We’re in the final week of the 2022 NFL Preseason. What better time than now to start pining for 2023 rookies?
With all the love shown for young Houston Texans players such as Davis Mills, Nico Collins, Derek Stingley Jr, Jalen Pitre and others, 2022 still projects as a down year. Another brick in the five year rebuild of general manager Nick Caserio. As much as we all want to see the Texans clog the win column with double digits on their way to the first H-Town NFL Championship, it’s a pretty safe bet that won’t happen this season.
With that in mind, let’s turn an eye to the current projected top talent in the 2023 NFL Draft.
For the sake of ease, let’s just give the Texans the #1 pick at this point. No, that’s not to say they’re going to be the worst team in the NFL in 2022 - nor is it saying they will go winless or any of that. It’s just easier on a Wednesday preseason morning for the sake of rookie coveting to give you the pick of the litter.
We’ll also roll with the Pro Football Focus Preseason Top 100 Big Board as a source of player targets - again for the sake of ease on this fine day.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is not simply a product of the Alabama system — he is a bona fide playmaker with NFL-caliber arm talent. His 92.0 passing grade last season is the highest of any returning Power Five quarterback.
Listed at 6-foot and not even scraping 200 pounds, his stature will be picked apart as much as his on-field performance this year.
Your FBS leader in quarterback pressures last season was just a true sophomore. Anderson joined Chase Young as the only true sophomores in PFF’s eight years of grading college football to accomplish such a feat. That’s the caliber of prospect the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder should end up as. He could skip the 2022 season and still be a top-five pick.
Stroud will come with some of the same knocks as Justin Fields did coming out, as a lot of the criticism surrounding him a year ago was driven as much by the offense as it was Fields’ play style.
In that offense, Stroud earned a 92.2 overall grade as a redshirt freshman compared to Fields’ 91.5 mark in the same year. But let the record show that they do not play a similar brand of ball despite Stroud’s similar 6-foot-3, 218-pound stature.
No, Stroud is far more of a true pocket passer than Fields ever was. His 2.68-second average time to throw — Fields was at 3.14 for his college career — and 10.8% pressure-to-sack conversion rate (Fields was at 23.6% for his career) are ideal figures for a pocket passer projecting to the NFL.
On the loaded Georgia defensive line, it was the true sophomore who finished with the highest pass-rushing grade. His 90.0 mark was tops among all Power Five defensive tackles in the country, and that’s a feat we have never seen from a true sophomore. Carter is another prospect who could write his ticket to a top-five pick without playing another snap.
5. EDGE MYLES MURPHY, CLEMSON (JUNIOR)
Murphy is one of those “know it when you see it” kind of physical specimens. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end is bigger, more powerful and more explosive than everyone he’s going up against. And that was true as a freshman. He’s earned a 92.2 run-defense grade for his college career.
Bresee was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 cycle, and while he hasn’t quite lived up to that lofty billing, you still see it. And by “it,” we mean the undeniable movement skills that few 6-foot-5, 300-pound men have ever been capable of. He earned an 81.2 pass-rushing grade back as a true freshman before tearing his ACL only four games into his sophomore campaign.
Before Jaxon Smith-Njigba went for over 300 receiving yards in a game, Boutte was doing it as a true freshman in 2020 against Ole Miss. The crazy thing about that game was that, even with 14 catches for 308 yards and three scores, Boutte still left yards on the table with two drops.
Those ball skills will be the biggest worry for the explosive LSU wideout, as his 9.9% career drop rate and 28% career contested catch rate need to improve.
Being bigger and also faster than most receivers you face is helpful for playing the cornerback position. While that’s true for many cornerbacks in college, it will also be true for the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder in the NFL. He’s got low-4.3 speed at that size, and it showed with how infrequently he let guys get by him. On 17 deep targets last season, Ringo caught as many balls (two) as opposing wide receivers.
A 6-foot-3, 200-pound slot cornerback? You don’t see that often. That’s what Johnson was in the Aggies’ defense last season, and he still earned an 87.4 overall grade. He’s exceptional at flowing to the football and easily gets off wide blocks with his length. His 62 targets faced last season resulted in a grand total of 228 yards. We’ll see him play more traditional safety in 2022 to solidify his stock.
Smith-Njigba will be a hotly debated prospect after the scouting combine next spring because the 6-foot, 198-pounder is no “Underwear Olympics” kind of athlete. Last spring, he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the high 4.5s. There’s simply no track record of receivers drafted in the top 10 without elite size or speed. That said, his floor is so high with his ball skills, route-running and after-the-catch ability that I wouldn’t be too worried.
Looking at this list begs several questions. The first of which is: can Davis Mills join Matt Schaub and [NAME REDACTED 2.0] as the only Houston Texans franchise quarterbacks?
Is Davis Mills the next Houston Texans franchise quarterback?
If the answer for you is no, then your next question is: do we take Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud? Young might be too small to effectively compete at the next level. Stroud might not evolve well either for (insert reasons). But both are projecting as better draft options than Caserio had when he chose to spend the Texans #3 overall pick on Derek Stingley Jr. this year.
The Houston Texans draft another defensive star
If the answer for you is yes, then the next valid question is: which defensive monster do you want anchoring the D-line for the next decade? Alabama EDGE Will Anderson may not be the next J.J. Watt, but he certainly seems to offer an upgrade to Houston’s current options.
Clemson EDGE Miles Murphy is more the Jadeveon Clowney, freakish athletic specimen type. At 6-5, 275 pounds Murphy is a man among boys often when he takes the field. And, dude isn’t just big, he’s powerful, explosive and has a tremendous upside.
If none of those answers suit you, then would you chase a defensive interior lineman such as Bryan Bresee or another wide out such as Kayshon Boutte? How about a bookend for Stingley with the selection of Kellee Ringo? Or another safety from the great state of Texas Ala Jalen Pitre in the form of Antonio Johnson?
POLL: Houston Texans 2023 Draft Pick
Who would you select with the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Bryce Young - QB
C.J. Stroud - QB
Will Anderson - EDGE
Miles Murphy - EDGE
Bryan Bresee - DI
Kayshon Boutte - WR
Kellee Ringo - CB
Antonio Johnson - S
Other - tell us who in the comments