Will Anderson Jr.

AFC South Rumors: Titans, Anderson, Jags

While we are more than two months away from offensive linemen working in pads, the Titans are in the process of determining first-rounder Peter Skoronski‘s position. They are cross-training the No. 11 overall pick at tackle and guard. Skoronski only played tackle at Northwestern, but plenty of pre-draft buzz pointed to a future at guard in the NFL. Arm measurements affected Skoronski’s pre-draft perception, and the Tennesseean’s Nick Suss notes the Titans were alternating possessions of the rookie at tackle and guard during their rookie minicamp.

In Nicholas Petit-Frere and free agent signing Andre Dillard, the team looks to have its two starting tackles in place. The Titans gave the ex-Eagles first-rounder a three-year, $29MM deal, despite Dillard having never commandeered an Eagles starting job, that includes $10MM fully guaranteed. For 2023, at least, this setup points to Skoronski at guard alongside Daniel Brunskill and Aaron Brewer on a new-look Titans line.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Veering back toward C.J. Stroud after weeks of pre-draft reports indicated they were drifting in another direction, the Texans ended up with their coveted edge rusher (Will Anderson Jr.) via a monster trade-up with the Cardinals as well. They became the first team to make two top-three picks in a draft since Washington in 2000. The Texans held pre-draft meetings about how to obtain a quarterback and a pass rusher with their Nos. 2 and 12 picks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Texans ownership was believed to be more involved this year, though Cal McNair denied influencing GM Nick Caserio to select a quarterback. The trade cost Houston what may well be a top-five pick in 2024, giving Cardinals fans a reason to follow this Texans season, so the AFC South team will bank on Anderson having an All-Pro future.
  • Regarding Anderson, DeMeco Ryans said his top pass rusher will operate primarily out of a three-point stance on the edge. The Texans have used a 3-4 base defense for years, dating back to J.J. Watt‘s heyday, but Ryans played in a 4-3 look in Houston and used it as his base alignment in San Francisco. Anderson worked primarily as a linebacker at Alabama. “It’s not a huge position change for Will,” Ryans said, via HoustonTexans.com’s Deepi Sidhu. “Will will be an edge defender for us, and that’s what he did at Alabama. Mostly at Alabama he was standing up. We’ll have him down in a three-point stance.” As sub-packages now rule the NFL, the line between a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end has blurred over the past several years, making this a standard switch for the prized edge prospect.
  • Ryan Cowden finished last season as the Titans‘ interim general manager. The veteran executive is no longer listed on the team’s website as part of the front office (h/t Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky). This marks a quiet exit for Cowden, who worked alongside Mike Vrabel atop the Titans’ decision-making structure after GM Jon Robinson‘s firing. Ran Carthon has since taken over in Tennessee. Cowden had been with the Titans since Robinson’s 2016 hire. Prior to that, he spent 16 years in the Panthers’ scouting department. Having interviewed for several GM jobs over the past few years — including the Tennessee vacancy — Cowden should have an opportunity to catch on elsewhere soon.
  • The Texans have bumped Tom Hayden to their college scouting director post, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes. Previously the team’s college scouting coordinator, Hayden remains with the team despite arriving during the short-lived Brian Gaine GM tenure.
  • Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks was hit with two misdemeanor charges — domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 — last month stemming from an incident in Nashville. Authorities have dropped each charge due a settlement being reached, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.

Latest On Cards’ Trades With Texans, Titans

A key party in a few teams’ early-round draft machinations, the Cardinals played a particularly important role in what could be long-term AFC South roster construction. They made deals with both the Texans and Titans, equipping each with potential 2020s pillars.

Both teams discussed prospective trades with the Cardinals before the draft. The Titans did not have to give up what it would have cost to move from No. 11 to No. 3 — a climb Tennessee was continually connected to attempting — but they had C.J. Stroud in mind. The new Texans quarterback was the Titans’ target at No. 3, with Albert Breer of SI.com confirming the team dropped out of trade talks after Houston took the Ohio State passer at 2.

The Titans were viewed as high on Stroud, and with the Texans believed to be planning to take a momentous risk — tabling their quarterback need yet again to select an edge rusher — it looked like Tennessee could have a clear path to trading up for its preferred passer. But Nick Caserio confirmed (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) his team had decided on Stroud at No. 2. That decision ran counter to just about every Texans-centric report leading up to the draft. Though, reports of Houston’s defensive end intent were not entirely inaccurate, given how the team proceeded at No. 3.

