track team won last week’s Area track meet at Dan Hooks Stadium in West Orange, narrowly getting past runner-up Little Cypress-Mauriceville 100-92. The top four participants from each event qualified for the Region III meet to be held Friday and Saturday at Sam Houston State in Huntsville.

The WO-S Mustangs (20-3, 9-0) also tried to secure the District 22-4A baseball championship at Silsbee (22-3, 8-1) last night. A Silsbee victory would create a one-game playoff for the district crown. Orangefield hosted Bridge City last night in the District 22-4A final regular-season game with the winner getting a third-place seed and the loser being seeded fourth.

The girls’ softball playoffs began this week with Bridge City winning the District 22-4A championship after shellacking Hamshire-Fannett 20-0 Friday night and earning the right to meet fourth-place Jasper 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at the Lady Bulldogs’ field in Jasper. LCM finished second and will play Diboll or Huntington in the bi-district round this week. The Orangefield Lady Bobcats finished fourth and will face District 21-4A champion Lufkin Hudson this week.

Classic Empire, the leading three-year-old money winner with $2.09 million in earnings, is the early favorite in next weekend’s (May 6) Kentucky Derby. Also in contention will be Girvin and Irish Horse Thunder Snow which has won $1.62 million.

JUST BETWEEN US…Going into Monday’s action, there was no major league baseball team with a better record than our Houston Astros (13-6). The Colorado Rockies have the same record as Houston. The Astros came back from a first-inning 4-0 to beat Tampa Bay 6-4 in 10 innings Sunday which was the third victory this season where the team overcame a deficit of four or more runs and their American League-leading eighth come-from-behind win. After an open day Monday, the Astros hit the road for a three-game series at the American League defending champion Cleveland Indians before returning home to Minute Maid Park for a weekend series against the Oakland A’s.