5 part series: Which teams won the Draft
#4 Houston Texans
Round 1 pick 12 (No.12 overall) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Houston Texans immediately attacked the draft when they traded up with the Browns to move from the 25th pick to the 12th pick while giving up their 2018 first rounder to select QB Deshaun Watson. Grading the Texans’ draft is largely dependent on personal views of Deshaun Watson, but in my opinion, their trade was not a steep price to pay for a potential franchise QB.
Deshaun’s top argument for being a high draft pick is that he is a proven winner. He won a state championship in high school, consistently kept Clemson as a national competitor for the playoffs, and won the NCAA national championship. Every scout has different evaluation methods but wins do play a role in my evaluation of a QB because I am a believer that a QB must prove they can lead college kids before they can lead grown men in the NFL. There are always exceptions but many successful QBs in the NFL were also somewhat successful in college. Watson’s experience of winning consistently at the highest level will help him remain calm under pressure during close NFL games.
In addition to drafting a winner, the Houston Texans are primed for success after inserting Watson in the middle of multiple playmakers. He will have receivers Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Jaelen Strong to pair with up and comer Braxton Miller to spread the ball to. Watson has the big pass catching weapon in tight end CJ Fiedorowicz. Lastly, he has last years big free agent addition Lamar Miller behind him at running back. The vast weapons around Watson will allow him to spread the ball around and keep pressure from him initially.
In addition, Watson’s threat as a runner will put their offense over the top. Defenses must prepare for his running ability to extend passing plays and run on designed run plays. During designed running plays in college, Watson showed that he will patiently allow his blocks to develop before physically gliding through the hole. Film also shows that he continues to look downfield after he scrambles from the pocket and has the speed to gain chunks of yards if no receiver gets open.
I do question his arm strength and passing velocity. When watching film, it was noticeable how long it took for his passes to reach their destination. His passing velocity will need to improve to take advantage of the tight windows in an NFL defense. However, his college experience will help him mentally take in the NFL playbook and read the defenses quickly so that he can throw with anticipation. Leading receivers into the windows instead of waiting for them to reach the windows of a defense will help mitigate any lack of passing velocity.
At this point, Coach O’Brien has named Tom Savage as the team’s starting QB but I have a sense that O’Brien’s patience is thin and will call for Watson to start sooner than later. The team is structured to move deep into the playoffs. Now, adding Deshaun Watson, who is a dual-threat, high leader, and winner will help them take the next step in the playoffs.
Round 2 pick 25 (No. 57 overall) Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
In this draft, Cunningham was high on the list of the few linebackers that can play every down vs the run or pass. With the Houston Texans running a 3-4 defense, they need linebackers that can do it all. Cunningham wins with
speed and uses his lanky frame to slither past blockers. In addition, it was obvious on college film that Cunningham’s motor is on a higher level than his peers. His motor coupled with his elite speed makes him a prime candidate to become a tackling machine for the Texans.
Although, his lateral speed resembles Deion Jones, I am slightly worried that his lighter frame will make it difficult for him to shed blocks, especially when the Texans run their 3-4 defense. However, Cunningham’s speed to track ball carriers sideline to sideline gives him the potential to become a long-time starter for them.
His early success will be dependent on his uncanny ability to slither his way through the trenches and reduce his body so that the blockers have less surface area to grab. Despite his lighter frame, film showed that he has the pop in his pads to deliver physical blows to linemen before shedding the block and making the tackle if that is what is needed. Overall, he is a high upside pick that may not start right away but could become a valuable piece in 2-3 years.
Round 3 pick 25 (No. 89 overall) D’onta Foreman, RB, Texas and UDFA Dare Ogunbowale, RB, Wisconsin
Although these two players were chosen far apart, they both bring similar running styles to Houston. With these two selections, the Texans showed that they are focused on having a stable of running backs to compliment lead back Lamar Miller and take the pressure from their quarterback.
D’onta Foreman’s downhill running style was a key reason he averaged 6.4 yards per carry throughout his college career. Each year he carried more responsibility and delivered with more production culminating in an explosive junior season when he rushed for over 2,000 yards. When I watched film on Foreman, I made note that his strength running through arm tackles was what sets him apart from his peers. His running style is not enamored with jukes or lateral quickness. Rather, he senses the angle needed to force the defenders into arm tackles and then takes advantage of it. I project Forman h to become a quality backup with the ability to keep the ball moving if he is asked to step into a starter’s role.
Dare Ogunbowale is another RB who runs with natural strength when bursting through the hole. When I reviewed film, I noted multiple runs where he broke several tackles. He runs with determination; making it difficult for defenders attempting tackles while approaching from his side. What may set him apart is his added short area agility. During one game, I saw him rapidly step to juke the safety who was attempting to come down hill on him. I liked his vision to identify the lane early and then burst through. The Houston backfield will be crowded but Ogunbowale’s skill set may match what the Texans are looking for.
Round 4 pick 24 (No. 130 overall) Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell
This was a good value selection in the 4th round because he may need some time to develop but his college accolades and physical traits show high potential. He fully uses his 36 ½ inch arm length. Although he dominated his small school competition, his abilities will be tested with the consistent high level of competition in the NFL. He will need to continue showing powerful grips when he gets his hands on the defensive linemen. Also, he will need to continue to show above average kick back in pass protection. He will need to improve his foot work to quickly move laterally with the speedy defensive linemen of the NFL.
Overall, Houston had a big need at offensive line and they addressed it with a mid-round developmental prospect who has high potential.
Round 4 pick 36 (No. 142 overall) Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
The Houston Texans drafted a depth piece with their other 4th round selection of Carlos Watkins. His past season
was marked with splash plays in marquee games which shows that he understands when a big play is needed. This a key ingredient for D linemen who pass rush during “money downs”.
When reviewing film, I appreciated his strength to push through the backfield once he got hip to hip with the offensive lineman. He also showed above average speed to chase down the ball carrier. He plays with good pad level and strong hands at the point of attack.
I am concerned with the consistency of his effort because it seemed at times he was out of shape or took plays off so that he would have energy to shine during the brightest moments. That concern is lowered by using him as a rotational player which I believe the Texans will do.
Overall Draft analysis
The Houston Texans’ 2017 draft will be largely evaluated by the success of their first round selection, Deshaun Watson. Either way, it should be commended that they took control of their fate by attacking the draft and moving up to select a possible franchise quarterback.
In each round they acquired good value by selecting a new age linebacker in Zach Cunningham, drafting downhill runner D’onta Forman in the third round and taking a chance with another physical runner in Dare Ogunbowale as an undrafted free agent.
In the fourth round, they filled a need with their selection of OT Julie’n Davenport who offers high potential to become a solid starter. They rounded out their draft by bolstering their defense with the selection of Carlos Watkins who can become a key rotational rusher.