Source: Bryce Young visiting Texans on Wednesday

It’s not a closely guarded secret in NFL circles. The Texans need a successful reboot at the all-important quarterback position.

They’re well-positioned to potentially change the path of their franchise should they move forward and act on all of the research and due diligence they’ve been conducting on the rookie quarterback draft class.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, a former Heisman Trophy winner projected as the potential top overall pick for the Carolina Panthers, is visiting the Texans today, according to a league source. Young visited the Panthers on Tuesday, per a source.

The Texans have met with and scheduled visits with nearly all of the top quarterbacks, including Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud a week ago, per a source, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis in the middle of March, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was scheduled and then not rescheduled, per a source, and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker visited the Texans after the NFL scouting combine. And Texans general manager Nick Caserio and his personnel department have been huddling with new coach DeMeco Ryans and the offensive coaching staff about the respective merits and concerns about each signal caller.

“With our 30 visits, it’s part of our process where we’re trying to do as thorough of an evaluation as possible with all these guys,” Ryans said. “It’s from the combine interviews to Pro days to 30 visits. It’s just one more chance for us to just get more detailed on guys, to figure out as much information as we can to make sure we’re adding the right guys to our team. With the 30 visits, not only with the quarterbacks but with every position, guys we may have a few more questions on, it’s time for us to get them in our building, a chance for our coaches to interact with these guys, meet with them, install offenses or defenses to see how sharp they are.

“It’s just part of the entire process. I’ve been happy with the 30 visits. We had a lot of really good guys in it, a lot of really great men, great young men in our building, so it’s been fun getting to know these guys throughout the process. To me, meeting with players, it’s organic. It’s not a set list of questions that we go down. It’s organic because each individual is different. I don’t treat guys the same or I don’t have the same set of questions for everybody. It’s just an organic meeting truly trying to understand and get to know the person, understand their why and what motivates them.”

The importance of this pending decision can’t be overstated enough. The Texans, who currently have quarterbacks Case Keenum, Davis Mills and E.J. Perry on the roster, could potentially draft a quarterback with the second overall pick of the draft.

Talking quarterbacks, including fielding questions about Baltimore Ravens disgruntled star quarterback Lamar Jackson, Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair, noted how much is expected from a quarterback selected high in the draft. While McNair made no comments about any specific quarterback and didn’t indicate how the Texans will move forward in the draft, he left no doubt about how much he wants to see from that type of investment of resources in a young passer.

“Well, so much is asked for the quarterback position,” McNair told a small group of Houston reporters after the close of the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. “Winning, of course, is part of it, leading the team, being the face of the franchise. Saying all these things, it’s a lot that we’re asking for from this guy. So, we are looking forward to having all of those things in place. However we get there, I’m not sure how we’re going to get there, but looking forward to it.”

While the Texans didn’t aggressively pursue Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo or New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr, could they pursue Baltimore Ravens disgruntled quarterback Lamar Jackson?

Jackson, a former NFL Most Valuable Player, has requested a trade. He wants a fully guaranteed contract like Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s unprecedented $230 million deal. As an unsigned franchise player, a non-exclusive one, Jackson is free to sign an offer sheet with another team. The Ravens have the right of first refusal. If they don’t match an offer sheet, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing Jackson.

McNair addressed if the Texans are interested in Jackson and was noncommittal and acknowledged he hasn’t talked with general manager Nick Caserio about the possibility.

“Yeah I personally haven’t talked to Nick about it, but I know he will look at whatever avenue we need to look at,” Cal McNair said. “I don’t think you ever say no when you look at how you’re going to be the best team you can be.”

The Texans are not expected to pursue Jackson, according to league sources.

Would McNair encourage Caserio to pursue Jackson?

“I don’t think I need to encourage Nick to look at anything,” McNair said. “Nick is going to look at everything.”

McNair did weigh in on guaranteed contracts and what Jackson is looking for.

“I’m not really sure what all he’s pushing for,” McNair said. “I don’t know that the market is there yet. I don’t know that’s the best thing in baseball. Our market is different.”

Young has adeptly sidestepped questions about his lack of size in a manner akin to how he eluded pass rushers in the ultra-competive, physically demanding Southeastern Conference.

