Houston general manager Rick Smith wouldn’t go so far as to call getting Texas running back D’Onta Foreman in the third round a steal.
He did, however feel fortunate to pick up last year’s Doak Walker Award winner on the second day of the draft.
“I do a little bit of a wish list to the guys that I just would love to have on our football team,” Smith said. “And he’s one of those guys that was starred, that was on that list because he’s just very good.”
The Texans selected Foreman with the 89th pick after taking Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham with the 57th overall pick on Friday night.
Foreman had 2,028 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns as a junior for the Longhorns last season to win the Doak Walker Award given to the country’s best running back. When Smith interviewed Foreman at the combine, he joked with him that his performance last season “might have been the quietest 2,000 yards” he’d ever seen.
Foreman had the perfect answer to Smith’s comment.
“His response was: ‘Well, I did win the Doak Walker Award, so it wasn’t too quiet,'” Smith said.
Foreman went to high school in nearby Texas City and watched the Texans his entire life because his father is a huge fan of the team. He described his father’s reaction when he received the news that his son would be playing for Houston.
“He was just smiling and just saying he was so proud of me … for me to be able to be a Texan on his favorite team was a dream come true,” he said.
Foreman joins a backfield which features Lamar Miller, who ran for 1,073 yards last season. His presence could take some of the load off of Miller after he was sixth in the NFL with a career-high 268 carries last year.
“There are other things that drafting him does for us, and one of them is hopefully for him to come in here and work hard, do a good job of learning our system and be able to spell Lamar at times when Lamar needs that,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I don’t think it was a case where we overused Lamar, I just think all running backs need a little bit of rest every now and then and hopefully he’ll be able to do that.”
The Texans appeared to go for the best player available instead of drafting for need with their selection of Cunningham since they have a lot of depth at linebacker led by Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney. The pick comes after Houston traded up to No. 12 to get Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in the first round on Thursday night.
In Cunningham, they get a player who piled up 295 career tackles, including 39 1/2 for losses and forced in a three-year career with the Commodores. He led the Southeastern Conference with 125 tackles in 2016 to earn first-team All-SEC honors for the second straight season.
Cunningham played on the inside at Vanderbilt, but many draft analysts projected him to be an outside linebacker in the NFL.
“Wherever the Texans see fit to put me, I’m definitely going to be an impact player on the defense,” he said.
The 6-foot-3, 234-pound Cunningham is looking forward to learning from players like Cushing in Houston.
“That’s definitely going to be a great experience for me,” Cunningham said. “I’m really anticipating really being able to get in and get started with it.”
One criticism of Cunningham in the draft process was that he missed too many tackles in his college career. He’s aware of that knock and is looking to improve in that area as he begins his NFL career.
“I would definitely say there were some plays I wish I could take back, a lot of missed tackles, missed opportunities that I left down the field,” he said. “But I definitely gave my all and that showed up in the way I played, that showed up in how I played and what I was able to achieve.”
The Texans could still use an offensive lineman when they have four picks on the final day of the draft on Saturday with two fourth-round selections and a pick in both the fifth and seventh rounds.