There’s only one extra week to the 2022 NFL season, and two groups are nonetheless within the operating for the No. 1 total choose within the 2023 draft. Will it’s the Houston Texans (2-13-1) or Chicago Bears (3-13) when the mud settles Sunday? And which top prospect may every group goal as the primary participant off the board?
After a down yr for quarterback prospects — there was only one chosen within the first two rounds final April — there are no less than three who might go first off the board this yr. And past the signal-callers, there are a number of elite defenders who can stake a declare to being the very best total prospect within the class and doubtlessly be the primary participant taken.
We pitched 10 inquiries to NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid, Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime, Bears reporter Courtney Cronin and analytics author Seth Walder to kind via the way it might all play out April 27, together with what to know concerning the race for No. 1 and which prospects may very well be the highest choice. You should definitely take a look at Reid’s new Round 1 mock draft to see his projected picks for each groups. Let’s dig in.
Are the Texans or Bears extra more likely to declare the highest choose?
Walder:The Texans. Houston having a barely worse document going into the ultimate week is a hefty benefit, however the race is nearer than you may assume as a result of it plays the Colts. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) is extra assured within the Texans profitable in Week 18 (66.7%) than it has been heading into every other Houston sport this season. Consequently, FPI makes it a slender favourite — 55.7% to Chicago’s 44.3% — to earn the highest choose.
Houston can clinch with both a loss or tie towards Indianapolis or a Chicago win or tie towards Minnesota. Chicago, in the meantime, wants a loss and Texans win to slip into the highest spot. Houston has the tiebreaker within the unlikely occasion that each groups end with the identical profitable proportion.
How’d the Texans find yourself right here? And are they certain Davis Mills will not be their man at QB?
Bien-Aime:Houston has struggled throughout the board, with its 4.7 yards per play rating final within the league and 5.7 yards allowed per play sitting at twenty fourth. Its nine-game dropping streak in the course of the season was tied for the second-longest in franchise historical past, behind a 14-game stint in 2013. And the group actually struggled to shut out video games, too. In 5 of the Texans’ 13 losses, they both led or have been tied after the third quarter. That is not going to get it finished.
And sure, quarterback play hasn’t been the place it must be to win, and it is clear Mills will not be the Texans’ long-term reply — particularly since they at one level benched him for Kyle Allen and have leaned extra on Jeff Driskel in a two-QB system down the stretch. The offense has averaged solely 16.1 factors (thirty first), and Mills has thrown 13 interceptions over 14 begins. His 32.9 QBR ranks thirtieth out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks, forward of solely Baker Mayfield.
Mills is a stable NFL backup, however he is not a long-term starter the Texans can construct round. They should discover different choices this spring.
So then it is quarterback or bust for the Texans with their high choose?
Bien-Aime: Completely. The Texans not having a solution on the place is a significant purpose they’re choosing this excessive, and this ought to be a powerful class to seek out their man. Over the previous two seasons, Houston ranks thirty first in QBR (33.7) and thirty second in yards per dropback (5.5), and this is a wonderful likelihood to drastically enhance the outlook of the place. Merely put, the Texans’ rebuild cannot attain its ceiling if there is not any stability on the place.
One thing else to contemplate: Houston additionally wants some juice and power. The stadium is half empty throughout video games, and the Texans want a participant to reenergize the fan base. A future star quarterback might do this.
Who’re the quarterbacks that would go No. 1?
Reid: There are three who actually have a shot, and every has his own unique skill set.
First, there’s Bryce Young of Alabama, who declared for the draft after the Crimson Tide received their bowl sport. Listed at 6-foot and 194 kilos, Younger is smaller than the opposite two, however he has the entire different substances essential to develop into a high-end passer on the subsequent degree. One of many higher elements of his sport is his skill to diagnose and assault weak spots in defenses with both his arm or his legs. He has excellent poise and performs the sport with the identical heartbeat irrespective of the magnitude of the state of affairs.
Then there may be Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, a standard pocket passer who can see it, learn it and execute any throw. When in rhythm, he is a degree guard who can distribute the ball precisely in a well timed method. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Stroud shows clear footwork and good physique mechanics, however he wants to point out extra as a creator when performs are knocked off schedule.
And eventually, we now have Kentucky passer Will Levis. At 6-foot-3 and 232 kilos, he has the type of body that NFL groups covet, and the Wildcats’ offense gave him a whole lot of expertise with pro-style offensive ideas, together with play-action and expertise from each beneath middle and out of the shotgun. The ball comes off his hand with a ton of velocity, too, as Levis can ship it the place it must go even when his ft aren’t correctly set. However his turnover woes are regarding. He had no less than one amongst however three video games this season and threw 10 interceptions.
