Texans Draft 2023: First Round Targets: Week 18 Update

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock (13398333b) Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would look good in a Texans uniform.

Texans Draft 2023: First Round Targets: Week 18 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 Jan. 3, through 17 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 debate between Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud got even better after this past week’s bowl games, as both quarterbacks put on tremendous displays on New Year’s Eve.

In the Sugar Bowl, Young led the fifth-ranked Tide to a 45-20 thrashing of ninth-ranked Kansas State. Young finished the game 15-for-21, 321 yards, and five touchdowns. He accomplished all of that in just over three quarters, as his day was over with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a 45-13 lead. He connected with seven different receivers as he and the Tide offense bullied and scorched the Wildcats all afternoon.

In the Peach Bowl, Stroud had the Buckeyes in solid position to win entering the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead and led them on a scoring drive that gave them a six-point lead with 2:43 remaining in regulation, but the Ohio State defense couldn’t hold up late as they fell to top-ranked Georgia 42-41 in what may have been the single best college football game of the season. Stroud finished 23-for-34, 348 yards, and four touchdowns. He also added 34 yards on the ground, making him the Buckeyes’ second-leading rusher against the Bulldogs’ top-ranked run defense. Stroud had to overcome the loss of his starting tight end Cade Stover in the first quarter due to a back injury, and star wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. left the game late in the third quarter after he was placed into the concussion protocol.

Both quarterbacks showed off their immense talents and continued to show that both are worthy of being the top overall pick.

I’ve given a slight lean to Stroud here so far this year simply due to his size and the obvious size concerns with Young. However, that lean is getting smaller and smaller each week. The slimming margin isn’t because Stroud isn’t playing well, but because Young continues to show his elite ability as well, despite weaker weapons this season.

There is going to be injury concern with Young simply from the standpoint of a player his size getting hit repeatedly throughout the season, being able to endure it, and continue to perform at his best. Kyler Murray is the most direct comparison, and prior to suffering a catastrophic noncontact injury this season, Murray has had stretches of elite play followed by stretches of weaker play due to various injuries he had played through.

I am also recognizing that Texans GM Nick Caserio and former Texans head coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien still maintain a good relationship. Young has all the hardware a player can obtain in college football. Drafting Young also means committing to someone who can run an offensive system for a smaller quarterback.

While I don’t believe the current coaching staff will be back, drafting Young would require a staff led by someone who knows how to run an offense specifically for a quarterback under six feet tall.

Smallest of leans – C.J. Stroud.

12th Overall Pick: Following a gift-wrapped 24-10 win over the Commanders in Washington, the Cleveland Browns currently sit in the 12-spot in the draft, a pick that conveys to Houston as part of the Deshaun Watson trade.

Watson continues to show rust but finished 9-for-18 for 169 yards and three touchdowns. He also had eight carries for 31 yards. The Browns’ defense came away with three interceptions and two fourth-down stops against a Commanders team that foolishly stuck with Carson Wentz for the duration of the game despite the fact he looked absolutely awful. Washington was eliminated from the postseason with the loss.

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 Myles Murphy

Clemson DT Bryan Bresee

Nearly every major draft mock has the Texans drafting either a wide receiver or a defensive lineman. A few have OL Peter Skoronski as the Texans’ pick, but I am feeling more and more he will not escape the top 10.

As I discussed last week, Brandin Cooks‘ contract situation indicates more and more that he and the Texans will find a way to rectify their situation, and he will be on the team next season. I cannot see a reason why Cooks would surrender any of the $18 million he is guaranteed for next year, even if it means another year on a rebuilding team. With Nico Collins continuing to improve and the expected return of John Metchie III, receiver is not a dire need for the team.

Generating a pass rush and stopping the run are definitely needs for the Texans, however. Once again, the Texans’ run defense was pummeled this week. The Jacksonville Jaguars ran roughshod over Houston for 169 yards and 5.8 yards per carry.

Houston needs power and beef in the middle of the defensive line to stuff run gaps. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre leads the team in tackles with 139. Too many running plays are getting to the second and third level.

For the second straight week, the pick here is Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee.

Bresee’s elite combination of size (6-foot-5, 305 lbs.) and speed for that size (4.77) on the interior make him the kind of player who could develop into an elite defensive tackle, a position the Texans desperately need to improve at.

Not only can he stuff up the run, but he is terrific at pushing the pile back in pass-rush situations, collapsing the pocket to either get to the quarterback or push the QB outside into the waiting arms of a teammate off the edge.

Pick lean – DT Bryan Bresee.

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