DeShone Kizer is undoubtedly slipping in the minds of the majority of mock analysts. But as the old axiom goes: It doesn’t matter if 31 NFL teams hate you. You just need one club who is in love.
Could the Houston Texans be that team? The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback is currently the Texans’ first round pick — 25th overall — in minds of 30 of the 214 analysts who have released mock drafts. That’s more than any other club picking in the first round.
We asked Luke Beggs of Battle Red Blog, SB Nation’s site covering the Houston Texans, for some insight on the team’s draft plans. Beggs was also nice enough to update us on other Irish Texans, including Will Fuller and Nick Martin. (He even tosses in a Louis Nix III mention!)
Our thanks to Beggs and his editor, Tim McHale, for their assistance.
OFD: The Texans currently have two quarterbacks on their roster: Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. Combined, they have seven starts in the last three years. What are the chances that the Texans don't pick a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft and either stick with Savage/Weeden or look to acquire someone like Jay Cutler?
Beggs: I think the Texans are going to bring in at least one more QB before the offseason ends. Whether it's via free agency or the draft, I honestly couldn't tell you who. But I do think that the Texans are really quite enamored with former fourth round pick Tom Savage, to the point where Bill O'Brien apparently wanted to start Savage over Brock Osweiler to begin with last season. Regardless of if whether that's true, O'Brien has a lot of faith in Savage to be the Texans' opening day starter regardless of who else is there.
What are the Texans' positions of greatest need?
Quarterback. The Texans have proven (abeit painfully) that they can exist and win without a top tier QB. The problem is that the team's ceiling will never be reached unless the position is addressed and that's what's so frustrating.
This team's defense is one of the best in the league. It's blessed with one Hall of Fame level talent (J.J. Watt) and another who has the potential to develop into that (Jadeveon Clowney).
For all this talent, they are let down consistently by the misfirings and shortcomings prevalent on the offensive side of the ball and specifically with the QB.
What position do you expect them to target with the No. 25 pick?
Who knows? Predicting the Texans' draft patterns is a science I don't think anyone has managed to master yet. The Texans have holes at QB and OT, but they might pick a cornerback to make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye in free agency.
The Texans' record with first round picks is exemplary, considering all of their first round picks since 2008 are still on Houston's roster and are big contributors on the team. This is due to the fact that the Texans look for stability and safety in a lot of their picks. With this offensive tackle and quarterback class (both quite weak), it's very easy to see them not wanting to overextend or reach on a player.
What probability do you give to them trading up in the draft?
Typically speaking, it's not something which happens at all in the first round. In later rounds, the Texans do get a bit more active, especially when it comes to prospects who have fallen in the draft.
Oddly enough, Houston did trade up one slot last year in the first round to select Will Fuller. A few years before, they traded up in the third round to acquire Louis Nix III (R.I.P., Nix's knees), so maybe there's a trend here and the Texans value Notre Dame players so much they'd be willing to trade up to make sure they get them.
By the time the Texans pick at No. 25, many mock draft analysts think both Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson will be off the board. Assuming that's true, have any Texans brass publicly indicated a preference for DeShone Kizer or Pat Mahomes?
The Texans' brass has indicated nothing is the norm with them. Bill O’Brien, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying that it would be “tough to start a rookie QB right away.” So if you wanted to look into that, you could say that no player is preferred here.
If we're going to ignore that comment as nothing but a smoke screen, however, DeShone Kizer would most likely be the most logical choice, considering his play in a pro style system with excellent size and arm strength, which is what Bill O'Brien seems to prefer with his QBs.
If Kizer and Mahomes were left on the board, who would the Texans pick? (I acknowledge the answer could be Ryan Ramcyzk in this scenario.)
Shame on you for not acknowledging the potential for the Texans to ignore both options and pick T.J. Watt instead!
In all seriousness, I would be surprised if they picked Mahomes over Kizer given the stark contrast in pedigree between the two. Both have the physical traits that the Texans typically value in their QBs, but one comes from an Air Raid system that often operates a more streamlined offense, whereas the Texans run a more schematically diverse Erdhardt-Perkins system that requires a lot of work to master. It is possible for Mahomes to master that system, but I would suggest that Kizer would have less work to do, considering his work under centre in a more NFL style offense, which would therefore require less in order to learn the Texans' system.
If the Texans use the 25th pick, but not on a quarterback, do you see them targeting a QB with the 57th overall pick? At that point, do you see them leaning towards a guy like Davis Webb, Brad Kaaya or Nate Peterman?
It's difficult to say. If they love Tom Savage as most of us think they do, then they might not even use a 2nd round pick on a QB and instead opt for taking one later than that, if at all.
The collective media and fans assume the Texans will spend a high round pick on a QB considering the gap there but the Texans have a history of kicking the can down in the road with this. The 2014 draft is probably the best example when they had the 1st and 33rd overall picks and had a massive gap at the QB position. In that draft they waited until the 4th round to finally draft a QB and went into the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB and were seemingly okay with that. The Texans front office works in odd ways when it comes to the QB position, so expect a surprise by the fact they actually did something or a surprise by the fact that they didn't actually do much at all.
Regardless of which QB is ultimately selected, will the expectation be that this rookie will start for the Texans on Sept. 10?
No, but with a caveat. I think that if Tom Savage is healthy, he starts no matter what happens. The caveat is that Savage is injury-prone. He lost his entire sophomore season to injury and only lasted one game last season before getting injured, so a rookie QB could very well start if Savage's health becomes an issue again.
We're completely biased about Will Fuller, so it'd be nice to get your perspective. How did he do his rookie year and do you see promise for 2017 and beyond?
Fuller is a wonderful talent — easily one of the better things about the Texans' offense last season. The problem with it was that it was a brief moment before Fuller's season was dampened by injuries. His role in the offense was greatly reduced going forward, thanks to Brock Osweiler's inability to throw the deep ball with a safety over the top, thus killing what made Fuller so good.
There is hope for Fuller's future. He made strides with his technique, but he still has issues with drops. His development will be dependent on how Bill O'Brien schemes his offense to get Fuller the ball and whether the QB is accurate enough to get him the ball. At the very least, Fuller has shown enough to get us all excited about what he could become and what this offense could become with him in it.
What's the latest on Nick Martin? It seemed like before his ankle injury and subsequent surgery, he was a real option at center. Will he beat out Greg Mancz this summer for the starting job?
Nick Martin is scheduled to be back and ready for the offseason workout programs, which is good, considering the Texans need help on the offensive line. Martin was originally scheduled to be the Texans' starter at center before he got injured, so there's every chance that he takes over at center from Greg Mancz when he returns. Mancz was serviceable at center but could be shifted to one of the guard spots in order to provide the Texans with a bit more cover on an unstable offensive line.
Do you see the Texans selecting any other Notre Dame players (DE Isaac Rochell, DT Jarron Jones, CB Cole Luke, LB James Onwualu, RB Tarean Folston) in later rounds?
I'm quite a fan of Jarron Jones. The Texans are constantly trying to shift defensive lineman in and out, looking for a more constant answer. Jones possess the athleticism and versatility that the Texans have begun to utilise more and more over the past few years on their defensive line. Look for Jones as a potential late round selection.