C.J. Stroud-led draft class laying fine foundation for Texans; early Defensive Player of the Year candidates


So, why am I talking about this right now? Well, seeing the Houston Texans (1-2) quickly emerge as a tough out in the first few weeks of DeMeco Ryans’ tenure, it appears the championship blueprint has found its way to H-Town, with a talented rookie class that has this franchise trending in the right direction for the first time in years. While I am not trying to push the 2023 Texans as contenders, it sure looks like the pieces are coming together for Houston to rise from the ashes of the Deshaun Watson era.

In their first draft together, Ryans and third-year Texans GM Nick Caserio attacked the prospect board with a clear intention to upgrade the four Ps. Well, actually three of them. With Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard already in place as bookends, the Texans were able to leave pass protector (offensive tackle) off their shopping list. But look what they did with three of their first four picks:

All three of those picks have provided immediate returns, but let’s start with the first one, for the obvious reason that QB1 is the most important piece in the team-building process.

In the excessive nitpicking exercise that is the pre-draft process, Stroud faced questions about his processing speed and functional mobility, particularly out of structure. In some circles, these concerns seemed to overshadow the fact that he was the most natural thrower in the draft, with a game that looked pro-ready between the lines. This was shortsighted thinking, considering everything Stroud had put on tape at Ohio State.

For two years, the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder shredded Big Ten defenses with surgical precision as a quick-rhythm passer with superb timing and anticipation. Operating from the pocket, Stroud’s ability to fit balls into tight windows while utilizing various trajectories and speeds made it easy to project his game to the next level. He was the classic dropback passer who has flourished in the league for years. The Texans saw that, and when they went on the board with the No. 2 overall pick, they pounced. And boy does that look like a good decision …

Having just earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors, Stroud looks the part as a blue-chip passer with exceptional poise and polish. As the first quarterback in league history with at least 900 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three career games, the rookie has played like a 10-year veteran despite lining up behind a leaky offensive line missing four starters due to injury. Most impressively, Stroud has done this with a non-existent running game, forcing him to throw against aggressive defenses attacking Houston’s one-dimensional approach. This Sunday’s opponent, Pittsburgh, will present Stroud with his toughest test yet, as the Steelers boast one of the best pass-rushing duos in the game (T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith). I can’t wait to see how the 21-year-old fares. But given the host of blitzes and simulated pressures he has already faced as a young starter, the rookie’s spectacular performance and production suggest he is a special player with the skills to elevate everyone on the team. Just ask tight end Brevin Jordan.

“We drafted the right guy,” Jordan said in the wake of the Texans’ Week 3 blowout of the division rival Jaguars. “Man, he’s a leader. He’s a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he’s unbelievable.”

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