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Houston Texans' 2017 draft picks: Analysis for every selection

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Deshaun Watson needs time to develop (0:49)

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a weapon outside the pocket, but Mel Kiper Jr. believes the 21-year-old needs a year to transition to the NFL before he takes on a starting role. (0:49)

Sarah Barshop breaks down the Houston Texans' 2017 draft class.

Round 1, No. 12 overall: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

My take: The Texans clearly think Watson is their quarterback of the future because they gave up two first-round picks to get him. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Tom Savage is still the starting quarterback right now but Watson will have the chance to learn the playbook and compete for the job. General manager Rick Smith reiterated that Houston is “comfortable” with Savage as the starter. The Texans have to hope this pick pays off, because without a first- or second-round pick in 2018, they have mortgaged their future, first to get rid of Brock Osweiler and now to trade up to select Watson. If Watson or Savage can outperform what Osweiler was able to do in 2016, the Texans could be in a good position to go deep in the playoffs given the way the defense played last season without J.J. Watt.

QBs off the board early: Starting with the Chicago Bears trading up a spot to draft North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, the first three quarterbacks were taken early in the draft. The Kansas City Chiefs traded up to No. 10 to take Patrick Mahomes, and Houston traded up to get Watson at No. 12. Smith said that after Mahomes was drafted, he got on the phone with Cleveland to make the trade. This had been thought of as a weaker-than-usual draft at quarterback, but teams either thought otherwise or were desperate for help at the position.

Traded up for second straight year: In his pre-draft news conference, Smith said that in order to move up in the draft you need to have a certain player targeted and you have to be willing to give up picks to acquire that player. The Texans clearly felt that way about Watson because they gave up their 2017 and 2018 first-round picks to pick him at No. 12. The Texans traded up one spot to draft Will Fuller in the first round last year to give DeAndre Hopkins some help at receiver.


Round 2, No. 57: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt

My take: The Texans did have a need at outside linebacker entering Day 2 after they lost John Simon in free agency. Instead, Houston drafted Cunningham, an inside linebacker, out of Vanderbilt. When Smith met with the media before the draft, the GM stressed that Houston would pick the best player available instead of focusing on team needs, which appears to be what they did with the Cunningham pick. By all accounts, Cunningham is an athletic linebacker who dominated in the SEC in his last two seasons. Still, the Texans have big needs in other spots, particularly at right tackle. Smith said this is a light class for offensive linemen, but that will need to be a focus soon.

How he fits: Cunningham said he has never played at outside linebacker, which means he would play inside in the Texans’ 3-4 defense. He’ll join a strong group at inside linebacker -- including starters Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney and Max Bullough, who filled in well for Cushing while he was injured. Cunningham said he did not have a pre-draft visit with Houston, so he has not yet talked to the coaching staff about where he will play. He was projected by many to move outside in the NFL, which would help replace the loss of Simon if that move is made.


Round 3, No. 89: D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

My take: Once again, the Texans appeared to pick the player they viewed as the best left on the board, selecting the Texas running back. In his junior season with the Longhorns, Foreman ran for 2,028 yards on 323 carries and 15 touchdowns, earning All-America honors and the Doak Walker Award. Foreman will be a good addition to Houston, but the Texans did not necessarily fill a projected need, such as at right tackle and safety. Both Smith and O’Brien said before the draft that they would prefer not to force a pick based on a need, but at some point, the Texans will have to fill those holes.

How he fits: Foreman is hard to tackle and has good power. He is a first- and second-down back who running backs coach Charles London should be able to get a lot out of. Foreman will join running backs Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, Akeem Hunt and Tyler Ervin on the Texans’ roster. Ervin was Houston’s fourth-round pick in 2016, but he contributed primarily on special teams. Like last season, it appears there will be a lot of competition at running back during training camp. Foreman was the seventh running back selected in this year’s draft.


Round 4, No. 130: Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell

My take: I said in the lead-up to the draft that the Texans needed to take an offensive tackle early. Smith said through the first two days of the draft that the team did not feel there was a player at the position worth the value of where they were picking. The GM finally got his guy with the first pick on Day 3 (No. 130), filling a need at right tackle. Davenport can move well and has the biggest wingspan in the draft, and he fills a huge position of need for the Texans

How he fits: Unless right tackle Derek Newton's rehab from injuries to both legs is accelerated, he isn’t expected to be back for the beginning of the 2017 season. Davenport may not be NFL-ready -- he said he needs to improve his technique and work on his consistency. But he said he is ready to compete for the starting spot. Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin worked out Davenport before the draft, and the rookie said he has already developed a good relationship with his new coach.


Round 4, No. 142: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

My take: I was surprised the Texans went with a defensive tackle in the fourth round given some other holes they have to fill, but they clearly liked what they saw in Watkins, who said he had a good pre-draft visit with the Texans and thought he might be coming to Houston. This is the second year in a row the Texans have taken a defensive tackle out of Clemson; in 2016 they drafted D.J. Reader, who will likely start at nose tackle next season.

How he fits: Watkins is a big, athletic player who moves well. He recorded 10.5 sacks in 2016 and had 3.5 sacks the season before. Watkins said he played nose tackle when Clemson went to a three-man front, and that he played the position the majority of the time. Watkins also said he thinks he will be able to make the adjustment to the Texans’ defense and make the transition to the NFL.


Round 5, No. 169: Treston Decoud, DB, Oregon State

My take: The Texans have reloaded on defense in this draft, this time getting help in the secondary by drafting Decoud. In such a safety-heavy draft class, Houston hopes it can get good value at the position in the last few rounds of the draft. Decoud did not visit with the Texans before the draft; it's possible that he could play safety or cornerback. He made 21 career starts at Oregon State and tied for the team lead with 12 pass breakups in 2016.

How he fits: Decoud gives the Texans depth at cornerback behind Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson, especially after the team lost A.J. Bouye to the Jaguars during free agency. Secondary coach John Butler has had success with players drafted in the lower rounds and undrafted free agents. Decoud said he remembers watching O’Brien on "Hard Knocks" and is looking forward to being coached by such an intense coach.


Round 7, No. 243: Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor

My take: This was an interesting pick because the Texans already have two centers on their roster: 2016 second-round pick Nick Martin and Greg Mancz. Martin missed last season due to injury, but should be the starter in 2017. Fuller could be a solid backup on the offensive line, which struggled last season.

How he fits: Fuller said the Texans have talked to him about playing center and guard, so he's been training to play both during this pre-draft process. He said he brings versatility to the team and is "a very physical guy." O'Brien said Fuller's ability to play multiple positions was a big reason the Texans took Fuller in the seventh round.