The Houston Texans are arriving at the 2023 NFL Combine on the heels of a major organizational shift — one that could come to define their 2023 NFL Draft philosophy. With such a crucial offseason on deck, which prospects do the Texans need to keep a particularly close eye on in Indianapolis?
Texans Draft Prospects To Target at 2023 NFL Combine
The Texans didn’t win much in 2022. They were on the losing end of 13 of their 17 games and tied another, finishing 3-13-1 on the year. And they didn’t even secure the No. 1 overall pick. That went to the Chicago Bears after Houston won a meaningless game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18.
In two seasons under general manager Nick Caserio, the Texans are 7-26-1. But Caserio entered the offseason surprisingly optimistic. There’s a lot of work to do, but Caserio felt good about the opportunity ahead.
“We’ve positioned ourselves fairly well from a draft capital standpoint,” Caserio said during the head coaching search. “We have pretty adequate salary cap space. In the end, it’s about making the right decision, making the best decisions, and it’s about making the decisions that we feel are best for our team.”
The first decision, and best decision, turned out to be hiring San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as head coach. After the 49ers lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship, Ryans accepted his new role.
The first order of business for both Caserio and Ryans is honing in on a franchise quarterback, and Ryans knows what kind of player he wants. He looked to the two Super Bowl signal callers — the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts — for inspiration.
“The common thread that sticks out, both of the offenses, it’s the quarterback position,” Ryans said ahead of the Super Bowl. “They have two dynamic quarterbacks who, they’re not just sitting in the pocket and statues. These guys, they’re mobile, they can get outside of the pocket, and they make you play 11-on-11 football which unlocks a defense. That’s what sets them apart.”
Setting themselves apart won’t be easy, especially in a division that now has Trevor Lawrence on the rise. That won’t stop Ryans and Caserio from hitting the challenge head-on, however. And that starts at the Scouting Combine, with these players on the watch list.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Positioned at No. 2 overall, with a glaring need at QB, it comes as no surprise that the Texans’ prospect list is dominated at the top by the potential franchise QBs. All four of the top QBs demand attention from the Texans’ brass, but the microscope will be most focused on Bryce Young.
Young has the mobility and creation ability under pressure that Ryans seeks, but his size has been a major talking point dating all the way back to the summer. There’s speculation that Young may measure as small as 5’10” and 190 pounds — well below the prototypical standards at QB.
It’ll be a deal-breaker for some. It won’t be for others. But every QB-needy front office will have a deep discussion about that, if those numbers ring true.
QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Young is the chaos neutralizer in the 2023 NFL Draft. But when things are in rhythm, no one is better than C.J. Stroud. Stroud’s inconsistency as a creator under pressure has raised questions at times. But there’s no denying his processing ability, anticipation, and pinpoint accuracy to all levels of the field.
If Stroud tests, his numbers will be more scrutinized than most. But even if he opts out, teams will be busy gathering information on Stroud, both in throwing drills and in interviews. Viewed as perhaps the best pocket operator in the 2023 NFL Draft, Stroud is one QB who might enable the Texans to compete earlier than expected in their rebuild.
QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Stroud and Young are widely perceived as the top two quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. But the QB who best fits Ryans’ description of the ideal QB talent is Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Richardson’s elite athleticism forces defenses to play 11-on-11. It’s the force multiplier that no one else has in the 2023 class.
That athleticism and creation capacity, combined with Richardson’s rocket arm, will make his projection very appealing. And at the NFL Combine, he’ll get a chance to showcase those traits live in front of scouts. Even more important for Richardson, however, will be interviews. If he interviews well, he can convince someone like Ryans to bank on his potential.
WR Jayden Reed, Michigan State
The Texans’ receiving core has several intriguing names, but the position group is by-in-large in flux at the moment. Nico Collins might merely be a rotational player. Brandin Cooks could be on the move this offseason. John Metchie III will thankfully be back after battling a form of Leukemia in his rookie season, but may need an acclimation period in his return.
Houston needs more than one receiver and more than one type of receiver, and odds are, they’ll at least double-dip with their abundance of capital. A player to watch in the Day 2 range could be Jayden Reed, especially if Houston uses their second first-round pick on a WR. Reed is a phenomenal catcher and route runner with alignment versatility, and his athletic testing should be impressive as well.
C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
A quarterback, weapons, and a blocker to protect the QB from his most direct pressure threat. These are the biggest needs for the Texans in the 2023 NFL Draft, and they have the capital to address all of them very early on. At the top of Round 2, a favorite selection for Houston in mock drafts has been Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz.
Schmitz showed out at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, showing off his athleticism, strength, physicality, and flexibility at 6’3 3/8″ and 306 pounds. Scouts will now be looking for numerical confirmation at the Combine. If Schmitz registers a 10-yard split under 1.7 in the 40-yard dash, he might lock in his ticket to top 50 capital.
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