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What If? Houston Doesn’t Do the Expected with the #2 Pick

Most expect the team to select its next franchise QB…but what if they don’t?

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At the time of this writing, there is one week left before the 1st round of the draft. Houston, holding the #2 pick in the draft, and with glaring deficiencies in its current QB room (Case Keenum, Davis Mills and something called an E.J. Perry), seemingly will open its draft with a QB. With Carolina’s move to claim the #1 pick from Chicago, and given their recent QB quandaries, they likely go QB. Sorting the internet churn, Bryce Young of Alabama might want to start looking for property in North Carolina.

Following Carolina, Houston appears set to draft the runner-up in the 2023 NFL Draft QB beauty pageant: CJ Stroud. There is also something to be said of two other contestants: Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. These two prospects possess eye-popping physical traits, but lack the polish and collegiate resumes of Young or Stroud. While not as likely, Houston could be in great position to take either one of those players if Stroud is not their ”guy”.

NFL Combine
The next “Great Texans-QB Hope?”
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Yet, amid all the draft cyber rumor storms, a QB, is not a given. Some sports news sites report that Houston is not locked in on a position at that spot. Outside of QBs, the top prospects in the 2023 draft are pass rushers. Will Anderson, Jr. is seen by some as the top prospect in the entire draft. Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson is also out there. Perhaps Jalen Carter, if teams dismiss his post-college actions, could be in Liberty White to start 2023. Given that the Houston Texans lack a difference-maker on the defensive line and DeMeco Ryans is a defensive guy by trade, don’t rule that move out.

NFL: MAR 01 Scouting Combine Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So, what if Houston does not draft a QB at #2?

If they don’t pick QB at two, it is likely that Carolina, going with a QB at one, took the player Houston would’ve most wanted (pause for groans/cursing of Lovie Smith and Jordan Akins for the ill-timed octopus). Not for certain, but possible. At that point, Houston goes with its “draft board” and taking the best, or second-best player. If not a QB, then likely a pass-rusher. In the modern NFL, to win, you have to have a QB and someone who can get after a QB. If it is Will Anderson, Jr., Houston would figure to have its best DL player since JJ Watt.

For those Houston fans that make the trek to Kansas City, they would likely serenade Anderson with the same love and affection they did when Houston drafted JJ Watt. This likely applies to any prospect not named Young or Stroud. We all remember how that reaction to Watt aged. Fan reaction aside, Houston still needs a QB. Houston does have another first-round pick, but that is all the way down at 12. Given that a number of teams ahead of Houston have significant QB needs, the top four prospects figure to be off the board by the time Houston is again on the clock. If Houston still wants a top-rated QB, it has options (discussed later).

“Let’s make a deal…”
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Suppose Houston Moves The #2 Pick:

More than a few news sources report that Houston could move off this pick. Surprisingly, some mock drafts have division rivals, like Indy, making overtures to Houston to move up to get that pick. While nothing is impossible, Houston would have to feel very, very secure about that move. They won’t just give away the pick for nothing (BO’B is no longer around). Depending how far Houston traded down, it would either be to a point where they could securely grab a player they want (like a QB), or give them more resources to make another move back up (say for a QB).

If Houston moves from the second pick, it is likely they want to remain in the top 10 for the 2023 draft. Historically, Caserio has no issue trading up or down if he feels the price is right and/or there is a player he absolutely wants. A lower top 10 2023 pick still has highly valued DL/OL, WR and DB prospects in play, all positions of need for Houston. Of note, Caserio’s job security is no longer that secure. If Caserio moves down from two, the pressure from the fans and the owner’s box will only grow. If that move quickly blows up in Caserio’s face, he will not be around for 2024’s draft.

NFL: DEC 30 Cardinals at Seahawks Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Don’t Forget #12:.

While much discussion potential centers on what Houston could and should do with the second pick, there is also the matter of the #12 pick. Maybe Houston stays at #12 and gets one of the four QBs. Yet, QB-needy teams like Indy, Tennessee and Las Vegas all pick between two and 12, to say nothing about another team trading in to that range. Given that Houston has 12 picks in this draft, as well as extra picks in the 2024 draft (head-lined by two 1st rounders), they can easily move up from #12.

Yet, don’t rule out Houston trading down from #12. With Houston in need of greater roster depth across the board, more draft capital is never a bad thing. Moving and shifting in the draft is not a new thing for Caserio. More picks gives the team more prospects, and given the state of the roster the past few seasons, there is plenty of room for improvement. More picks does not guarantee better players, but it increases the odds.

This still leaves the team hunting for that most elusive of commodities: Quarterback. If the team thinks he can recover well enough from a torn ACL at the end of 2023-beginning of 2024, then Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker could be in play. He might not last much beyond day two, but if the team sees Keenum as a bridge QB for a season, this would be a logical gamble.

The later rounds are not historically filled with guys screaming franchise QB. Yet, the litany of greatest QBs of all time is not solely the realm of top 10 draft picks. That includes a former Louisville QB that went undrafted and didn’t even make it through his first team’s preseason (Pittsburgh), only to latch on in Baltimore; a scrawny looking guy out of Notre Dame who went to San Francisco, or a scrawny looking guy out of Michigan that caught Belichick’s eye. Last season, Ryans saw up close the ability of Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy. Is there someone in the later part of the draft that could replicate the respective career starts of Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana or Tom Brady? Regardless, there is almost no scenario where Houston does not leave the draft without a QB. It will be a tough sell job if that QB is a day two or three guy, especially following Davis Mills, but perhaps Ryans and Caserio find that late-round franchise gem.

Balcombe protest

A (Fracking) Bonkers Scenario:

Since this is the silly season, there are plenty of silly scenarios writers will mock (see Houston trading the second pick to a division rival). Maybe Houston trades back up with a division rival. That would blow the minds of Texans’ fans everywhere. Yet, one kind of out there/bonkers scenario involves Houston not only keeping the second pick, but working with Arizona to get the third pick. Imagine Houston with the second AND third pick?

For this scenario to work, Houston takes Anderson or the pass-rusher de jour at two. Arizona, since they don’t need a QB, can either take the next best player, or just trade out of the pick. Houston, with 12 picks, to include four other first/second day picks in 2022, to say nothing of its 2024 stock, makes a strong offer to Arizona. If the Cardinals are ok trading out of the Top 10, but gaining the #12 pick along with another couple of day two picks, with some day three picks and a 2024 pick thrown in for funzies, then Houston could go back-to-back, getting its next great pass rusher AND the next great-franchise-QB-hope all in one draft. Talk about firing up the fanbase with that one…Anderson and Stroud on the website to sell season-tickets?

So many different ways to think about what Houston will do in the upcoming draft. Such a far cry from drafts not that long ago, where Houston barely had anything to do the first part of draft night. Now, they could steal the show, and maybe, just maybe, improve the team? Regardless, a lot to consider between now and Thursday night. Perhaps Houston does the expected and takes a QB at two? If they don’t…well, we’ve discussed how it could go, but even that doesn’t cover everything. Should definitely be worth watching.