HOUSTON – The Houston Texans opened with defense in the second round of the NFL draft, selecting Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham with the 57th overall pick on Friday night, and then turned to offense.
Houston added Texas running back D'Onta Foreman in the third round with the 89th pick. Foreman had 2,028 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns as a junior for the Longhorns last season and won the Doak Walker Award given to the country's best running back.
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."