Although Caserio taking Stroud at No. 2 removed a buyer for 3 in the Titans, the Texans still traded a monster haul to land the Cardinals’ No. 3 choice. Houston gave up No. 33, along with first- and third-round picks in 2024. The Texans held two 2024 firsts, thanks to the historic Deshaun Watson package, and Houston’s first — not Cleveland’s — now belongs to Arizona. The Texans’ lengthy rebuild process has involved top-three draft real estate in each of the past three drafts, running a risk the team gave a prime draft asset for a non-quarterback in Will Anderson Jr. Two of the three Browns first-rounders acquired in the Watson trade ended up going toward Anderson.

Caserio and former Patriots coworker Monti Ossenfort had engaged in pre-draft talks about a trade involving the Nos. 3 and 12 picks, Breer adds, and King confirms the Cards and Texans agreed to the swap with “close to a minute left” on the clock.

It helped that I had a personal relationship with Nick Caserio in Houston,” Ossenfort said during an appearance on the Dave Pasch Podcast (via AZCardinals.com). “… There was some back and forth there and the clock’s going, the clock’s going, and I think it was around two-and-a-half minutes where we have a couple of [different] deals up written up on the board [with] a couple of teams and it’s ‘OK, Nick, I think we’re at a spot where we are close here. It’s this and this for this, this and this. Are you in?’ ‘Yeah, I’m in.’ And it’s ‘OK, great, call it in.'”

Ossenfort had planned on trading back up and called multiple teams in order to secure Paris Johnson draft real estate. After talks with fellow former coworker Dave Ziegler did not produce a deal with the Raiders, Ossenfort found a taker in the Lions, allowing them to avoid taking Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 6.

The Cardinals and Titans revisited their talks Friday, and GM Ran Carthon pivoted to the freefalling Will Levis. The Titans had discussed a deal to move back into Round 1, with Levis as the target, with Breer adding they discussed the move with the Bills — at No. 27 — late Thursday night. The Titans were one of many teams trying to move back into the first round, and teams also made offers to the Steelers for 32. The Titans may well have been one of those to send the Steelers a proposal for 32, but they ended up trading 2023 and 2024 third-rounders to climb eight spots to 33 for the Kentucky QB.

This draft brought some notable what-ifs regarding the non-Jaguars wing of the AFC South, seeing as the Colts were tied to Levis for weeks only to have been preparing an Anthony Richardson pick for a while. Should Stroud, Richardson and Levis become surefire starters, this will certainly go down as one of the most pivotal drafts in the AFC South’s 22-year history.

Lions Eyed CB Devon Witherspoon; Team Considered Taking Jahmyr Gibbs At No. 6

Decisions to use No. 12 and No. 18 overall picks on a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and an off-ball linebacker (Jack Campbell) brought some scrutiny for the Lions. Another organizational plan would have generated more attention during Round 1.

The Lions were prepared to pounce on Devon Witherspoon if the Seahawks went in another direction, with Albert Breer of SI.com indicating the Lions regarded the Illinois cornerback as a clean prospect. But the Seahawks deviated from their past at the corner position and chose Witherspoon at No. 5, leaving the Lions in a bind.

That predicament stemmed from the team placing a much higher-than-expected value on Gibbs. After the Seahawks drafted Witherspoon, GM Brad Holmes spoke with Dan Campbell about pivoting to Gibbs at 6. While Breer adds the Lions’ initial plan was not to draft the Alabama dual threat that high, they were prepared to do so until the Cardinals called about their trade offer to secure Paris Johnson. That move to No. 12 allowed the Lions to pick up draft capital, avoiding a wildly unexpected scenario in which Gibbs went off the board before Bijan Robinson.

Teams’ interest in Gibbs became known during draft week, when reports circulated about some clubs rating former Crimson Tide contributor in the same realm as Robinson. Gibbs topped 440 receiving yards in each of the past two years, and the Lions are prepared to use thee rookie as a multipurpose back to complement David Montgomery. Holmes has acknowledged the positional value-based criticism that has come with selecting a running back 12th overall, and the Lions had the option of drafting Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson at No. 6. Taking Gibbs over those two pass rushers would have doubled as one of the more fascinating moves in recent draft history, but the Lions added No. 34 and No. 168 to move down six spots.

Detroit did not bring Witherspoon in for a visit, and neither Campbell nor Holmes trekked to Champaign for his pro day. The Seahawks had never drafted a corner higher than 90th (Shaquill Griffin) under the John SchneiderPete Carroll regime, but Witherspoon will team with Tariq Woolen in Seattle. Witherspoon remaining on the board at 5 helped the Seahawks resist a trade-down urge. The Lions have made a few significant additions to their secondary this offseason, signing Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley. After the Seahawks chose Witherspoon, the Lions added Alabama DB Brian Branch in Round 2.

The team initially wanted to draft either Witherspoon or Will Anderson Jr. at No. 6, per Breer, and trade up from No. 18 for Gibbs. Trading out of No. 6 obviously reflected Lions hesitancy regarding Carter and the team placing a value gap between Anderson and Wilson. The Lions moving to 12 also kept them in front of two teams they heard were Gibbs fans — the Patriots (No. 14) and Jets (No. 15). A scouting trip to last season’s Alabama-Texas game alerted Holmes to Gibbs, and he will replace D’Andre Swift in the Motor City.

The Gibbs pick prompted the Eagles to act quickly. They swapped seventh-round picks with the Lions sent the NFC North franchise a 2025 fourth for Swift, who joins Rashaad Penny as Philly offseason backfield additions. Holmes and Eagles GM Howie Roseman discussed the Swift trade for “a few days.”

It’s my job to keep laser-focused on the present but probably even more importantly, keep laser-focused on the future,” Holmes said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “And that’s what went into a lot of the decisions with having to make the trade with D’Andre Swift to Philly. He was in the last year of his contract and if I go back to last year, I felt really good about us being able to bring back Jamaal Williams. I felt confident as the season ended. I felt good with our conversations with his camp, and it didn’t happen. So you have to just be prepared for all those things.

Williams did not speak highly of the Lions’ offer; last season’s rushing touchdowns leader is now with the Saints on a three-year, $12MM deal. Montgomery signed a three-year, $18MM pact with the Lions. He and Gibbs now comprise Detroit’s backfield, with the latter on a first-round contract that could have checked in at a higher draft slot.

Texans Likely To Draft DE At No. 2 Overall; Latest On C.J. Stroud

The Davis Mills-to-Jordan Akins fourth-and-20 touchdown connection may go down as one of the more impactful plays in Texans history. That Week 18 sequence, which led to the Texans falling out of the No. 1 draft slot, ended up allowing the Panthers access to Bryce Young, a player by most accounts Houston would have taken if given the opportunity.

While the Texans attempted to trade up to No. 1 with the Bears, the team settling on a second-best quarterback option continues to look unlikely at No. 2. Houston going with either Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson is the more likely scenario compared to the team selecting C.J. Stroud at that spot, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes.

[RELATED: Who Will Texans Take At No. 2 Overall?]

The team brought Stroud in for a pre-draft visit, attended the Ohio State prospect’s pro day, interviewed him at the Combine and, per Wilson, has spent time considering how it would obtain a quarterback after passing on one at No. 2. But the Texans drafting Stroud would be a “major surprise” at this point, according to Wilson.

Momentum has headed in this direction for weeks, with Stroud falling from potential Panthers pick at No. 1 to a player with an uncertain destination. The Texans obviously have a quarterback need, and while Wilson adds the team’s past with David Mulugheta — Deshaun Watson‘s agent and Stroud’s representative — will not determine the team’s stance on Stroud, the ex-Buckeyes starter appears likely to remain on the board at No. 3 overall. As should be expected, GM Nick Caserio (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter) doubled down on Stroud’s agent not being part of the team’s decision-making.

Regarding Stroud’s potential landing spot, Wilson adds the Titans — via a trade-up with the Cardinals at No. 3 — are rumored to be exploring a move up to select him. Peter Schrager’s NFL.com mock draft projects the Titans to make that move as well.

The Titans have been viewed as Stroud fans for a bit now, and Schrager cites Mike Vrabel‘s relationship with Ohio State HC Ryan Day as one that helps Justin Fields‘ Buckeyes successor here. Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds is also believed to back Stroud, which could well lead to the Cardinals having a taker for a trade-up, as Indianapolis holds the No. 4 overall pick tonight. The Titans were mentioned weeks ago as having explored a trade into the No. 3 position; this appears to be a realistic scenario. Though, it probably will not take place until the Texans make their choice at 2.

