The pre-draft season is the worst time of the year if you want hard hitting news. There’s a lot of talk, but there rarely is anything concrete that comes from it. This team likes that guy and doesn’t like those guys. They may trade out or they may not. They did like that guy but now something has come up and they don’t. At the end of the day, you know nothing new.
In the span of less than a month, C.J. Stroud has gone from the odds on first overall pick to the number three or four quarterback on the Houston Texans board according to the odds makers. There have been whispers that he is difficult to coach. Mind you, this isn’t coming from anyone directly and especially anyone at Ohio State. Is it all a smokescreen? We will find out on April 27th one way or another.
Given these caveats, the big debate for Texans fans and pundits is whether they should select the second best quarterback on their board or whether they should punt on quarterback and select the best non-quarterback they have on their board. Obviously, trading down is an option as well if neither of those scenarios are palatable. I have firmly been in the camp of selecting the best quarterback available to you and moving on.
A Critical Look at History
It has been pointed out by many that the last five quarterbacks taken number two overall haven’t been good. They included the likes of Zach Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Carson Wentz, Mitchell Trubisky, and Marcus Mariota. Needless to say, none of them reached a level of success that was hoped at the time of the draft. At the same time, they also listed the last five defensive players taken number two overall. They are all Pro Bowlers and potential Hall of Famers.
Of course, we will get to the reasons for that as we go on, but in this space we should consider the success of those teams that took the defensive player. They include Aidan Hutchinson, Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Von Miller, and Ndamukong Suh. Von Miller is the only one to win a Super Bowl with the team that drafted him and you could argue that only came because of Peyton Manning.
Granted, Suh did win this last year with the Eagles and Bosa made it to the conference title game, but it is hard to argue that they did so because of those players. This isn’t to say that those players performed poorly. Bosa won the Defensive Player of the Year award this season and Miller won it in the past. Those teams had quarterback situations that were at least decent enough to get them that far.
The Texans picked Mario Williams and J.D. Clowney number one overall. How many playoff games did they suit up for as a Texan? J.J. Watt has arguably been the best defensive player in the league this century. How many playoff games did he win in Houston? Throw all three of those guys into one bucket and you can still count those playoff wins with one hand. So, you could say they were collectively better than any quarterback taken in those drafts. While that might be true that hasn’t given the Texans a better shot at winning.
Is the number two spot jinxed?
2021: Zach Wilson— Mac Jones
2017: Mitchell Trubisky— Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson
2016: Carson Wentz— Dak Prescott
2015: Marcus Mariota— None
2012: Robert Griffin III— Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins
The names listed next to the quarterback taken number two were players from that draft that have performed significantly better to this point in their careers. In fact, each is still a starter in the league. Mac Jones might very well wash out after this season, but you could argue that Wilson was the worst of the five quarterbacks taken number two overall. So, this begs the question: are teams picking the wrong guy or were their situations such that no one would have succeeded?
Is it System Fit or Poor Scouting?
Most quarterbacks don’t become franchise guys. It seems so simple. If there are only ten to twelve franchise guys at any one time then it makes perfect sense that few selections would pan out on that level. Yet, the selection of non-quarterbacks also does not generate success on its own. If you can hit on quarterback another way then grabbing the defensive player can make a difference.
This begs the question of why these selections fail. Should the Bears have known that Mahomes and Watson would be considerably better or is it possible that both would have failed in that situation? The same is true of Tannehill or Wilson. None of us know for sure, but I suspect that Robert Griffin III would have been better in a situation that managed him better. Maybe he gets hurt regardless. Similarly, we can guess that Watson and Mahomes would have been better in Chicago than Trubisky. It’s a logical guess, but it is still only a guess.
Chances are, there is a quarterback that is available in this draft that would be good enough to lead the Texans to at least some playoff success. That is given that he is given enough to work with and a system that fits his talents. I think we are at least hopeful that the right coaching is in place to make that happen. They have enough draft capital to make that happen. They just have to pick the right guy and the right guys to surround him with.
Obviously, none of us know for sure who that guy is. If we did we would be working for the Texans and not commenting about it here. The question is whether we trust them to know. There are two things that I am 99 percent sure on. Number one, this team cannot walk into next season with just Case Keenum and Davis Mills in that quarterback room. They have to come away with someone. It doesn’t have to be with the number two pick. There are other scenarios where they wind up with that guy. However, the second thing I know for sure is that the number two pick is the only way to guarantee that you come away with a guy.
A Look At The AFC
Football doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You have to consider the competition when you are thinking about questions like this. How many elite quarterbacks do you have to go through in order to even advance to a Super Bowl? The NFC probably has fewer elite quarterbacks than the AFC.
Of course, we have yet to define what an elite quarterback looks like. We can keep dancing in circles, but I’m eventually going to get sick and throw up in the bushes. There is a distinction between an elite quarterback and someone capable of being elite for a short enough time to get the job done. If you look at a Super Bowl winning quarterback he is either elite or he performed at an elite level for long enough to get it done.
If we look through the AFC we see eight to ten quarterbacks that most people think are capable of doing this. Then, you get to the guys that people would debate about. Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson haven’t done it, but a lot of people think they are capable of it. Technically speaking, Jimmy Garappolo and Ryan Tannehill have advanced to a Super Bowl and AFC Title Game respectively. Tua Tagovailoa has his defenders as well and has put together three and four game stretches of brilliance.
If we include those five guys in the list, we can add Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. I count twelve quarterbacks. The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying Kenny Pickett. The Colts are looking for a quarterback in this draft. The Patriots have Mac Jones, Then, there is your Texans. So, if we march into town with Case Keenum as your guy that just ain’t enough.
Tying it All Together
Basically, what we have are four or five guys that people think could potentially be good enough to have that three or four game streak. Are any of them really good enough? Part of that depends on how each individual team views these guys. Part of that also depends on what a team asks their quarterback to do. Are they running a static offense no matter what the quarterback can do or are they molding an offense around the quarterback’s skills?
If there are only 15 to 20 quarterbacks capable going three or four games in a row at an elite level, it stands to reason that most quarterbacks will fail. They will fail for any number of reasons. Teams may misread what they can do at the next level. Other teams may never fully support that quarterback with talent around them or a system that matches their skills. Even acknowledging all of that, the Texans aren’t going anywhere until they get one of those guys. We’ve had two number one overall picks on defense. We’ve had the best defender in the NFL. Those players got them nothing in terms of playoff success. We need the quarterback and until we get one we will be right back here every year.