The Houston Texans look like they may have hit the jackpot in their 2017 NFL Draft. Through minicamps, practices, and the first two preseason games, the 2017 rookie class has been very impressive for the Texans, and looks like they could be a cornerstone draft class that will make large contributions to the Texans this year and in the future.
The biggest name of this draft class was Deshaun Watson, as he is expected to be the franchise quarterback the Texans have been looking for. While Watson still has a long way to go, and is expected to start the season backing up Tom Savage, it is clear that Watson has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in this league. In his first two games, Watson has been a very good decision maker and proven he has great awareness in the pocket, as well as the elite athleticism to get out of pressure when necessary. Watson must improve his accuracy and touch on deep throws, as he has consistently overthrown receivers on passes further than 10 yards downfield. Deshaun Watson is an exciting player who has picked up the offense very quickly and will eventually be the leader of the Texans. If he continues improving his accuracy, he can develop into one of the leagues best quarterbacks with more time and experience.
Watson wasn’t the only homerun the Texans hit in the draft, however, as the Texans also made great picks in Zach Cunningham, D’Onta Foreman, and Julie’n Davenport. Cunningham, the second-round pick out of Vanderbilt, has shined at linebacker in his two preseason games. He has been all over the field, with seven tackles in both of the games. Although he got beat twice in coverage by Patriots running backs, Cunningham has the speed to cover tight ends and running backs when necessary, which has been a major weak spot for the Texans in recent years. Cunningham will immediately contribute as a backup inside linebacker behind Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney, but Cushing is 30 years old and has already had two major knee injuries. Cushing will not be able to play forever, and when the day comes that Cushing’s age catches up with him, Zach Cunningham will be ready to take over as the starter. He needs to put on a bit more muscle and must get off of blocks quicker when blitzing, but Cunningham shows a lot of upside and should eventually take over as one of the leaders of the Texans defense.
One of the biggest surprises of the draft has been D’Onta Foreman. Foreman, who had an excellent career at University of Texas and won the Doak Walker award for best running back in the NCAA last season, has had two great preseason games and has proven that he can be an effective running back in the NFL. His best moment came against the Patriots, when he caught a short pass from Deshaun Watson, broke a tackle and took it 63 yards to set up a touchdown drive and put the Texans ahead. Foreman is a large back who is a force to tackle when he gets momentum. However, Foreman has also been impressive with his speed and agility, as he has been able to juke and outrun defenders at will. With Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue both also impressing, Foreman may not see a ton of rushes in his rookie year, but he has proven that he can develop into an elite running back in time, and it is always nice to have extra backs ready when you run the ball as much as the Texans do.
Another exciting rookie for the Texans is offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport, out of Bucknell. Davenport is a project who will take time to develop before contributing to the Texans. Davenport has very little experience against NFL-caliber rushers, and his footwork and technique both need some fine-tuning, but there is still a lot to be excited about with Julie’n Davenport. At 6’7, 315 lbs, Davenport has the physical traits to be an NFL offensive tackle. He is very athletic and has shown that he is hard working and eager to learn. At only 22 years old, Davenport has plenty of time to learn the ropes of the NFL and he could develop into a much-needed anchor at the offensive line in time. With Duane Brown beginning to hit the tail-end of his career, Davenport can sit and watch the veteran, and hopefully Brown can mentor Davenport and help him eventually take over at right tackle. It will take time for Davenport to develop, and he is still very raw and unproven, but Davenport will have plenty of mentorship and coaching to assist him as he learns the ropes at the NFL level. So far, Davenport has impressed with his toughness in his first preseason games, and if he continues working hard and learning, he could one day be a key player on the Texans offensive line.
With their first four picks all looking very impressive in their short time in action, this draft class is looking like a great group of rookies for the Texans. They may not have any week one starters from the rookie class, but these players could all contribute to the Texans in their rookie year, and each of them has potential to be an impact player for the Texans in time. It is still too early to tell, but the Texans 2017 draft class has the potential to be one of their best classes yet, and it will certainly be exciting to watch each of these players learn and develop in their rookie seasons in the NFL.
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