The Houston Texans are trying to become competitors ASAP so that they can still take advantage of their defense. For that to happen, their offense needs to vastly improve. Here's a look at each one of their picks and how they will individually contribute to the team.
Round 1 Pick 12: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
All three teams who picked a quarterback in the first round traded up to do so. The last quarterback out of the three was Deshaun Watson. The Texans had to give up both this year's and next year's first round picks in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
This move just continues the recent risks that the Texans organization have been going with recently to improve the offense. The price was steep, but the team is getting a lot in Watson. First and foremost, the word that most people use when first describing him is "winner." Him leading Clemson to a 35-31 upset over Alabama this past year was testament to that. That instinct is something that not even Matt Schaub, sadly the Texans' best quarterback ever, had.
Another advantage of his is his patience. The dude does not rush his throws and stays cool under pressure. That will be important considering the Texans still have a shaky offensive line. He also has great arm strength. I see him and Will Fuller clicking right away as Watson can make those throws to his future primary deep threat.
However, like most rookie quarterbacks, Watson needs time to develop. He needs to learn to look at each of his options instead of the primary one. His coolness in the pocket will help, but this skill only comes with experience. This means that he cannot rely on his legs as much as he does. His accuracy also needs work. Whether its short or long throws, he sometimes misses his targets.
Finally, a safer option might have been to just keep their original picks. They could have gotten a tackle such as Cam Robinson or Ryan Ramczyk with this year's first pick. Then, next year, they could have gotten their quarterback of the future. Many say next draft's class is a lot better. Watson will need time to develop, so couldn't the Texans have just been patient and improved their offensive line this year?
Still, Watson has the potential to be a great quarterback. He has a lot of characteristics that cannot be taught. He will learn how to read defenses and practice his accuracy. Unpopular opinion: he will be the best quarterback of this draft. The Texans needed to take risks to find their quarterback of the future. If they remain patient with Watson, they might have just done that.
Round 2 Pick 57: ILB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
Coming into the draft, general manager Rick Smith said he would draft based on talent and not on needs. The Texans picking Zach Cunningham is a good combination of the two.
Cunningham was one of the best players available at this pick, as many said he had first round talent. He is fast and can get to the ball carrier easily. This will help him make plenty of tackles for losses as he is quick to the shoot the gap between offensive linemen. He can also help in coverage as he has the speed to keep up with running backs and tight ends.
However, he does have an issue finishing tackles. This problem is mostly because he tackles high instead of low. Strong running backs and/or tight ends can break those tackles, especially in the NFL. Also, he lacks the strength to get past offensive linemen. If he is unable to run past them, he will basically be a non-factor on the play. The speed makes him intriguing, but the lack of strength is worrisome, especially for an inside linebacker that will have to face some of the biggest men on earth.
Which is why it's good news that the Texans plan on moving him to outside linebacker. They have issues at that position with John Simon's departure, so now he will be competing with Brennan Scarlett for the starting position. Granted, they had other options, as they could have either improved the secondary with a cornerback like Chidobe Awuzie or the offensive line with players like Dion Dawkins, Dan Feeny or Taylor Moton.
Still, Cunningham was a great pick. Since he didn't play much outside linebacker in college, there is some concern about him making the adjustment. Worse comes to worse, he goes back to inside linebacker and goes under Brian Cushing's wing. Chances are he will be a great linebacker on one of the best defenses in the league.
Round 3 Pick 89: RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas
Smith proved that he is going to stick with that "most talented" philosophy. Once again, the team went with one of the best players available in D'Onta Foreman.
Like Cunningham, the dude is deceptively fast. He is on the larger end for running backs, and he uses his combination of strength and speed fully to his advantage. This duality helps him in the open field tremendously, as he can outpace the secondary if they are behind him and truck them if they are in his way. He was also a very consistent runner and did not lose yards often.
However, he does have a lot of issues. He is very raw, as he does not quite have the vision to find open holes. He also tends to rely too much on his speed instead of his strength, which is actually his forte (cross-language pun fully intended). Ball security has also been an issue, as he fumbled seven times this past season.
The Texans will hope that he can take some of the load off of Lamar Miller. This pick also does not look good for Alfred Blue. Hopefully, Foreman will develop into more of a power back that can bully through the defense on third down and short and goal line situations. Sorry future Miller fantasy owners. If Foreman pans out, he is going to be taking a lot of touchdowns away from Miller.
That being said, the pick is still surprising. They could have reached for an offensive lineman or an outside linebacker. However, they could have gone with the best combination of need and talent with cornerback Jourdan Lewis. He fell a lot further than he should have, and he could have helped the Texans, especially with Johnathan Joseph aging and both A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps gone. Another good pick, but at some point the Texans will have to address their needs.
Round 4 Pick 130: OT Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell
There we go, finally an offensive lineman. Going in, right tackle was one of the biggest needs for the Texans. While they did end up picking a tackle, it sadly looks like Julien Davenport will not be the answer. At least not yet.
