Texans Draft 2023: First Round Targets: Week 16 Update

Dec 12, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Texans Draft 2023: First Round Targets: Week 16 Update

Each week, we update the Houston Texans’ draft position in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft and assess possible draft targets.

As of Dec. 20, through 15 weeks of the NFL season, the Houston Texans currently hold the first and 12th picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. The first overall pick is their own pick, and the 12th pick is the Cleveland Browns’ pick owed to Houston as part of the Deshaun Watson trade.

First Overall Pick: The Texans’ position hasn’t changed and likely isn’t going to this season. While Houston’s new two-quarterback system has proven reasonably effective since it was implemented in Week 14 versus Dallas, it is clear the Texans have made the decision that Davis Mills is not their future at quarterback. Therefore, the team will select a QB at No. 1, and Mills will be on another team next season.

If nothing else, Houston learned they need a true, established veteran quarterback who knows their role is not only to back up its first-round pick but also to serve as a teacher and mentor. Every QB on the Texans this season should be somewhere else next season.

This pick is still between C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Bryce Young of Alabama. While both players are immensely talented, my lean has been toward Stroud.

After completing 71.9% of his passes last season for 4435 yards, 44 touchdowns, and only six interceptions, Stroud has followed that up with a 66.2% completion percentage, 3340 yards, 37 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Both of those season statistics were accrued over 12 games. At 11-1, Ohio State made it into the College Football Playoff as the four seed, ahead of Alabama by one spot. Young will add to his numbers when he leads Alabama in the Sugar Bowl against No. 9 Kansas State.

Stroud has prototypical size for the quarterback position at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. After a fourth-place finish in the 2021 Heisman vote, he finished third in 2022.

Young’s percentages were similar, and his numbers took a dip because of fewer games played this season. He completed 66.9% of his passes a season ago, for 4872 yards, 47 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 15 games. This season, Young has completed 64.1% for 3007 yards, 27 touchdowns, and five interceptions in 11 games.

Young’s size is a concern; listed at 6-foot and 194 pounds. Based on weight, he would easily be the smallest quarterback in the league. He is 13 pounds lighter than Kyler Murray, who has been dinged up each year he has played before suffering a season-ending knee injury a week ago.

That size difference is the biggest reason I have the Texans leaning toward Stroud, as both quarterbacks are tremendous playmakers with powerful arms, high football IQs, and accurate passers.

Twelfth overall pick: For the second consecutive week, the Cleveland Browns’ pick owned by the Texans sits at 12. Cleveland defeated a MASH unit Baltimore Ravens team last week and will host the New Orleans Saints before finishing the season in Washington and Pittsburgh.

Deshaun Watson still hasn’t shaken off the rust yet, going just 18-for-28 for 161 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked three times and led only one touchdown drive the entire game. Cleveland scored just 13 points in the victory in Week 15 against the Ravens.

Players previously mentioned in this draft range have been:

Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Notre Dame DE Isaiah Foskey

TCU WR Quentin Johnston

Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson

Northwestern OL Peter Skoronski

USC WR Jordan Addison

Clemson DE/EDGE Myles Murphy

While the position in the draft hasn’t moved, players’ prospects move up and down as various players gain more traction or lose traction. Most national mock drafts at this point of the year are based on top big boards and what those draft analysts have heard from various team scouts about players.

Multiple mock drafts have the Texans taking TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston with the 12th pick. Nearly every mock that doesn’t have Johnston going to Houston at 12 has him drafted earlier.

Other players I have seen being mocked to Houston include Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson and Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Scouts have lauded Johnston for knowing how to use his size (6-foot-3, 215) to win contested battles, as an excellent route runner, high football IQ player, and a real lead dog type of personality. Consistently ranked among the top three wideouts in the draft, many now have him ascending as the top WR in the draft right now.

Pairing the 6-foot-3 Johnston with 6-foot-4, 215-pound Nico Collins on the outside would form a formidable duo, along with a returning John Metchie III (5-foot-11, 187) in the slot and improving Chris Moore (6-foot-1, 200). Houston would have an excellent blend of size, speed, and athleticism at wide receiver.

Smith-Njigba (6-foot, 198) was the top-ranked WR entering the season but has missed nearly the whole year due to injury. While he is expected to be a full strength for the combine, until proven to be so, it is hard to rank him ahead of Johnston. Smith-Njigba destroyed the record books in the 2022 Rose Bowl with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns (50, 52, 30 yards each). He also broke David Boston’s school record for receiving yards in a season with 1606 yards in 2021.

The pick right now is still Johnston, but a strong combine could elevate Smith-Njigba.

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