A stream of skepticism about the Texans taking C.J. Stroud second overall has come out over the past few weeks. With Bryce Young all but certain to go No. 1 overall to the Panthers, Stroud’s chances to be the next name announced may depend on trade offers the Texans receive.
Nick Caserio said teams have called regarding Houston’s No. 2 pick, and if genuine interest exists in Stroud, rumblings about a Texans trade-down will intensify as we move closer to the draft. The Texans passing on a QB at 2 and rolling the dice ahead of Caserio’s third season in charge — which the GM insists will take place, rather than an abrupt exit — would be one of the more interesting draft decisions in recent memory, but that appears to be where this is headed.
Some on Houston’s staff do not appear as high on Stroud compared to Young, whom the Texans presumably targeted when they entered trade talks with the Bears for No. 1, and Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes the team’s interest in taking Will Levis or Anthony Richardson that high does not appear strong. A previous report indicated a value gap between Young and the other QBs existed in Houston as well. This would open the door to a pass rusher pick, and La Canfora adds more fuel to the Tyree Wilson-over-Will Anderson Jr. fire by indicating execs expect the Texans — should they be unable to trade the pick — to take the Texas Tech edge rusher over Alabama’s two-time Bronko Nagurski award winner.
Stroud’s choice of agent may at least be a fringe issue for the Texans. Deshaun Watson‘s agent, David Mulugheta, is representing Stroud. The bad blood between Mulugheta and Texans ownership dates to Watson — before the run of sexual misconduct allegations surfaced — asking for a trade months after signing a four-year extension. One anonymous GM offers that Mulugheta’s top 2023 rookie client becoming the face of the Texans would be a “nonstarter” for owner Cal McNair, La Canfora adds. As could be expected, the Texans are not exactly over the Watson ugliness that included a paid full-season absence and a settlement with 30 Watson accusers who had sued the team or were preparing to do so.
While the agent component would serve as an interesting reason to pass on a well-regarded quarterback, Texans coaches also being iffy on Stroud may bring enough concerns to follow through with a non-QB pick or trade-down scenario. In the event the Texans can move down, La Canfora adds the Texans would want to stay in the top 10. That would wall off the Titans at No. 11; Houston trading up so Tennessee can take a quarterback would be an unusual development as well. The Titans, who joined the Raiders in venturing to QB pro days but not in hosting passers on visits, loom as a wild card. They have both been connected to moving up and being too iffy on the QB crop to do so.
The Raiders and Falcons continue to generate buzz as a trade-up candidates, per La Canfora, who adds a Titans move up — be it to No. 2 or the Cardinals’ No. 3 slot — would most likely be for Stroud. The Raiders have done extensive homework on QBs, meeting with the five top prospects, while the Falcons hosted Stroud on a visit this week.
Were the Texans to pass on a QB, they would essentially be further delaying their rebuild. The team trading down only to use its No. 12 overall pick to move back up for a passer would bring some odd complications to a process that could wrap by simply drafting a passer at 2. While other roster areas appear somewhat improved from 2022, Houston waiting until 2024 to acquire its franchise-QB hopeful would extend this already-lengthy rebuild. Then again, team connections to using a top-10 selection on a quarterback often include talk of that franchise not expecting to be picking high again. That has not been an issue for the Texans, who have either landed a top-three pick or seen their draft choice fall in that territory in each of the past three years.
And, if the Texans actually exit the first round with Case Keenum and Davis Mills as their top QBs, Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina) continue to generate considerable attention around the NFL a year away from their draft eligibility.