The most "interesting" conversation about the quarterback situation at the top of the draft is the entire world assuming Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are interchangeable.
Everyone shrugs and presupposes the Texans are taking whomever the Panthers don't take at No. 1. Carolina is taking a quarterback (unless the Panthers are running a "Truman Show"-style NFL experiment), but the Texans aren't required to just get the Panthers' leftovers because we assume they have to.
Houston could see its current NFL status as an improving team/roster capable of getting even better by adding an elite Alabama defensive player. If you think that's crazy, please remember the Texans' head coach is exactly that: an elite former 'Bama defensive player.
The Texans had a great offseason in my opinion, but nothing -- outside of absolutely falling in love with a quarterback prospect -- should stop them from adding elite defensive players to this roster.
For instance: if Young is their guy, they shouldn't just take Stroud because he's there. Particularly if they have another player higher on their board. The same applies if Stroud is their guy and the Panthers take him first overall. Houston isn't a QB away from winning it all so why force the issue now?
Build the best roster you can and drop that QB in when you find a prospect you truly believe can be a franchise quarterback. Houston's on it's fifth coach (counting interim Romeo Crennel) since the start of 2020 ... so maybe try patience for once!
For more draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and CBS Junior Draft Analyst Ryan Wilson. Rick is a legend and while I've personally never heard of Wilson, you can check both guys out on the latest episode below:
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
We here at Mock Draft 2.0 will NOT kowtow to the sports betting industry and the odds suggesting C.J. Stroud is the guy at No. 1 overall. (He could be, it just feels like Bryce Young is the kid you move up to get.)
Round 1 - Pick 2
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
The Texans are PROBABLY taking a quarterback at No. 2, but they also turned down a chance to move into the first pick, (presumably) knowing the Bears had other suitors for the spot. So what if they're just happy with one of the Alabama players? Houston took two of them last year with Nick Caserio in charge after Jack Easterby's ousting. It would seriously shake up the draft in a fun way.
Mock Trade from Arizona Cardinals
Round 1 - Pick 3
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort spent the last few years in Nashville with the Titans -- when the Texans shock everyone, this No. 3 pick turns into gold. The Titans can jump up for a reasonable price (No. 11, plus the Titans' second-round pick and a fourth-round pick) and grab a QB after Malik Willis appeared to not be Mike Vrabel's guy.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
There's a lot of chatter about Chris Ballard's warm seat, but Jim Irsay's overseen a tanking operation before and beefing up your defense with a blue-chip prospect and rolling into the season with Gardner Minshew is elite tank material.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
The Seahawks would prefer to trade back but it would be spot-on Pete Carroll/John Scheinder to use another first-round pick acquired in the Russell Wilson trade to beef up the offensive line, moving Skoronski to guard. Fifth is high for him here, but the pick fits. The Northwestern product's versatility also provides backup in case a tackle gets hurt.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Illinois • 6'0" / 185 lbs
Christian Gonzalez is probably the top-rated corner on most boards but MAN does Witherspoon fit a Dan Campbell defense. I still *probably* think they go hog molly with this pick but this is a culture/scheme/need fit.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 275 lbs
The Raiders could go QB here (Levis and Richardson are suddenly slipping!) but Chandler Jones seems destined to become a salary cap casualty after this year, which means Vegas needs to replenish its pass rush this offseason.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Drew Sanders LB
Arkansas • 6'5" / 234 lbs
Super tempted to go with a QB here, but the Falcons haven't shown a massive propensity to fly around the draft board. They have, however, shown some interest in adding pieces to their defense. Cornerback is an option but Drew Sanders coupled with the dudes up front (Grady Jarrett, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata) is fun to imagine. The Falcons' defense could be taking shape.
From Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Oregon • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The Bears can go a lot of different directions here. Offensive line makes a ton of sense, but those Matt Eberflus defenses in Indy always had a good combo of linebackers and solid corners. Adding Gonzalez with Jaylon Johnson would put some teeth in this defense.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Howie Roseman's been hammering the UGA/Bama pipelines lately, which probably counts as #analytics. The trenches need depth and future starters for the Eagles. The last CB they drafted in the first round was Lito Sheppard, so anyone banking on seeing that is ignoring obvious draft history.
Mock Trade from Tennessee Titans
Round 1 - Pick 11
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Confession: I actually only had the Cardinals trade out of the No. 3 spot, hoping I would draw the ire of Darren Urban as he rounded up mock drafts for the Cards website and saw another mock trade. But we're here and they have to take someone so why not a sorely needed rusher off the edge.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Florida • 6'4" / 244 lbs
I honestly didn't plan this when I went Anderson at No. 2 but if you're the Texans how do you not sign in blood for this right now? An elite defensive prospect and an upside-riddled QB who you don't feel compelled to start right now ... OC Bobby Slowik was in San Francisco when they drafted a smaller, slower passer a few years ago attempting to reinvent the ShanaClan offense.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Ohio State • 6'6" / 313 lbs
Tough to peg without the Aaron Rodgers finalized, the Jets could still use help on the offensive line, especially with Mekhi Becton lingering as a question mark and Duane Brown quite long in the tooth. The only hesitation here is Woody Johnson stressing a lack of patience with this team.