Which ones is the very best match for Houston?
Reid: Younger. He has been my QB1 because the summer time, and I do not see something altering. Houston continues to be rebuilding this roster with younger expertise, however common supervisor Nick Caserio has some younger constructing blocks in place and two first-round picks in every of the following two drafts.
The Texans clearly lack an identification, and that “face of the franchise”-type participant nonetheless hasn’t surfaced. Younger would instantly change every part, giving the group an prompt jolt of pleasure. He could make all of the throws and has discovered success irrespective of the supporting solid. Plus, he already is aware of considered one of their younger gamers, having related withJohn Metchie III 96 occasions at Alabama final season. Metchie, Houston’s second-round choose final April, missed the season whereas being treated for leukemia, however he’s anticipated to be able to play in 2023.
The Texans even have a second Spherical 1 choose, courtesy of the Browns. What’s their greatest want outdoors of QB?
Bien-Aime:There are a whole lot of weaknesses right here — in spite of everything, Houston has simply two wins — however the inside offensive line might be their greatest want. Their combo of proper guardA.J. Cann, middle Scott Quessenberry and left guard Kenyon Green has given up 22 sacks.
However that is not a place you will see this early within the draft (presently projected to be No. 12, per ESPN’s FPI), so I might anticipate Houston so as to add a difference-maker at a premium offensive place. Receiver Brandin Cooks leads the group with 593 receiving yards, and nobody has extra TD catches than tight finishJordan Akins‘ three. The Texans have to get their new QB some assist!
OK, and the way concerning the Bears? How did they find yourself right here regardless of Justin Fields‘ breakout?
Cronin: Sure, they’ve been higher, however the expertise surrounding Fields has been Chicago’s pitfall. The Bears have the league’s worst passing offense and haven’t got a single participant with no less than 500 receiving yards. Defensively, they rank twenty ninth in run protection (5.0 yards allowed per rush), and no group offers up extra factors than their 27.1 per sport common. Their Week 17 loss was their ninth straight, the longest dropping streak in franchise historical past.
This group was not constructed to see success within the type of wins in 2022, and common supervisor Ryan Poles started a roster teardown at midseason by trading linebacker Roquan Smith to Baltimore. The Bears, nonetheless, at the moment are ready so as to add aggressively through free company — they’ve north of $110 million in wage cap area in 2023 — and the draft, and so they already checked their greatest and most vital field by determining Fields is the quarterback to construct round.
Not like Houston, Chicago would not be taking a look at QB with this choose. What’s the Bears’ high precedence atop the draft?
Cronin: Constructing round Fields on offense is vital, however the Bears cannot actually do this at No. 1 or No. 2 primarily based on positional worth. Georgia defensive deal with Jalen Carter might as an alternative be an possibility as a result of 3-technique is a very powerful place in Matt Eberflus’ protection. The Bears haven’t proven a capability to strain opposing quarterbacks (22% of opponent dropbacks, thirty first within the NFL) or cease the run. Drafting somebody like Carter begins to unravel each of these points.
Offensive line and large receiver are additionally amongst this group’s greatest wants. Exterior of wideouts Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and rookie Velus Jones Jr., who can the Bears say for sure is on their roster subsequent yr on the place?
Who’re the non-QB prospects who might go No. 1 if the Bears are choosing there?
Reid:How about Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr.? The 6-foot-4, 243-pounder has 27.5 sacks, 54 tackles for loss and 129 pressures over the previous two seasons. Simply think about that the Bears’ chief in sacks this season is securityJaquan Brisker(4), and it is apparent this group wants assist in that space. Anderson would give the group a reliable risk off the sting who might flip into a possible franchise centerpiece. His mixture of pass-rush savviness, heavy arms and explosiveness actually stands out on tape.
Courtney additionally talked about Carter, and Eberflus is on record saying that 3-technique is the “engine that makes every part go” in his protection. At 6-foot-3 and 300 kilos, Carter’s explosiveness and penetrating skill could be a welcome addition.
Groups can be trying to transfer up the board for a QB. Would a commerce down be in play for Chicago?
Cronin: Completely. Chicago does not have a necessity at quarterback, so it could be in prime place to take the very best commerce bundle obtainable and transfer again from No. 1 (or No. 2) whereas nonetheless with the ability to draft a high defensive participant. The Bears won’t wish to transfer down too far, given Carter and Anderson will not be obtainable for lengthy, however there ought to be choices there.
If Houston falls to No. 2 and has its eyes set on drafting a specific passer, it could be prepared pay a steep value to maneuver to No. 1 to make sure that occurs and block one other group.Groups akin to Seattle, Indianapolis, Detroit, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Carolina might additionally all be within the combine to supply up an enormous bundle to get their man.