Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Will Texans draft a quarterback, edge rusher, or shock fans with a player at another position?
Almost everything we’re hearing about the Texans’ draft concerns their second overall pick and what they might do after the Panthers select quarterback Bryce Young. Will general manager Nick Caserio take advantage of having a choice of the four remaining quarterbacks expected to be drafted in the first round, or will he play it safe and choose a defensive end?
Make no mistake: Caserio has the final call on every pick – every personnel decision – because it’s included in his contract. Decisions he makes Thursday through Saturday will have his fingerprints on them. The Texans, especially Caserio, coach DeMeco Ryans, and owners Hannah and Cal McNair, are hoping this draft will be a springboard to the revitalization of the franchise after a dismal three-year period that produced only 11 victories.
There’s a false narrative making the rounds within the NFL that Ryans will make the final decision. Caserio will get input from Ryans, the assistant coaches, and members of his personnel department, but he’ll stay true to his board, at least in the first round.
The Texans have serious needs at quarterback and edge rusher. If they played today, Davis Mills, Case Keenum, and A.J. Perry would be the quarterbacks. The starting defensive ends would be Jerry Hughes, who turns 35 during training camp, and Jonathan Greenard, who’s in the last year of his contract and missed 13 games the last two seasons because of injuries. Not to mention Obo Okoronkwo left in free agency and signed with the Browns.
The Texans have other needs, of course, beginning at wide receiver and center. Fortunately, Caserio has 12 draft choices to play with, and we all know how he loves to wheel and deal. He’ll enter the draft with so many options.
It’s difficult to think about Caserio getting through the draft without selecting a quarterback in the first round unless he’s already got a trade worked out with the 49ers for Trey Lance, which is doubtful. It could happen if Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who spent the last two seasons with Lance at San Francisco, want the quarterback, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is willing to deal him. If that’s true, Caserio would still have to meet Shanahan’s price.
Unless he trades down – always a possibility with Caserio – with the second pick in the first round, he could take an edge rusher. Tyree Wilson seems to be favored over Will Anderson Jr. even though he’s coming off foot surgery that ended his season at Texas Tech in November. He’s supposed to have passed the Texans’ physical.
As prospects, Anderson and Wilson are in a class by themselves among edge rushers. It’s a talented and deep position with as many as five or six predicted to go in the first round. But there is a drop-off after Anderson and Wilson.
Anderson, who’s higher rated on most draft boards, is a 6-3 ½, 254-pound relentless edge rusher with quickness off the ball and an exceptional closing burst to the quarterback. Wilson, 6-6, 270, is taller, heavier, and has the kind of wingspan coaches drool over. He can play outside or slide inside if that’s what his coaches want. He seems more suited for Ryans’ defensive scheme.
If Caserio goes against predictions and drafts a quarterback with his first pick, he can get an edge rusher later, someone like Lukas Van Ness, Noah Smith, or Myles Murphy. He might be able to trade down a few spots and still get a player from that group. Also, there’s a lot of value with edge rushers early in the second round, and the Texans could get one with the 33rd pick.
Now, let’s pivot to quarterbacks. If Caserio passes up his choice of C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, and Hendon Hooker when he makes his pick after Carolina, he may not have many options with his second selection in the first round, 12th overall. Hooker might be on the board, but the Titans could take him at 11. Caserio might be gambling if he believes a quarterback he, Ryans, Slowik, and quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson like at that point in the first round.
Perhaps the Texans will be fortunate enough to see multiple quarterbacks slide, but it’s not likely. What is likely is that Caserio could use his draft capital this year and next year when he has 11 picks, including two in the first round, in an attempt to move up from 12 to get a quarterback the Texans covet.
Maybe Caserio has contacted his buddies with the Raiders – general manager Dave Ziegler and coach John McDaniels – to let them know he might be interested in playing “Let’s Make A Deal” if a quarterback he likes is available. Caserio worked 17 years with McDaniels and eight with Ziegler when they toyed under Bill Belichick at New England.
There was talk on Wednesday that Caserio was ready to make the second pick but was trying to trade down from 12. He doesn’t need more draft choices unless he wants to use them to trade back into the bottom of the first round or acquire another second-round selection. In a perfect world, Caserio will fill needs at quarterback, defensive end, wide receiver, and center with his first four draft choices, but we all know the Texans’ world has been far from perfect.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. 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 SportsRadio610.com).