The Texans are not expected to select Will Levis or Anthony Richardson at 2; the Texans did not host the Florida prospect on a visit. The team does have high opinion of Hendon Hooker, per Wilson, but the Tennessee prospect does not appear to be in the team’s first-round plans at either No. 2 or No. 12. The Vikings, who hold the No. 23 overall pick, have been mentioned as a potential Hooker destination. The two-year Volunteers starter, who suffered an ACL tear in November, expects to be cleared by Week 1.

An Anderson-or-Wilson decision looks to be where Houston’s process concludes. Mentioned as being open to trading down, the Texans are not expected to do so, Aaron Wilson adds. Questions about Anderson’s ceiling remain a factor here, per Aaron Wilson, who lends more credence to Tyree Wilson as being a higher-ceiling player (and a prospect who, at 271 pounds, would better fit DeMeco Ryans‘ 4-3 scheme compared to Anderson, at 253). The Texans are believed to have cleared the Texas Tech prospect, who suffered a Lisfranc fracture late in the Red Raiders’ season. Schrager mocks Anderson, whom a GM calls the “safest pick in the draft,” to Houston.

Poll: How Will Texans Proceed With No. 2 Overall Pick?

Enough smoke has emerged here that it would be a slight surprise if the Texans selected a quarterback with their latest top-three pick, but the team does have that option — and a glaring need — at No. 2 overall. Houston faces perhaps the most intriguing decision in this year’s draft.

The Texans were long believed to have made the right call by trading up for Deshaun Watson six years ago, but that assessment changed rapidly in 2021. Since a tornado of sexual misconduct accusations led Watson out of town, Houston did not make a true effort to replace him. Taking Davis Mills 67th overall represents the most notable investment, and after 26 starts, the Stanford product no longer appears in the organization’s long-term plans. This draft represents a chance to upgrade, but the Texans may not view the non-Bryce Young QB contingent as worth this pick.

It would still invite considerable risk for the Texans to pass on a quarterback at 2, with only Mills and Case Keenum rostered. GM Nick Caserio and HC DeMeco Ryans may be on different timelines, however. Caserio has hired three head coaches in three offseasons, and while he denied rumors he would be leaving after the draft, the third-year GM’s stock has dropped a bit. Texans ownership is believed to be more involved in this year’s draft, despite Caserio extracting historic value for Watson and selecting a host of starters in 2022. Ryans, conversely, signed a six-year contract and will be given a much longer leash compared to one-and-dones David Culley and Lovie Smith. And the former 49ers staffer built his HC resume on a defensive acumen.

C.J. Stroud was believed to be in the mix to go No. 1 overall, but the two-year Ohio State starter has been the player most affected by the Texans’ perceived QB hesitancy. Stroud having hired Watson agent David Mulugheta is viewed as an issue for the Texans, though it is worth wondering how much of a concern it would be if the team was more sold on the ex-Buckeye. Will Levis brings superior arm strength into the equation, and while he did not possess anything close to Stroud’s weaponry, the Kentucky prospect took a step back last season.

The Texans, who were believed to be targeting Young when they entered trade talks with the Bears about the No. 1 pick, have met with both Stroud and Levis. The team could still use its No. 12 overall pick to move up for a passer, though that would require giving up more draft capital compared to simply taking a QB at 2 and keeping its future picks. Hendon Hooker also visited the Texans and could be on the radar here, age (25) and health status aside.

Houston, which has either held a top-three draft choice or secured such draft real estate in each of the past three seasons, also could attempt a long-game strategy of targeting Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Both are viewed as top-flight 2024 prospects. The Dolphins utilized this strategy in 2019, saving their QB move for Tua Tagovailoa in 2020, while the Jets took Jamal Adams over Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and maneuvered for Sam Darnold in 2018. While many teams do not expect to be picking high again, the Texans’ prolonged rebuild does point to another chance next year. And the team has a third Browns-obtained first-round pick to use in 2024 as well.

