Sean Pendergast

The Unfortunate 2018 Tale of the Houston Texans' 2017 Rookie Class

Zach Cunningham has had a rough go in his sophomore season in the NFL.
Zach Cunningham has had a rough go in his sophomore season in the NFL. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The list of things to be excited about if you're a Texans fan is not a long one right about now. J.J. Watt appears to be back to 100 percent, which is actually, unspeakably huge, if it didn't look like he was going to be doing it in largely meaningless games come October. Will Fuller is taking the next step in his progression as a receiver, and special teams are vastly improved (from the "utterly wretched" status they've held for the previous four seasons, which is to say they've been decent by NFL standards).

That's about it. Oh, and $2.50 beers in Bud Plaza before games, which will become increasingly necessary as this snowball continues to roll downhill into October. I don't normally advocate self-medicating, but nobody thought the Texans would be 0-3 right now.

As for Texans storylines on the other side of the ledger, the "bad" side, there are plenty of those, too long to list without having to take a vacation today to do this blog post. So instead, I will focus on the one aspect of the Texans' season that has me most disturbed, and it's because Deshaun Watson's regression is a subset of this aspect — the Texans' 2017 draft class, last season's rookies, are ALL in a worse place now than they were last season. When you're trying to build a core nucleus, and trying to identify building blocks for the future, this is problematic.

Let's go one by one, shall we? (NOTE: The number in front of each player is his round selected and overall selection number in the 2017 draft.)

1/12. DESHAUN WATSON, QB, Clemson
2017 STORY:
Watson took the league by storm, throwing for more than 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 6.5 games. He was named the 50th best player in the NFL by his peers, despite the small sample size of work. Rising star.
2018 STORY: Still a rising star, but 2018 has been a struggle, compared to last season. Not only are the Texans 0-3, but Watson has looked jittery at times, and his decision making has been off, with three interceptions thrown in the end zone as evidence. Still a good player, but struggling through growing pains.

2/57. ZACH CUNNINGHAM, LB, Vanderbilt
2017 STORY: Solid rookie campaign, and Cunningham got better toward the end of the season, which was encouraging, since most rookies hit a wall (especially when they're playing for 4-12 football teams).
2018 STORY: A bulked up Cunningham (shout out to the new cafeteria!) has become a kill spot that opposing QB's seek out on the Texans' defense. Against the Giants on Sunday, Cunningham in pass coverage played a vital (detrimental) role in the Texans' allowing 17 points to the Giants on three of their five scoring drives.

3/89. D'ONTA FOREMAN, RB   78 327 2 6 83 0 Texas
2017 STORY: A promising rookie campaign (78 carries, 327 yards, plus some juice in the passing game) was cut short by an Achilles injury in the Arizona game, coincidentally the last time the Texans won a football game.
2018 STORY: On the PUP list, with no real update on when he will be coming back.

4/130. JULIE'N DAVENPORT, T  Bucknell
2017 STORY: Spent most of his rookie campaign as a backup, but started two games at the end of the season, and for a rookie, looked capable. It was a promising start for a fourth round pick out of a Patriot League school (Bucknell).
2018 STORY: A circus at right tackle, buried under his own self-inflicted tsunami of false starts and holding penalties. Might get Deshaun Watson killed before the bye week.

4/142. CARLOS WATKINS, DT, Clemson
2017 STORY: Played in 12 games, started 6 games.
2018 STORY: Inactive for each of the first three weeks of the season.

5/169. TRESTON DECOUD, S, Oregon St.
2017 STORY: Contributed in ten games on special teams. moved from cornerback to safety before training camp in 2018.
2018 STORY: Released, now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

7/243. KYLE FULLER, C, Baylor
2017 STORY: Played in nine games, with two starts.
2018 STORY: Waived at the end of training camp, re-signed to the Texans' practice squad.

Now, these are just the draft choices. I will say that Dylan Cole, because he was undrafted last season, is not on this list. I love Dylan Cole! He is one of the few players that I like on this team right about now, until they start playing better. So, of course, this happened yesterday morning....

The Houston Texans, ladies and gentlemen! Come for the 2017, STAY for the 2018!

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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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast