Texans Notebook: The Houston Texans 2017 Draft Class Plans Held Close to the Vest
The Houston Texans draft class intentions were kept close to the vest and how they landed in Houston was a story itself.
The NFL Draft is in the books and, after nearly two months of hand wringing, the Houston Texans have ushered in another diverse group of prospects. The draft class of seven players could be one for the more well-known draft classes due to the how the Texans landed their top pick.
Credit the Texans for keeping their quarterback of interest out of the spotlight during the draft process (Read Here). Meetings with prospects went unannounced and the team's meeting with Deshaun Watson at the NFL Combine was not confirmed until Watson was selected with the 12th pick.
Watson won over the building with how he handled himself with current players and his offensive meeting with the coaches when he arrived for his pre-draft visit. O’Brien expressed many times how much he likes Watson’s recall as a quarterback and it is clear that O’Brien himself was clearly involved in finding out more about Watson.
The Texans tracked Watson for a while. Smith attended the National Championship game and was impressed with him from the start to the finish of the game. More importantly, Smith left the game more than happy with Watson’s ability to make big time throws when needed. Questions have been raised about Watson as a passer but Smith is not worried about that after what he saw that game. When adding in Texans team personnel's attendance at the Clemson pro-day and Watson’s visit to NRG, it was clear the Texans took care of the background work on their new quarterback, while keeping their intentions close and hidden from public eye.
One of the best moments of the draft was when the Texans selected Zach Cunninghamand his reaction shortly after getting the call. His voice on the phone was trembling and was laughing in disbelief that he was coming to Houston. Cunningham did not have a workout or pre-draft visit with the Texans. He mentioned that Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Denver showed strong interest. His laugh on the conference call sounded like he saw a ghost and was in disbelief surrounding the fact that he was headed to Houston. It was of the more interesting calls in sometime, and was the only time a player in recent draft classes seemed to be in total which that the Texans would select him.
The Texans were in the market for a running back in this draft and D'Onta Foreman won the team over. After a workout prior to the Texans local pro day, he packed up his car at 6 am the next morning and drove to the Methodist Training Center to workout for the second day in a row, but this time just for the Texans. That move won the Texans over as Foreman walked into the facility to compete and workout against others in his position group. Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien were surprised that Foreman showed up to workout as early round prospects this late in the draft process usually do not show up to workouts like this. O’Brien met with Foreman and running back coach Charles London took time out to talk to the prospect and the move proved to be a smart one by Foreman.
Smith mentioned that he makes a list of players he would like on the team because that prospect wins over the organization during the draft process and Foreman was in that select group. When his name came up in the third round, he was the highest on the draft board for the Texans and it was easy for them to pull the trigger.
Rick Smith dispatched offensive line coach Mike Devlin to Bucknell to work out Julie'n Davenport and that relationship proved big when it came to the second day of the draft. The Texans did plenty of leg work on the draft class and Devlin’s work on Davenport proved big. A workout, work in the classroom, plus a dinner late in the evening to find out more about Davenport was key. The idea is to have him compete at right tackle but during the evaluation process, the Texans seem to believe Davenport has what it takes to be a left tackle at some point in his career.
The Texans depended on Devlin's good friend and Bucknell offensive line coach Joe Susan for insight into the potential laden tackle. Susan loved Davenport's work ethic and more importantly gave his coaches seal of approval that Davenport could continue to work to achieve his potential.
The Texans started their work on the Clemson defensive line early the off-season looking for a compliment to D.J. Reader. The Texans were confident in Reader and are even more so in Carlos Watkins. Watching film on Reader to get him to the Texans caused the eyes of team personnel to drift to the guy next to Reader in the process. When Watkins went on to post 10.5 sacks from the interior of the Tigers defense in 2016, they had to bring him in.
The Texans like to look more closely at players who have been forced to face some adversity to get to this point and that led them to Treston Decoud. Decoud played at two schools before landing a scholarship to at Oregon State. He actually attended to Nicholls State to be closer to his mother, who was battling cancer for the second time in her life. Looking for a place to play because he was ruled academically ineligible, Decoud starting calling around to schools in the area and he was needed up at Northwest Mississippi. After putting in the work on the softball field to land a scholarship, Decoud worked harder in the classroom, completing over 18 hours each semester to maintain his 2.5 GPA. All of that ended up landing him as a JUCO All-American and then to Oregon State heading to Louisiana to meet him at his house and bring him to Corvallis. A day one starter, Decoud put together two strong seasons and put a stamp on his career holding California wide receiver Chad Hansen to four receptions for 16 yards. Decoud not only ended up overcoming his own obstacles but his mother saw him gradate from from Oregon State with a liberal studies degree.
The Wylie, Texas native, Kyle Fuller, is a state-grown product, from high school to Baylor and now to Houston. With a solid foundation as a football player, Fuller wanted to be a pass rusher in high school but the coaches early saw he had the tools to be an offensive lineman. That move in high school led to 20 FBS offers around the nation which ultimately led him to Waco. As the Bears starting center, Fuller put together three straight starting seasons and was the Bears highest graded offensive lineman this past season. Fuller was also the only Baylor prospect drafted and the Texans envision bumping him to offense guard but that process will be something to watch.
This draft class is built with productive football players but notably, players who have overcome adversity and have shown they can answer the call when needed. Football is the easy part, life is not, and this draft class is a clear indication that football matters but how these players handle life is just as important for the Texans.