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NFL 2023 Mock Draft: Do Texans Fix Defense or Find Franchise QB?

In the latest ESPN mock draft, the Houston Texans run it back with Davis Mills at quarterback for 2023

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans are inching closer to have their young foundation in place, but questions still surround the organization after back-to-back four-win seasons. 

Perhaps the biggest question mark is the status of quarterback Davis Mills entering Year 2. Mills, Texans general manager Nick Caserio's first selection in 2021, played admirably with limited offensive help in 11 games last fall. The hope is that he'll show similar production to warrant a starting role in the pros, thus allowing Houston to use its early selections elsewhere. 

According to ESPN's way-too-early mock draft, that's exactly what is expected to happen. Still selecting inside the top three, Houston passess on both Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's CJ Stroud in favor of Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. 

Some might argue for a quarterback to restart things in Houston -- and we'll have to see how second-year signal-caller Davis Mills plays after a promising first season -- but it wouldn't be a surprise for general manager Nick Caserio to give Mills more time to develop. Mills is on an inexpensive contract and has yet to play with much offensive support, and the Texans aren't close to competing in the AFC South.

Carter was arguably the best prospect on Georgia's national title team in 2021 when you talk to scouts and watch his disruptive ability as an inside or outside pass-rusher. He's built (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) to produce from a 3-technique position and would make an instant impact in Houston. - ESPN 

Defensive line has been an under-the-radar need in Houston since the arrival of Caserio. Currently, Maliek Collins, 2021 sixth-round pick Roy Lopez and former second-round selection Ross Blacklock are the top options. Blacklock has yet to prove his top-40 status in two years since being drafted out of TCU while Collins will be 28 and entering the final year of his two-year contract. 

Carter played a variety of positions across Kirby Smart's defensive line in 2021. Expected to shift inside for a four-man rush, he'd become a high-end bull rusher at defensive tackle while also helping against the run. 

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It's hard to pinpoint where the Cleveland Browns will be selecting for Houston's second pick as they currently are awaiting the outcome of the eventual Deshaun Watson suspension. For now, ESPN has Cleveland at the No. 23 spot following a playoff push. There, the Texans continue to bolster their front seven with the addition of Notre Dame pass rusher Isaiah Foskey. 

The Texans grabbed elite defensive tackle Jalen Carter earlier in this projection and now get him a running mate in the talented all-around end Foskey. At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Foskey has a true 4-3 defensive end body but could still stand up and play in space because of his quickness. With 11 sacks and a whopping six forced fumbles last season, his numbers match his physical tools. - ESPN

Much like defensive tackle, Houston slapped a Band-Aid on its pass-rushing issue by addressing the woes in free agency. Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are over 30, but provide the leadership missing in the front seven. Both Rasheem Green and Obo Okoronkwo are young defensive ends with upside to fight for starting reps. 

Until proven, the Texans need a secondary option on the first-team opposite 2021 breakout star Jonathan Greenard. Foskey is coming off a career year, but the level of consistency only expands his case to be considered by Houston. For his career, he's tallied 14.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles. 

Six quarterbacks come off the board in Round 1, five inside the top 10. Stroud, a heavy favorite to win the title of QB1, becomes the long-term replacement for Matt Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 5. Young, the reigning Heisman winner, is the next hopeful franchise quarterback for the Carolina Panthers at No. 7. 

The Detroit Lions (No. 8), Seattle Seahawks (No. 9) and New York Giants (No. 10) follow the Young selection with Kentucky's Will Levis, BYU's Jarren Hall and Miami's Tyler Van Dyke, respectively. Florida's Anthony Richardson rounds out the group, landing as Ryan's successor with the Indianapolis Colts with pick No. 27. 

One position Houston could target early offensively would be running back following a franchise-worst 3.4 yards per carry. Texas' Bijan Robinson was the only one considered for an early selection, landing with the Miami Dolphins at pick No. 11.