A desperation heave from Texans quarterback Davis Mills on fourth down. A mistimed leap from Indianapolis Colts defensive back Rodney Thomas. And a dramatic touchdown catch from Jordan Akins that led up to his game-winning two-point conversion in a comeback victory during the season finale.
Ultimately, that flurry of action all led to the Texans losing control of the top overall pick of the NFL draft and set the stage for the current situation they find themselves in with ownership of the second overall selection.
There was another opportunity to land the top overall pick via a trade prior to free agency. Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles and Texans general manager Nick Caserio conducted trade discussions. One proposed trade scenario involved the Texans potentially sending the second overall pick and the No. 12 selection to the Bears in exchange for the top overall pick. Another proposal exchanged was the Texans sending a 2024 first-round pick to the Bears for the pick, according to league sources. The conversations stalled out over a disconnect over trade values and the Bears moved on, with a hefty blockbuster trade that netted the Carolina Panthers’ ninth pick, a 2024 first-round pick and wide receiver D.J. Moore.
All of that prologue leads the Texans to where they are now, exploring potential trade-back scenarios involving the No. 2 overall pick.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was coveted by the Texans, but is now regarded as a virtual lock to be drafted by the Panthers, according to multiple league sources. Young visited the Texans and that meeting and previous meetings with Texans general manager Nick Caserio and coach DeMeco Ryans went well, but the Panthers are now positioned and poised to pick the former Heisman Trophy winner.
The Texans are not currently expected to draft Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who has also visited the AFC South franchise, according to sources, and Stroud could slide a bit within the top 10 picks of the first round. If the Texans stay at No. 2, they could wind up going for an edge rusher and have high opinions of Alabama star Will Anderson Jr., who’s regarded as one of the cleanest prospects in the draft in terms of skill, character and health, or Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson, an intriguing player who’s coming off a foot injury.
The idea of moving back to stockpile even more draft capital is an attractive scenario. Among the trade-up candidates: the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7 overall.
Caserio acknowledged he’s already fielding calls for the second overall pick.
“We’ve received some calls actually, on the No. 2 pick,” Caserio said. “I think our job and responsibility is to listen and not rule anything out. I think whatever the end result is come Thursday, you know, we’ll be prepared to go either way. Are we open for business? I would say we’re open to listening, so if you want to change the vocabulary a little bit this year. We have received a few calls, and again, I think our responsibility is to listen, try to take the information in, and then just make the right decision.”
Should the Texans move back, they would still likely have the option of adding a quarterback. The Texans haven’t committed to necessarily drafting one, though.
They have thoroughly scouted all of the top quarterbacks, including Young, Stroud, visiting with Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and had a Zoom meeting with no visit or workout with Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, according to sources.
When the Panthers made their power move to the first overall pick, it meant the loss of Young, a small, but dynamic passer frequently compared to NBA star Steph Curry, for the the Texans.
“We really can’t control what other teams do,” Caserio said. “Every team is going to do what they think is best, so our job is to understand the players, understand the board, try to make good decisions, and we pick where we pick.
“So if we pick at two, we pick at two. If we don’t pick at two and we pick somewhere else, then we just have to be prepared to pick accordingly. We can’t control what other teams do. We try to do or homework and just try to make the right decisions for our team.”
As far as the potential of landing a quarterback, Caserio isn’t ruling anything out. They’ve done their homework on the quarterbacks, including University of Houston quarterback Clayton Tune who’s ranked as a middle-round draft target.
“Anything is possible,” Caserio said. “I think what’s possible and what the hope is is that we can come out of this draft with good football players we think can help our football team. That’s what we’re focused on doing.”
The Texans currently have Davis Mills, last year’s up-and-down starter, on the roster along with veteran backup Case Keenum and E.J. Perry.
What if the Texans don’t land a potential franchise quarterback in this draft?
“I think we have been consistent, taking one day at a time, look at our options and what those entail,” Caserio said. “We won’t eliminate anything and just try to make good decisions. That’s really the decision making matrix and process that we’re going to go through today, tomorrow, next Thursday, Friday. That we’ll go through in the spring, May, June, when we go to September, and then we’ll be ready to play whatever day we’re going to play, whoever we’re going to play the opening game.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.