Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock (13486430o) Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws a pass against Iowa during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbus, Ohio Iowa Ohio St Football, Columbus, United States – 22 Oct 2022
As the Houston Texans 2022 season falls further into the abyss, let’s look at the team’s most prominent needs and possible targets in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
As of Nov. 30, the Texans’ two first-round picks slot at No. 1 and No. 10 (from Cleveland).
While the Cleveland pick could change as they play the Texans this week and Deshaun Watson returns from suspension, their own choice is not expected to have much volatility.
First overall pick: With it abundantly clear that the Texans desperately need a franchise quarterback as neither Davis Mills nor Kyle Allen is the long-term answer at the position, this pick is essentially a two-horse race between quarterbacks CJ Stroud of Ohio State and Bryce Young of Alabama.
C.J. Stroud, 21, is a redshirt sophomore (third year) and has prototypical size at 6’3″, 218 lbs. He has tremendous arm strength, with the ability to force the ball down the field and throw outside the numbers with power. He has the velocity to fit balls into small windows and beat defenders in coverage. His athleticism allows him to throw accurately on the move and change arm angles with accuracy to avoid defenders and alter the trajectory on throws. He’s proven adept at knowing when to fire bullets and when to use touch and finesse on passes. His accuracy allows him to hit receivers in stride resulting in yards after the catch and not having pass catchers take big hits from lurking defenders. His accuracy, arm strength, high football IQ, and athleticism make him an ideal target for the top pick.
Bryce Young, 21, is a junior who has accumulated all the hardware a college QB can collect. He is a winner of the Heisman, the Davey O’Brien, the Maxwell, and the Manning awards. He is a national champion. He was the AP, Sporting News College Football Player of the Year, and more. He is perhaps generously listed at 6’0″, with most believing he is 5’11” and 194 lbs. He would be among the smaller quarterbacks in the NFL. While recent history has shown that isn’t the deterrent it used to be, Young has a smaller body right now than both Kyler Murray (5’10”, 207) and Russell Wilson (5’11”, 215). Young has good arm talent and can throw with velocity down the field. He can switch arm angles with accuracy. He plays fast, is highly elusive, can start and stop like lightning, and has incredible improvisational skills to turn broken plays into winners. He has also shown toughness under pressure, the ability to raise his level of play in big games, and the determination to lead his team from behind to victories on the biggest stages.
While Stroud is likely the better traditional prospect, Young’s next-level athleticism and ability to go off-script with elite success may make him the more intriguing prospect. Both are considered the elite quarterback prospects of the upcoming draft class and are viewed as franchise-level players.
While this is likely a total toss-up right now, I will give a slight lean to Stroud for his more traditional size and bigger arm for the time being, but it is the slightest of leans.
Tenth overall pick: There are so many places the Texans need to improve, especially when it comes to physicality at the point of attack. They could also certainly use a game-breaker offensively, and at this part of the draft, they should be going with the best available player who fits one of their many needs. Here are a few players that could be available at 10 who fit the bill for Houston:
Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR Ohio State (6’0″, 198): It’s been a frustrating year for JSN, who entered the season as the number-one wide receiver in the nation. A hamstring injury suffered in the Buckeyes’ first game of the season against Notre Dame has cost him essentially the entire season to date. His father has stated publicly that he will get back on the field this season, and not shut things down to get ready for the draft. In 2021, JSN showed out as a dynamic playmaker, hauling in 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. He also put on a highlight show in the Rose Bowl, with 15 receptions for 347 yards (that’s not a typo) and three touchdowns against No. 11 Utah. He looks like a future star WR1.
Isaiah Foskey DE Notre Dame (6’5″, 265): For the second straight season, Foskey has recorded 11 sacks, including 1.5 sacks last week against USC. The Texans need more help on the pass rush, and Foskey can get after the quarterback. He has a quick first step, uses his hands well to get separation, and can get upfield. He would need to add strength at the NFL level, but most college players do. He also has the speed to be successful in pursuit against the run.
Quentin Johnson WR TCU (6’4″, 215): Johnson has the type of size and speed combination that NFL offensive coaches love. He can run routes at all three levels, has more speed than players his size usually show, and has the quickness to succeed on shorter routes and changing directions. Unlike most players of his size, Johnson has positional versatility, lining up both in the slot and as an outside receiver during his career at TCU. The Horned Frogs are not an aerial show offense, but he leads the team with 49 receptions for 764 yards (15.6 YPC) and five touchdowns despite missing last week’s game against Iowa State with an ankle injury. He projects as WR1, who could either be a true X receiver at the next level or a nightmare matchup in the slot.
Tyree Wilson DE Texas Tech (6’6″, 275): Wilson is a tremendously strong player who can play both inside and outside on the defensive line. He is strong enough to set the edge against the run outside and inside he uses his strength to push the pocket and get to the quarterback. His versatility is a strength, and defensive coordinators will need to figure out what they feel he is best at for their system, but he projects as an impact lineman.
Peter Skoronski OL Northwestern (6’4″, 315): While Skoronski has played left tackle at Northwestern, his arm length (reportedly 32“) will likely see him moved inside at the next level. Skoronski can play guard and center and has the top-end size for either position. Against the pass rush, he has good movement and quick feet. While his length is limited, he’s a very smart player who uses his technique well to negate his opponent’s speed and power. He has the power to successfully move defenders in the running game, executes well, and gets to the second level of the defense very well. His coaches favorably compare him to former teammate Rashawn Slater, who was taken 13th overall by the Chargers in the 2021 NFL Draft.
While this pick will likely change with each passing game and could go up or down each week, we will evaluate the selection and the possibilities each week based on the position of the pick.
With the current spot at 10, and the Texans’ dreadful interior offensive line performance, the first lean here is to Skoronski. His ability to play inside and outside at the college level, paired with his strength and technique, make him project as a Week 1 starter in his rookie season. The interior offensive line’s failures have been a huge part of the Texans’ offensive failures and the struggles of Davis Mills. The idea of getting a potential franchise quarterback in Stroud or Young and subjecting them to the same constant pressure of the middle would be ludicrous. Getting the QB is job 1, protecting him is job 1A. If Skoronski is still on the board at 10, he should be the guy.