NFL Combine

Photo: Getty Images

Although Young is extremely small at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds and perhaps lighter than that considering he played 10 pounds less as a Heisman Trophy winner for the Crimson Tide and declined to weigh in at his campus Pro Day, raising eyebrows about whether he just bulked up for the NFL scouting combine, Texans coach DeMeco Ryans downplayed any concerns about Young’s lack of stature and bulk.

“For Bryce, I know it’s a lot, going on to talk about his size,” Ryans said. “The guy has done it at the highest level in college football and size hasn’t seemed to be a problem. I don’t see it as an issue because you watch the tape, and you put on the tape, and you see the kid play, and you see how smart he is.

“You see the anticipation. You see the accuracy. You see how this guy is calm in critical moments. When you see those things, size isn’t one of the factors that pop up on tape that’s like, oh, man, it’s a problem. Again, you just look at the track record, see what he’s done in the SEC, highest level of college football he’s been successful, and I think he’ll be successful in the NFL, as well.”

The Carolina Panthers, who traded up with the Chicago Bears sent over a dozen people to both Pro Days, including owner David Tepper, coach Frank Reich, general manager Scott Fitterer, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, along with Levis’ Pro Day and will do so this week with Richardson.

By meeting with Young and Stroud and others in Houston, Ryans, Caserio, McNair and others will have the opportunity to get to know them better.

“We have visits scheduled with those guys as well,” Ryans said. “That’s part of it as well. The Pro day is one part of it. We have the combine, which we’ve met with guys. We have Pro Days. We have 30 visits. Wee have film. So, it’s all encompassing when we’re evaluating players. It’s not just one event trying to make sure we’re there for that. It’s about just making sure we have a full assessment of the players.”

Although Young lacks ideal size, the California native is a dynamic passer with a penchant for delivering electric plays. A consensus All-American, went 23-4 as a starter for the Crimson Tide and passed for 8,356 career yards, 80 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Texans are known to have a high opinion on Young in scouting reports. A potential lack of durability due to his relatively smaller frame is the only attribute teams see lacking in Young.

“I know Bryce is an outstanding leader from what I’ve seen, and is an outstanding quarterback,” Ryans said. “It’s no surprise the success that he’s had. Just because of the makeup, the type of guy that he is, it’s no surprise the success he’s had. Wishing him the best moving forward.”

A blue-chip recruit, Young stepped in for New England Patriots starter Mac Jones after backing him up on a national championship squad in 2020.

In his final college season, Young passed for 3,328 yards, 32 touchdowns with five interceptions.

“Two good players, two good quality quarterbacks,” Ryans said. “We’ll see what happens in the draft.”

Stroud, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound Rancho Cucamonga, California native known for his philanthropic efforts, holds the Ohio State single-game passing record with 573 yards and six touchdowns in the Rose Bowl and was the first player to throw for six touchdowns three times.

He was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist.

A former backup to Chicago Bears starting quarterback Justin Fields with the Buckeyes, Stroud finished third in the Heisman balloting behind winner Caleb Williams and runnerup Max Duggan.

Stroud passed for 3,878 yards and 47 touchdowns as a high school senior and was named MVP of the Elite 11 and an All-American selection.

He passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns in loss to the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl.

Stroud passed for 3,340 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. In 2021, he passed for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions. He finished his career with 7,775 passing yards, 81 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

“I like Bryce Young better on the tape but I think CJ Stroud is a really good player,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “If you’re not comfortable with that price to go up to get that No. 1 pick? Stay where you are and get CJ Stroud? I would feel just fine about that.”

“I think he is just a pure thrower. The big question with him was, okay, not a lot of off-schedule, not a lot of playmaking. But then all of a sudden you see the semifnal game and you are like, ‘Dude, where has this been?’ He showed you he has that ability. The old scouting adage is if you can do it once, you can do it. So you know he does have that ability.”

The Panthers hold the first overall pick and are widely expected to pick Stroud after a trade with the Chicago Bears.

The Texans held discussions with the Bears, but didn’t come close to making the trade. They have the second overall and 12th overall picks of the draft.

