C.J. Stroud once was the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. After the Carolina Panthers acquired the first selection from the Chicago Bears in early March, the Ohio State quarterback was labeled Carolina’s likeliest choice. But as the draft inches closer, betting markets don’t even have Stroud as the probable pick at No. 2.
C.J. Stroud’s NFL Draft Stock Continues To Fall
Stroud is now just the fourth-likeliest prospect to come off the board at No. 2 overall, according to the pre-draft markets at DraftKings. While Stroud is listed at +350, DraftKings has Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. at +150, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis at +210, and Texas Tech pass rusher Tyree Wilson at +300.
The recent market is in sync with the latest reports on the Houston Texans, who aren’t thought to be sold on Stroud and could either draft a defensive player or trade back from the No. 2 selection.
Appearing on NFL Live on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said, “We’ve heard quarterbacks go one, two, three, four. That’s not going to happen, I don’t believe, in this draft.” Schefter then proceeded to bet colleague Dan Orlovsky that two quarterbacks won’t be selected before the Indianapolis Colts are on the board at No. 4.
Meanwhile, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein — well-sourced in the Houston area — recently suggested that the Texans are trying to “get out” of the No. 2 selection. However, Zierlein cautioned that Houston could have problems trading the second pick because “teams don’t covet Stroud like the public thinks.”
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler sent Stroud to the Texans in his most recent mock draft, but he didn’t feel good about it. “I’m told there isn’t a unanimous belief among the Houston coaches that an available quarterback will be worthy of this pick,” Brugler wrote.
The Texans Have Options, but So Do Other Teams in the Top 10
If the Texans don’t want to take Stroud at No. 2, Anderson looks like the most likely pick. The Alabama pass rusher is the top overall prospect on both Pro Football Network’s 2023 Big Board and the Industry Consensus Big Board.
As Zierlein indicated, trading back might not be an option if the NFL doesn’t view this year’s quarterback crop highly. First-year Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans, who likely has a significant say in the Texans’ draft room, could theoretically push for Anderson after working with another standout defensive end — San Francisco 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa — over the past several seasons.
Houston would have to balance the concept of adding Anderson — a potential All-Pro talent — against the benefits of adding even more draft capital. Given that rival clubs might not be willing to sacrifice much to move up, and given that the Texans already have a bevy of picks, Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio may not want to eschew the chance to add a generational defender.
Still, the idea of Houston not being in on Stroud does create intriguing trade possibilities. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Las Vegas Raiders — all of whom have picks inside the top 10 — now have another potential trade partner in the Texans. If any of those clubs want to add a potential franchise QB, this could be their opportunity.
The Arizona Cardinals are believed to be willing to move the No. 3 overall pick, and that selection should be cheaper than No. 2 by default. But the mere possibility of the Texans being open to trading back from No. 2 — and potentially taking a discount to do so — could drop draft-trade prices across the board.
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