While the Texans may be torn on a quarterback pick, the Colts are a near-lock to select a passer with their first choice. It is now possible every passer but Bryce Young will be available for Indianapolis at No. 4, which would put the retooling team to a decision. The Colts-Will Levis connection may be this draft’s second-strongest tie — after the Panthers-Young match — but Albert Breer of SI.com notes assistant GM Ed Dodds is high on C.J. Stroud. Dodds has been with Indy since 2017, becoming Chris Ballard‘s top lieutenant soon after the GM’s arrival.
Ballard, whom Breer adds was high on Levis beginning back in the fall, also is believed to place value on the increasingly popular S2 cognition test; Stroud’s low score has been leaked. Another team moving into the Texans or Cardinals’ spots could end up making the decision for the Colts, but if no trades emerge, Indy might have a fascinating Stroud-or-Levis decision on its hands. The two seem to be trending in opposite directions, but the Ohio State prospect has received higher grades — by scouting outlets and anonymous evaluators — as a prospect.
Here is the latest from the AFC South:
- With the Texans set for a complex call at No. 2 overall, not much has emerged regarding their No. 12 choice. But Houston, in the wake of the latest Brandin Cooks trade, may be targeting receiving help. Of the receivers, the Texans prefer Jaxon Smith-Njigba, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. Despite missing almost all of his junior season, Smith-Njigba has regained momentum and has the best chance to be the top wideout of the board. With the Packers (No. 13) and Jets (No. 15) connected to the one-year Buckeyes wonder, the Texans could outflank their potential competition. John Metchie is back at work for the Texans, after missing 2022 following a leukemia diagnosis, but the team dealt Cooks to the Cowboys and did not do too much — the Robert Woods pickup notwithstanding — to replace him. The Texans are also considering moving down from No. 12, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who adds teams are not too interested in moving to 2.
- One of the teams lurking as a trade-up candidate to outflank the Colts, the Titans are now being linked to trading back and accumulating picks. Both La Canfora and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler indicate buzz has emerged tying Tennessee to a trade-down effort from No. 11. Yes, with a few exceptions, most teams are willing to move up or down in each draft. But the Titans do have a decision to make regarding their QB future. The team toured prospects’ pro days but did not exhaust “30” visit resources at the position. Stroud is believed to be the Titans’ preference — assuming Young is out of the equation — and La Canfora views Titans trade-down talk as a smokescreen effort. Tennessee is believed to have dangled Ryan Tannehill in trades.
- Although Jeffery Simmons staged a minicamp hold-in effort last year and lobbied for a new deal, Breer writes the Titans did not consider trading the standout defensive lineman. Ownership also assured Simmons, who since-fired GM Jon Robinson drafted in the 2019 first round, he was a long-term priority despite Robinson’s ouster, TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick tweets. The Titans made Simmons the NFL’s second-highest-paid defensive tackle, at $23.5MM per year, and gave him the highest D-tackle guarantee. Simmons is also coming off ankle surgery; the fifth-year standout said he underwent a cleanup procedure this offseason.
- Jimmie Ward‘s issues with a return to cornerback last season became well known, but the longtime 49ers defender — after being moved to nickel corner again in-season — said he told DeMeco Ryans he expected last season to his his San Francisco finale. But Ward said (via KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson) Ryans communicated to him he would be interested in bringing the veteran defender to his HC destination. Ryans followed through on that, with the Texans signing Ward to a two-year, $13MM deal. Ward is back at safety.
- Jaguars fourth-year cornerback Chris Claybrooks faces misdemeanor charges of domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 stemming from an arrest earlier this month in Nashville, Jacksonville.com’s Gerry Smits reports. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.