Round 1 - Pick 14
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
The Patriots early-round history with wide receivers isn't fantastic, so this likely won't go over well. But it hasn't stopped them from trying to find a *guy* -- Johnston would pair nicely with JuJu Smith-Schuster and give the Pats a legit deep threat they've sorely missed for some time. If you don't like Johnston or the Pats taking a WR in the first round, take it up with Belichick, not me.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Zay Flowers WR
Boston College • 5'9" / 182 lbs
'Member when the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson and promptly took OL help early in the draft? This REEKS of the Packers doing the same thing to Aaron Rodgers, with the built-in excuse of helping Jordan Love. Flowers' size might not be perfect but he's a DUDE.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
With Will Levis slipping, this could be a prime spot for a trade down or even just snagging the Kentucky QB. I think Ron Rivera believes in Sam Howell and would love to add a talented, young piece to his secondary. Porter has the pedigree and played at a high level -- it just fits Washington kind of easily.
Mock Trade from Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 - Pick 17
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
MOCK TRADE! Will Levis' slide ends here with the Seattle Seahawks sensing some serious value and swapping with Pittsburgh (Seattle sends its third-round pick and 20 for Pittsburgh's fourth-round pick and 17) so it can jump up and add a QB with some Josh Allen traits (I'll never forget Seattle GM John Schneider watching Allen's pro day as long as I live) who can sit and learn behind Geno Smith as necessary. The Lions and Bucs were definitely threats to take Levis too.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
SPICY FROM THE LIONS! Grabbing Bijan Robinson here feels a touch excessive but D'Andre Swift is in the final year of his rookie contract and David Montgomery's got a two- or even possibly one-year contract. Robinson behind this offensive line could cook. At some point you ignore positional value and take an elite running back at a discount. When people zig sometimes you gotta zag.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Syracuse • 6'5" / 323 lbs
It's pretty wild how quickly Tampa's offense just cratered before our eyes (and it's fine, because they won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady) -- Mike Evans and Chris Godwin remain staples, but the run game is a big question mark and the offensive line has suffered some massive attrition. Beef it up with some versatility (Bergeron probably ends up kicking inside)!
Mock Trade from Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 20
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Pittsburgh's talent up front will give Van Ness time to learn and develop from elite NFL players in the same room, he'll also be able to make some splash plays out of the gate for a Teryl Austin defense and Steelers team that surely sees itself as a competitor this season.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Jalin Hyatt WR
Tennessee • 6'0" / 185 lbs
You might ~think~ the Chargers have a good WR corps -- and it is very strong up top -- but Keenan Allen and Mike Williams see monster cap hits after 2023, which could mean a change coming. Additionally, L.A. needs a vertical speed threat, particularly with Kellen Moore replacing Joe Lombardi at OC.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
The Ravens could certainly draft another wide receiver as a peace offering for Lamar Jackson, but their pass rush might need some reinforcements if they want to get after the young trio of AFC North opponents they'll see next year.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Tennessee • 6'3" / 221 lbs
Let's get weird!!!! Kirk Cousins fits the scheme, knows the scheme, knows the coach, etc, etc. But he's 34 years old and has one year left on his contract. Hooker's coming off a torn ACL so the timeline is pretty outstanding to grab a leader/scheme dependent type QB to run this KOC offense. It gives the Vikings some pretty good leverage if there's mutual interest in running it back for 2024 and it should motivate Cousins this year. The only question is if they'll let him know.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • 6'2" / 207 lbs
The Jaguars' roster looks pretty darn stout, but Jacksonville definitely needs help on the back end of the defense. Trent Baalke hasn't been shy about targeting Georgia for help on his roster, spending a first- and second-round pick on Dawgs the last two years. Plus, think of the cheap moving costs! (Copyright Ringer Dannys.)
Round 1 - Pick 25
Alabama • 6'0" / 203 lbs
The Giants dipped into the 'Bama pool in the first round last year, so let's run it back here to beef up the back of this defense. Branch is just 21 years old with positional versatility and Brian Daboll certainly has a viable connection with Nick Saban to find out how Branch will fit. Wide receiver would be fine here too but this is good value given what's available later for pass catchers.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Mike McCarthy wants to run the dang ball so why not help your offense out twice by grabbing a strong run-blocking tight end who doesn't need to be the focal point of the offense with a stout WR corps on the depth chart.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Round 1 - Pick 28
Ohio State • 6'0" / 197 lbs
The Bengals are loaded at wide receiver, but Tyler Boyd's contract is coming up, they have to pay Joe Burrow and adding a stud slot guy in JSN (versus paying Boyd another big deal) could be a way to alleviate the Burrow Bomb coming to the salary cap either this offseason or next offseason. This offense could be COOKING in 2023.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 29
USC • 5'11" / 175 lbs
Addison was a monster at Pittsburgh before he transferred to USC where he was just fine. We presume the Saints are "fine" at WR because of Chris Olave and Michael Thomas, but if Thomas (30 years old, btw) doesn't come back and be his old self or gets hurt, things get thin pretty quickly. This could be a nice complement to help out Derek Carr.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
Very tempted to go edge here. Nolan Smith would be the target based on Howie Roseman's love for UGA. But Howie's jumped all over Clemson prospects too and likely knows he needs to continue and build depth on the interior with Fletcher Cox long in the tooth.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Keion White DL
Georgia Tech • 6'5" / 290 lbs
The Chiefs remain ahead of the curve: with Patrick Mahomes locked in essentially forever, they've decided to just pepper defensive players in the draft. It's like the reverse rookie QB contract with an alien at quarterback. And it's obviously working quite well with a second Super Bowl win. They add more up front here.