This 2017 Texans season was hallmarked by different rookie players stepping up to the plate. Whether it was Deshaun Watson giving Texans fans hope, or D’Onta Foreman contributing to the development of running back by committee, the rookies have shaped the future of the Texans organization. Because of this, it is time to take a closer look and examine how each rookie performed this 2017 season.

Deshaun Watson – Quarterback – 1st Round – 12th Pick – A+

Watson won the College Football National Championship in 2017 (Simon Bruty).

Drafted 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and fresh off a national championship victory with Clemson, Deshaun Watson came onto the Texans with big expectations. At first he didn’t live up to the hype, only garnering 227 yards and 1 touchdown the first two weeks of the season. But from Week 3 and on, Watson became an MVP-caliber quarterback, throwing for 1,472 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns. He did this over just a five week stretch, and probably would’ve continued to dominate if it weren’t for a torn ACL after Week 8. The Texans have been searching for a quarterback ever since 2012, when Matt Schaub started his precipitous decline, and it looks like they’ve found the missing piece to the offense. The future for Deshaun Watson, and in turn the Texans, looks very bright. Watson has given Texans fans hope that they’ll have a competitive team in the future, and thus deserves an A+ grade.

Zach Cunningham – Linebacker – 2nd Round – 57th Pick – B

Zach Cunningham was a standout out of Vanderbilt; this picture shows him taking down Georgia running back Nick Chubb (AP Photo/John Bazemore).

A second round pick out of Vanderbilt, Zach Cunningham admirably filled up the inside linebacker role left by Brian Cushing and then Whitney Mercilus. These injuries and suspensions have allowed Cunningham to be the 21st ranked inside linebacker in football, with an 80.6 grade on Pro Football Focus, which capped off a season that included 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks. This followed a junior year at Vanderbilt, where he was one of the best linebackers in college football and recorded 125 tackles. This ability to find the football and tackle runners has transferred from college to the pro level where he had 45 tackles, which is a promising thing to see. While he wasn’t great this season, Zach Cunningham was a decent replacement for Cushing and Mercilus, and was able to quickly adjust to the pro level.

D’Onta Foreman – Running Back – 3rd Round – 89th Pick – C

D’Onta Foreman ran for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior year at Texas (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images).

D’Onta Foreman was another highly touted rookie out of Texas, winning the Doak Walker award his senior year at the University of Texas, an award that honored the best running back in the country. A Texas native, Foreman was ecstatic to be drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. And he didn’t disappoint, Foreman led all Texans running backs in yards per carry (4.2) and yards per reception (13.8) this season. That efficiency from Foreman, Lamar Miller’s down year, and Alfred Blue’s emergence has led many to believe that the Texans will have a running back by committee next season. Despite the efficiency with his carries, Foreman’s total rushing yards (327) and receiving yards (83) were extremely low. He also had two fumbles, which led Texans running backs. This lack of total production leads to Foreman receiving a C grade, but this can certainly improve in the coming years.

Overall Grade: A-

The Texans rookies as a whole weren’t the most elite group of players, but a superstar like Deshaun Watson upgrades the unit from a C+ grade to an A- grade. Foreman and Cunningham only had average rookie years, but Deshaun Watson had an outstanding one and will be a leader for this Texans team for the years to come. This year itself was extremely underwhelming for the Texans, but the future looks extremely bright when they have players like Watson, Cunningham, and Foreman. The optimism that these players bring garners an A- grade for the Texans rookies.

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