Davenport is definitely a prospect. He's massive, standing at 6'7", weighing in 318 pounds and had the longest wingspan out of all tackles in the Senior Bowl. He's also got good timing on the line, and can get up quicker than many defensive ends at the snap. He's also a good fit on the Texans as he plays much better in a zone-blocking scheme.
However, don't expect him to start right away. Scratch that, the Texans' offensive line is pretty bad, so he might take Derek Newton's right tackle starting spot. Still, Davenport needs a lot of work. It'll be extremely hard to make the jump from the Patriot League (no, not the New England Patriots haha...ha...sorry) to the NFL. The competition will be a lot better.
He also needs to improve on some specific areas, like the angles he takes for example. He also needs to improve on his athleticism. He's got that quick first step, but fast defensive ends can get by him.
Zach Banner was another offensive lineman available at this pick that many say is better than Davenport. However, he is bigger, meaning that he will probably be a better fit at guard. While the Texans need guards, right tackle was the biggest hole on the line. Davenport may need to start right away, but sadly he won't be good enough to protect Tom Savage or Watson well enough.
Round 4 Pick 142: DT Carlos Watkins, Clemson
With Vince Wilfork most likely retiring, defensive tackle was a lowkey need for the Texans. They drafted D.J. Reader last year in the fifth round, but he still needs to work on his game and isn't the ideal choice. If you want a quick analysis of his game when he was picked last year, click here. Yes, yours truly wrote it.
Now on to Carlos Watkins. He is not like Wilfork and Reader. Both of them relied on their huge size and strength to bully centers and guards. Watkins is pretty quick and will take advantage of slow-footed bigger offensive lineman. He's also relentless, a quality that is great for a player that will need to bully his way through the biggest of football players. He had a ridiculous stat line in his final season at Clemson: 10.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
Now the bad parts, because every player comes with them. Watkins is inconsistent, and if he isn't feeling it, he'll more than likely be a non-factor all game. He also needs to work on his technique as well as his strength. The latter shouldn't be a problem, but he needs to make sure he doesn't lose his quickness as he bulks up since that is his strength.
Early prediction is that Watkins will be a better player than Reader. He may even win the starting competition. This was a great pick at a position of need. Only complaint is that tight end Jake Butt was still available but he was extremely risky because he just tore his ACL and didn't work out. Butt could have developed into a better tight end than C.J. Fiedorowicz, but Watkins is still a great pick.
Round 5 Pick 169: CB Treston Decoud, Oregon State
Cornerback was a need after Bouye's departure, but wasn't the most pressing one. Treston Decoud is by far not the greatest cornerback in the draft, but he does fit in the Texans' defense. He shines in zone and press-heavy schemes much like Kevin Johnson does. He'll definitely add depth to the position.
In terms of competing for playing time, Decoud might not do much. He is very limited in terms of the schemes he can play and his athleticism. He'll be fighting against Denzel Rice and Robert Nelson for the fourth cornerback spot. The move to add depth to the position was nice, but there were players like Marquez White that were still available and better. Adam Bisnowaty, a solid guard, was also still on the board.
It looks like the Texans went with who would fit best rather than talent for this pick. Decoud wasn't the best player available, but he plays best in a defensive scheme to what the Texans use. Therefore, if one of the starting cornerbacks does get injured, Decoud can hopefully step in and be solid.
Round 7 Pick 243: C Kyle Fuller, Baylor
With Nick Martin (also mentioned in the aforementioned article) returning from last year's season long injury, Kyle Fuller will not be starting. Even Bill O'Brien said that Fuller will be competing for the backup spot with Greg Mancz.
Fuller is a smart player with good size that can develop into a starting center. He's got long arms and big hands. He also showed throughout his college career that he has great strength.
However, he is not nearly athletic enough to be a quality center. He has to work on his technique and isn't quick enough to play well in a zone-blocking scheme. In college, he only played shotgun. This means he had more time to get up after snapping. He'll have to get up faster when the quarterback's under center.
The main concern is that there were still some solid players left on the board. Safety Loreno Jerome fell because he went to a small college, but he is a great player that could have helped address an important need. The best player not to get drafted was tight end Cole Hikutini from Louisville. Since O'Brien puts so much emphasis on the tight ends that replacing Ryan Griffin would be a good call. There were definitely better options, but Fuller can help if Martin gets hurt again.
The Texans definitely started the draft on the right foot when they traded up for Watson. It was a huge risk that will pay off as he will develop into a great quarterback with a winning mentality. The team didn't do that great of a job addressing other needs, as the offensive line is still a liability. If Cunningham can successfully move to outside linebacker, that fixes that concern. Because they didn't take a safety, it looks like KJ Dillon (once again discussed in last year's draft analysis) will be starting opposite Andre Hal. It would be hard to ruin a draft with such a great first pick, and the Texans didn't. The only complaint is that they didn't really help their offensive line, which does raise some concern, especially if a rookie quarterback ends up starting.
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