John McClain: Poker-face Nick Caserio holding all the draft cards with the second overall pick

Feb 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio speaks to the media during his introductory press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

John McClain: Poker-face Nick Caserio holding all the draft cards with the second overall pick

When it comes to the second overall pick in the draft, the Texans are so secretive they’d make the Kremlin blush. General manager Nick Caserio is playing poker with a deadpan look on his face, staring into space and disclosing nothing. And that’s the way it should be so close to the draft.

Caserio, coach DeMeco Ryans, and the McNair family are getting a kick out of creating so much confusion. And they do have options, lots of options.

Before we dive into what the Texans might do, let’s reiterate their needs – quarterback, edge rusher, wide receiver, and center. Of course, they can use help at other positions, but those needs should be their top priorities.

Quarterback Bryce Young is going first overall to the Panthers. If the Texans don’t think quarterbacks C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, and Hendon Hooker are worth the second pick, they should draft an edge rusher, either Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson.

Anderson and running back Bijan Robinson are the safest picks in the draft. Extremely talented, no blemishes on their character and no effort issues. Other prospects are highly rated, but all have questions about them.

Caserio could trade down, but how far and for what? If he doesn’t think a quarterback is worth the second selection, why would he believe the prospect would be worth the fourth, fifth, or sixth?

It’ll be interesting to see the backlash among fans and media if the Texans bypass a quarterback, specifically Stroud. He’s supposed to be the best pure passer available, and he has no size or effort issues, but it appears something has made the Texans non-believers.

If they choose Anderson, it’s hard to argue against an elite pass rusher who’s the highest-rated prospect on a lot of draft boards. Wilson is an elite prospect, too, but he hasn’t consistently done it on a big stage as Anderson has. The Texans would be betting more on his potential than his production.

There’s a lot of chatter about the Texans trading for quarterback Trey Lance. There’s no proof the 49ers want to trade him even though they say they’ll listen to just about anyone.

The problem for San Francisco is second-year quarterback Brock Purdy said he might have to miss his sophomore season. He said he’s “not really sure” if he’ll be able to play because his recovery from elbow surgery could take longer than expected. If coach Kyle Shanahan trades Lance, that leaves him with Sam Darnold as his opening-day starter and possibly a lot longer, depending on Purdy’s rehabilitation.

Okay, let’s say Purdy makes a miraculous recovery, and Lance goes on the trade market. He cost the 49ers dearly. They shipped first-round draft choices in 2021, 2022, and 2023 and a third-round selection to swap first-round positions to get Lance. Why would a team give anything but a mid-round pick for him? He hasn’t done squat.

But maybe Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik like Lance. Maybe they love his talent and potential, but that’s just what it is – potential. He’s been bothered by injuries, including a broken ankle last season that allowed him to start only two games.

Lance, 22, is 6-4, 224. In 2021, he played in five games with two starts. He completed 41 of 71 (57.7 percent) for 605 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. His rating was 97.3. He ran 38 times for 168 yards and a touchdown.

In 2022, he started two games. He completed 15 of 31 (48.4 percent) for 194 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. His rating was 55.0. He ran 16 times for 67 yards. Lance has done nothing to merit more than a fourth-round draft choice, perhaps a conditional three.

If the Texans did make the trade, they’d have Lance, Davis Mills, Case Keenum, and A.J. Perry on the roster.

Another option would be to draft a quarterback with the 12th pick, maybe Will Levis or Hendon Hooker if one was still on the board. Who would you like for the Texans to select? The last man standing? It would be intriguing for Caserio to trade for Lance so he could solve problems at edge rusher, wide receiver, and center.

Another interesting scenario would be to stay at 2 and 12 and trade back into the first round. Caserio would have three first-round picks. He’d have to give up the 33rd selection and maybe both third-rounders or one third-rounder and a premium pick next year.

If you’re confused with all the possibilities, you’re not alone. We know Caserio isn’t going to sit still. He could trade down twice, back up, or back into the first round. Call it a rollercoaster or a Tilt-A-Whirl, but we know it’s going to be a wild ride.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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