If the Texans are intent on charting this complex course at quarterback, they look to have a choice between edge rushers. While Will Anderson Jr. emerged as the early favorite, Tyree Wilson‘s upside has allowed him to enter the equation. Anderson compiled 27.5 sacks over the past two years at Alabama, but questions about his ceiling have allowed Wilson to catch up.

The Texans passed Wilson on his pre-draft physical, per Albert Breer of SI.com, who adds not every team did. Some teams view Wilson’s foot trouble as an issue that could be a long-term problem, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. the Texans do not appear one of them. Wilson finished with seven sacks in each of the past two seasons, but a fractured foot ended his junior year after 10 games. Wilson also brings a different body type to the table, weighing 271 pounds at the Combine. Anderson weighed 253.

The Jaguars made a potential-over-production pick last year, taking Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson, which sent the Michigan product to the Lions. The Texans let Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Rasheem Green walk in free agency, leaving their edge landscape fairly open. It is interesting that Houston not only could gamble by passing on a QB at 2 but could pass on the more proven edge defender for the potential of another.

If the Texans find a trade partner for the pick, teams like the Titans, Raiders and Falcons have been linked to potentially moving up. Houston moving out of No. 2 could certainly hurt Arizona’s chances of trading out of No. 3. A move down would allow the Texans to recoup assets and potentially grab a quarterback that aligns with their draft board.

After the Panthers’ expected Young pick, how will the draft’s second selection play out? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Draft Rumors: Stroud, Wilson, Carter, Kancey, Bears, Van Ness

When the Panthers traded up for the No.1 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the betting odds for who would be selected swung from Alabama’s Bryce Young to Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. As we have crept towards the pivotal day, Young has forced his way back into the favorite position. Questions about how the teams following Carolina will approach their picks have some believing in a potential slide for Stroud on Thursday. According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, the current belief is that Stroud won’t make it past the Raiders at No. 7 overall.

While some believe that quarterbacks could be the focus of the first four picks, there are possibilities for each pick. The Panthers could choose Young, and there’s a chance the Texans will go pass rusher. Arizona likely won’t take a passer after paying Kyler Murray, and the Colts have Kentucky quarterback Will Levis as an option opposite Stroud. The Seahawks and Lions follow them, but both have veteran quarterbacks coming off of strong seasons.

That brings us to the Raiders. Even after Las Vegas brought in Jimmy Garoppolo, rumors have claimed that the team will still look into drafting a passer with their top pick. If Stroud somehow pinballs his way past the first six picks, it would be extremely difficult for the Raiders to pass him up.

Here are a few other rumors as we close in on Draft Day:

  • As we mentioned above, if the Texans pass on quarterback, they could choose a pass rusher with the second-overall pick. Many believe Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson could be that selection, but according to Pauline, Houston has some problems with his medicals. If Wilson is not their selection as a pass rusher, Alabama’s Will Anderson would likely be the other option.
  • There has been some reported certainty that Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter will be the Seahawks choice at No. 5 overall. According to Pauline, that certainty is coming from more external sources than internal. Reportedly, Seattle has some hesitancy about handing over the $30MM of guarantees that Carter would get in that draft slot. We’ll have to wait and see if that hesitancy wins out.
  • One name that continues to rise up draft boards is that of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. Despite the lack of ideal size, at 6-foot-1, 281 pounds, Kancey has convinced many that he is a lock to be selected on Day 1, according to Pauline. The Saints, in particular, are a team that have really done their due diligence on Kancey. They could feel really good about nabbing a certain first-round talent with the 29th pick of the draft.
  • According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears could be looking to add a tight end in a year that is incredibly deep at the position. Chicago won’t likely use a top ten pick on Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer or Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, but thanks to the Roquan Smith-trade, the team has two second-round picks and may use them on such prospects as Georgia’s Darnell Washington, South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft, or Iowa’s Sam LaPorta.
  • Speaking of Iowa, a recent mock draft by Pro Football Network’s Adam Caplan slotted Iowa pass rusher Lukas Van Ness as a top ten pick. Caplan explains that he’s spoken with several executives that believe Van Ness won’t make it past the Eagles at No. 10 overall. Philadelphia had been looking into pass rushers in free agency with an aging Brandon Graham, and Van Ness may be the answer.

Latest On Texans’ No. 2 Overall Pick

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.

Seahawks To Host Will Anderson Jr.

Wednesday represents the finale for pre-draft visits, and the Seahawks will hold an 11th-hour meeting with perhaps this year’s top defensive prospect. Will Anderson Jr. is meeting with the team today, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Barely a week away from becoming a cinch top-10 pick, Anderson has met with the Texans, Lions and Bears as well. The Seahawks hold the No. 5 overall pick and could be in position, depending on how teams proceed with the quarterback prospects, to select the best or second-best defensive talent in this year’s draft pool.

[RELATED: Seahawks Host DT Jalen Carter]

While the Seahawks’ most recent first-round investment in an edge rusher (L.J. Collier) backfired, the John SchneiderPete Carroll regime did hit on Bruce Irvin (Round 1, 2012) and Frank Clark (Round 2, 2015). The team has not devoted much in the way of resources to stocking its edge positions since the 2019 Clark trade, bringing in several free agents — Uchenna Nwosu the most recent. But Seattle holds draft real estate it has not possessed since Carroll and Schneider’s first draft (2010), when the team took Russell Okung sixth overall. A rare opportunity exists for the Seahawks, who obtained this draft choice via the Russell Wilson trade.

The Bronko Nagurski award winner in 2021 and ’22, Anderson has been viewed as a top prospect for years. The Alabama-developed edge defender totaled 27.5 sacks in that span. Some late skepticism on Anderson’s ceiling has caused Tyree Wilson to enter the picture as a threat to be the first outside rusher selected, but that is far from a unanimous pre-draft belief among execs. The Texans are believed to be high on Anderson, and if the Cardinals cannot find a trade partner at No. 3, the prospect of two edge rushers going off the board before the Seahawks pick is in play. Given QB value, this may not be the most likely scenario.

Nwosu remains in place, going into the second season of a two-year contract, and 2020 second-rounder Darrell Taylor is heading into a walk year. The Seahawks also used a second-round pick last year on a pass rusher — Boye Mafe — but did not use the Minnesota alum as a full-timer in 2022. The team prioritized its interior defensive line in free agency, signing Dre’Mont Jones and bringing back Jarran Reed. A best-defender-available move may well be Seattle’s play here, with a recent report indicating cornerback Devon Witherspoon is also in play. Though, Schneider — as evidenced by his Collier, Rashaad Penny and Jordyn Brooks picks — has cared little for mocks in the past.

QB Draft Notes: Texans, Titans, Levis, Hooker

Alabama’s Bryce Young is the favorite to go No. 1 to the Panthers, and most pundits have assumed that the Texans would then select Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. However, there are some “rumblings” that the Texans could pivot away from quarterback and select someone like Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. with the second-overall pick, according to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post. One anonymous executive believes those whispers aren’t a smokescreen and questioned if Houston’s front office is even a fan of Stroud.

“Maybe it’s a smokescreen — you never know this time of year — but I really believe the Texans don’t like Stroud,” the “longtime personnel executive” told La Canfora. “I keep hearing it, and I’m inclined to believe it. The Titans are the team that really likes Stroud, and I don’t know if they would move all the way up [from the 11th pick to the second] to do it, but I’d keep an eye on that. The Texans could take Anderson or [Georgia defensive lineman Jalen] Carter, but I think they want to trade down more than anything else.”

Jim Wyatt of the Titans backs the sentiment about Tennessee’s inability to move up the draft board. The writer cites the question marks surrounding the top QB prospects, the Titans’ need at other positions, and the team’s lack of draft capital (the Titans are currently armed with only six draft selections). Of course, Wyatt adds the caveat that it’s tough to predict how new GM Ran Carthon will operate during the draft.

Texans GM Nick Caserio hinted yesterday that the organization would consider trading the No. 2 pick, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter also noting that Houston’s front office could end up keeping the pick but not selecting a signal-caller.

More QB notes leading up to the draft…

  • Indy has their eye on a particular QB prospect, with La Canfora noting that the Colts “covet” Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. We previously heard that the organization was targeting Levis but didn’t intend to trade up for their preferred prospect. Unfortunately for the Colts, they would need the draft board to shake out in their favor if they hope to get Levis; the team has the fourth-overall pick and may have to settle for whichever QB is still left on the board.
  • Speaking of, La Canfora writes that league executives believe four quarterbacks will be selected atop the draft. The Texans could throw a wrench in that plan, and the Cardinals would have to find a suitable trade partner for the third-overall pick. La Canfora adds that the expectation is that a No. 3-pick suitor would use their newfound selection on Florida QB Anthony Richardson.
  • The Giants recently inked Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160MM deal, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from doing their due diligence at the position. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker will visit the Giants tomorrow. The quarterback has had a busy pre-draft process, with Garafolo noting that organizations want clarity on Hooker’s recovery from a torn ACL. The Tennessee product is a fine fallback option for teams that don’t have the ammo to get one of the top-four prospects at the position; Hooker is the only other QB outside of Young/Stroud/Richardson/Levis to earn a spot in Scouts Inc.’s top-85.

Texans Open To Trading Down; Team Preparing To Pass On QB At No. 2?

Nick Caserio does not intend to leave Houston after the draft, but the third-year GM is facing a decision comparable to the Texans’ 2006 Reggie Bush-or-Mario Williams call. The Texans stunned the football masses 17 years ago by taking Williams at No. 1; they continue to be linked to making another unexpected move.

The Texans are willing to listen to offers for their No. 2 overall pick, Caserio said Monday, adding calls have come in. Teams with top-five choices generally listen, though franchises with clear quarterback needs could be considered less inclined to entertain offers. But the Texans are believed to have placed a bit of a value gap between expected No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, who is now expected to be available at No. 2.

Suddenly, this draft’s potential early run on quarterbacks is far from a lock to continue at 2. The Texans look likely to pass on Stroud or any other quarterback at 2, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said during an NFL Live appearance (h/t Brobible’s Dov Kleiman). The prospect of Houston punting on filling its QB need at 2 has been out there for a bit now, but the consensus viewpoint has still been the team taking a passer — presumably Stroud — with the first of its two first-round picks. But the Texans also could nab a potentially safer pass-rushing prospect in this spot.

While the post-Peyton Manning Broncos, late-Doug Marrone-era Jaguars and Mitchell Trubisky-years Bears provide examples of the uphill battles that can form when high-end pass rushers are on teams without reliable quarterbacks, the Texans may well be considering Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson at 2. A previous report indicated the Texans were high on Anderson, but NBC Sports’ Peter King points to Wilson gaining steam, indicating he would not be surprised if the Texans chose the Texas Tech edge rusher over the two-time Bronko Nagurski award winner.

Both Anderson and Wilson have visited the Texans, and certain NFL staffers view the less productive Big 12 edge as presenting more upside than the SEC dynamo. Anderson finished with 27.5 sacks over the past two seasons; Wilson collected 14 and is coming off a season-ending foot injury. The Texans need help at defensive end, and former No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa obviously made a considerable impact on DeMeco Ryans‘ career progression. It would still be a risk if the Texans leave Stroud on the board, and it would be interesting to see if the team makes an active effort to trade down if/once the Panthers select Young.

Sitting at No. 4, the Colts view the prospect of all the non-Young QBs being available to them as realistic, Schefter adds. A recent report indicated Indianapolis was leaning against trading up for a passer. The Cardinals have spoken with several teams about trading the No. 3 overall pick, as those teams would seemingly aim to leapfrog the QB-needy Colts, but Schefter indicates Indy has a real shot of staying at 4 and landing this draft’s QB2.

This reality would take the Cardinals standing pat and taking the best player available, which could be the edge rusher the Texans do not draft, but a QB-QB-QB start to this draft suddenly appears unlikely. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock draft has a QB-QB-QB-QB start, featuring Anthony Richardson and Will Levis going at Nos. 3 and 4, but Schefter doused that in cold water. The Colts are believed to rank Levis over Richardson, but we are in peak misdirection season. Stroud sitting there at 4 could render a Richardson-or-Levis decision moot.

A scenario in which non-QBs go off the board at Nos. 2 and 3 would hinge on the Cardinals not receiving the offer they want, and it would certainly make the Panthers’ eight-spot trade-up before free agency — which cost them D.J. Moore, their 2024 first-round pick and other assets — subject to scrutiny it has not yet received. The Texans also would be sitting at No. 12 in need of a quarterback.

Case Keenum and Davis Mills represent the Texans’ current QB room, and while the 2024 draft could include highly touted QB prospects Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina), the AFC South team — which also hosted potential second-rounder Hendon Hooker on a visit — would certainly take a risk by not addressing its top need this year.