“It’s something we can’t control,” Ryans said. “So when the Panthers moved up, we couldn’t control it. We’re still at two. At the end of the day, we have to pick where we are, and we’ll make the best pick for our organization when that time comes.”

If the Texans wound up with Stroud, that would be a good outcome. He’s a classic big pocket passer who has shown he can work off-script and throw on the run, too.

“Two good players, two good quality quarterbacks,” Ryans said. “We’ll see what happens in the draft.”

Texans assistant director of player personnel and director of college scouting James Liipfert attended both Pro Days for Young and Stroud along with national scout John Ritcher and scout Blaise Taggart.

“At the end of the day, they’re both productive players, and they’ve played in big games, and they’ve both shined in big games,” Liipfert said. “Regardless of position, you want to draft productive players, you want to draft good people, and those are guys, along with a lot of guys in this draft, who check a production box and are both good dudes. I’ve talked to both of them, and I would say they’re both good guys. I like both of them.”

The Texans also signed veteran quarterback Case Keenum in free agency. A former University of Houston standout on his third stint with the Texans, Keenum, 35, could provide a mentoring presence to a rookie.

“You can have your coaches who can coach you up, but it’s also different when you can have a player who has actually done it,” Ryans said. “And a player can say some things that may be a little bit different than what the coaches said. It helps players develop a little quicker.”

What does Ryans look for in a quarterback?

That starts with intangibles.

He’s seeking a leader.

Yes, Ryans has called Young a leader.

“For a quarterback, I think the most important attribute I look for, it’s that how is his leadership style?” Ryans said. “How are those other 10 guys looking? can they look at you in a huddle and know, we can count on this guy to make a play. We believe in you. Then you have to look across the ball, and it’s those other 11 guys, those defensive guys, can they look to that guy, and can they count on him?

“Is that quarterback a guy who can galvanize a locker room and rally the troops and get the guys to believe in him? That’s the trait. It’s easier said than done because only so few guys can do that, and it’s special guys, and that’s a special position. When you can find a guy that his teammates can rally behind him, teammates believe in him, that’s when you know you have a guy.”

The dynamic Alabama quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner, facing some skepticism about his frame and durability, addressed the topics tactfully at the combine.

“I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,” Young said. “I know who I am, I know what I can do. For me, it’s fair. Everyone can speculate and ask whatever questions are necessary. I’m going to control what I can control and I’m going to keep working my hardest to put myself in a good position. I’m confident in myself. I know what I can do. I’m excited to get to that next level.’

Young met formally with the Texas, as did Stroud, Levis and Richardson, at the combine.

“‘My meeting with the Texans was great,” Young said. “I was super happy to be in that room. It’s an amazing staff and to be able to talk with them.”

Young passed for 321 yards and five touchdowns in his final game for Alabama in a Sugar Bowl victory over Kansas State. He’s ranked first overall among all players regardless by position by many draft analysts. He missed time with a sprained AC joint in his right throwing shoulder last season.

“To be honest, I don’t really know too much about what’s said about me,” Young said. “I’m grateful for everyone’s opinion I respect everyone’s opinion, but I focus on what I can control. I take the advice and the direction of the people that I trust.

“My drive isn’t necessarily to prove anything. I think for me it’s to try to explain all the things I see to all the coaches and decision makers and express myself and how I see the game. It’s a big learning experience. I speak my truth. I make sure I explain how I play the game, how I see the game.”

Young has talked with New England Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones about the draft process. Young backed up Jones before replacing him when Jones was drafted in the first round.

“For me, I really pride myself on my leadership,” Young said. “I know that’s something I have to earn at the next level. I’m really excited to try to earn that trust and respect from that locker room. I know that’s not something I’m entitled to.”

There’s a lot to like about the consensus QB1 of this NFL rookie quarterback draft class.

A consensus All-American, Young passed for 8,356 career yards.

The Texans are known to have a high opinion on Young in scouting reports. A potential lack of durability due to his relatively smaller frame is the only attribute teams see lacking in Young.

“I know Bryce is an outstanding leader from what I’ve seen, and is an outstanding quarterback,” Ryans said. “It’s no surprise the success that he’s had. Just because of the makeup, the type of guy that he is, it’s no surprise the success he’s had. Wishing him the best moving forward.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State

Photo: Getty Images

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