The Houston Texans head into the 2023 NFL Draft with two first-round picks at No.2 and No. 12. With the first pick, the Texans will almost assuredly take a quarterback, although whether that is Bryce Young or Anthony Richardson remains up in the air. At No. 12, the team could grab a player to help their new QB out or grab a defensive player for new head coach DeMeco Ryans to start building around. Here are the best players to target with the first-round Texans NFL draft picks.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama
With the draft about a month away, it seems as though the Carolina Panthers will take Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud with the No. 1 overall pick. That gives the Texans Bryce Young from Alabama, Anthony Richardson from Florida, and Will Levis from Kentucky to choose from.
Bryce Young is the safest play at No. 2, and that’s saying a lot for a signal-caller who came it at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds at the NFL combine.
Young has started at Alabama for the last two seasons, though, and won the Heisman Trophy in 2021. He is a calm, cool, and confident quarterback on tape who can sling the ball around to his receivers all over the field. He’s also a winner who lost four games in two seasons for the Crimson Tide.
In the short term, he has the talent to play Week 1 in 2023. The problems here are long-term. Can Young hold up for 17 games a year for 10 years or more at his size? If the Texans think yes, he’s the choice.
QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Bryce Young is Anthony Richardson. The 6-foot-4, 244-pound QB is an athletics marble who was the story of the 2023 NFL combine.
Richardson has everything you’d want from an athletic modern QB. The issue is that he doesn’t truly know how to play quarterback yet.
Richardson has the opposite problem as Young. There is almost no way he’ll be ready for Week 1, but if the Texans can develop the NFL draft pick, he can become a franchise QB for a long time.
The big decision that the Texans will have to make is whether they prioritize short-term or long-term results.
WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
At pick No. 12, the Texans NFL draft pick they got from the Cleveland Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade, the team could take a wide receiver to pair with Bryce Young or Anthony Richardson.
The 2023 NFL draft class at WR doesn’t have a Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. TCU wideout Quentin Johnston is the closest thing to a true WR1 prospect, though.
Johnston is 6-foot-3, 204 pounds whose size, speed, and catch radius make him look like a top pass-catching option. He has to get more consistent as drops were a problem at times, but if he improves at the next level, the Texans could have their next DeAndre Hopkins or Andre Johnson.
DE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is a defensive-minded coach and was one of the best defensive players in Texans' history as a linebacker. He could choose to start his tenure at the helm with a standout defensive star.
As a 6-foot-5, 272-pound white guy from the Big 10, it’s hard not to see shades of Texans legend J.J. Watt when watching Lukas Van Ness play. He plays with power that earned him the nickname “Hercules” from his Hawkeye teammates.
Van Ness is a ready-made NFL defensive end right now and could develop into an incredible inside-outside pass rusher as he adds weight in the pros. Watt is a lofty comparison, but if there’s a chance he can get to even 75% of the future Hall of Famer’s level, Ryans might jump at the chance to draft a player like his former teammate.
CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
The Texans need help all over the field, so drafting the best player available is always an option. The team took CB Derek Stingley Jr. with last year's No. 3 overall in the NFL draft, and picking another corner could give them the best young cover combo in the league.
Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon is a ballhawk who picked off seven passes in the 2022 college football season and made 14 pass breakups. He may not be a true CB1, but with Stingley on the other side, he could become a high-end No. 2 who specializes in big plays.
The bright spot for Houston last season was the defense’s 16 interceptions (T-7 in NFL), and with Witherspoon in the mix, that number could grow in 2023.