Sean Pendergast

Setting Expectations For Each Houston Texans Second Year Player

The presence of Cunningham alongside Bernardrick McKinney makes inside linebacker a real strength on this team.
The presence of Cunningham alongside Bernardrick McKinney makes inside linebacker a real strength on this team. Photo by Eric Sauseda

There are a lot of things in this upcoming Houston Texans' season that I am looking forward to — Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt returning from injury, Tyrann Mathieu in a Texans uniform, and Romeo Crennel returning to his post as defensive coordinator. However, there is one thing in particular that I am glad we no long have to endure, and that is the now-finished-but-once-ongoing saga of Bill O'Brien's very thinly veiled loathing of former general manager Rick Smith.

It seemed like, each season, about four or five weeks in, stories of O'Brien's and Smith's mutual disdain for one another would begin to pop up like mushrooms in a humid, poorly kept front yard. Ultimately, it would lead to segment after segment on my radio show of "Who is going to win the power struggle?" (NOTE: Smith was always the favorite to win.) and "Who do you WANT to win the power struggle?" (NOTE: O'Brien was always the favorite in a non-betting parlance.)

Well, that's over now. O'Brien won the war. Oddly enough, though, Rick Smith's final set of acts as general manager may have included some of his best work. The 2017 draft class has a chance to go down in Texans' history as the team's best. (Granted, not exactly a tough bar to clear.) Hell, Deshaun Watson's development alone gives it a leg up on virtually every class the team has ever drafted, under Smith or his predecessor, Charley Casserly.

Last week, I did a "best case/worst case" post on the Texans' rookie class. Let's do the same thing with this year's figurative sophomore class, shall we?

DEHAUN WATSON, quarterback, 1st round
League MVP
WORST CASE: Turnovers remain a 16 game issue, so he is merely a fringe Pro Bowler

ZACH CUNNINGHAM, inside linebacker, 2nd round
BEST CASE: Gives Texans best ILB combo in team history alongside McKinney
WORST CASE: Splits reps with Dylan Cole alongside McKinney

D'ONTA FOREMAN, running back, 3rd round
BEST CASE: Starting tailback, rushes for 1,200 yards
WORST CASE: Rotation level carries, 8-10 touches per game

JULIEN DAVENPORT, offensive tackle, 4th round
BEST CASE: Starting left tackle
WORST CASE: Swing backup tackle

CARLOS WATKINS, defensive tackle, 4th round
BEST CASE: Regular body in jumbo defensive packages, D.J. Reader insurance
WORST CASE: Fringe guy, occasionally inactive

TRESTON DECOUD, safety, 5th round
BEST CASE: Beats out Justin Reid and Corey Moore for third safety spot
WORST CASE: Practice squad

KYLE FULLER, guard/center, 7th round
BEST CASE: Makes 53 man roster as versatile, interior offensive line backup
WORST CASE: Practice squad

DYLAN COLE, inside linebacker, undrafted
BEST CASE: Rotational reps at inside  linebacker, fixture in some sub packages
WORST CASE: Special teams body, occasional inactive

CHRIS THOMPSON, wide receiver, undrafted
BEST CASE: 5th wide receiver, special teams regular
WORST CASE: Released

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast