HOUSTON -- Like many NFL general managers, Rick Smith has said he strongly believes his Houston Texans should pick the player available with the highest value on their draft board, regardless of position needs.
After trading up to No. 12 to draft Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson on Day 1, Smith said he did just that Friday night, selecting Vanderbilt inside linebacker Zach Cunningham in the second round and Texas running back D'Onta Foreman in the third.
“It’s fortunate when you can get a guy, especially when you have him valued a little bit more than where you took him,” Smith said.
But while the Texans were able to add a versatile linebacker capable of playing inside or outside and a hard-to-tackle running back on Day 2, they did not address two big needs: right tackle and safety.
Before the draft, Smith characterized this class as strong in the secondary and weak for offensive linemen. So while replacing starting safety Quintin Demps might be possible later in the draft, that might be harder to do at right tackle. Through the first two days, Smith said, the Texans hadn't seen an offensive lineman they didn’t feel was a reach at where they were picking.
“And as it relates to the offensive-line group, we’ve talked about this a lot with respect to the draft. ... We’re going to take them as they come,” Smith said. “We have not been in the position at this point, up until tonight, to take an offensive lineman that we felt good about at the value where we we're picking."
Midway through last season, starting right tackle Derek Newton tore the patellar tendons in both legs and will likely still be rehabbing from the injury when the 2017 season starts. Smith said Newton is "attacking [the injury] with as much vigor as you would expect that he would" and that the team is confident he will come back at some point.
But with Newton out from Week 7 on, backup Chris Clark struggled in his place, and Houston's offensive line showed a need for improvement down the stretch, especially in pass protection. Smith wouldn't tip his hand as to what the Texans were hoping to do on Day 3 -- which they enter with four picks -- but reiterated they will continue to trust in the values on their draft board.
“If there’s an opportunity to [draft an offensive lineman Saturday], we’ll do it," Smith said. "And that’s the same with an position. So we’ll continue to stay true to our board and hopefully continue to add good players to our team.”