HOUSTON -- Before he's even taken a practice snap, Davis Mills already has felt the pressure. That's what happens when replacing a franchise quarterback, and in doing so in the blink of an eye.
Despite having needs at cornerback, wide receiver and defensive line, first-year GM Nick Caserio elected to add the Stanford product with his first pick at No. 67.
No, Mills isn't a first-round talent, but he'll be treated like one.
In less than 24 months, the Texans went from employing one of the rising stars in Deshaun Watson ... to starting fresh with a multitude of problems surrounding the franchise.
Now, Mills might be viewed as the face of the franchise — at least for the short term. ... even as Watson's face remains in the picture, cloudy as that picture is.
There is no telling what Mills' could be coming out of coach David Shaw's system. The junior only started 11 games during his college career, due to his waiting in the wings and because of a knee injury.
Expectations? Houston fans see the Stanford "S" tucked in between the tree and expect to see the legends of the game unfold with its insignia.
John Elway became the star of the Broncos as the No. 1 pick in 1983. Andrew Luck was destined to be the next "it" quarterback when selected by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
In retrospect, that logo exudes "franchise quarterback" when viewed by the public eye.
Mills isn't Elway or Luck. He's not Watson, either. That, however, doesn't mean he can't become a quality starter for coach David Culley before the end of the 2021 season.
One thing that will help define a player's career is coaching. Mills checks one of the most important boxes after working the past three seasons with Shaw. Following the selection, the Stanford coach told reporters Houston found "a steal" in his former gunslinger.
“The ability ... is obvious when you watch the film: arm strength, accuracy, athleticism, great at escaping, getting out of danger,” Shaw told Fox 26 [KRIV-TV]. “You wouldn’t necessarily call him fast, but you watch him, he’s an athlete. He’s made moves in the backfield to get away from rushers, push up in the pocket, scrambling for first downs.
"Guy’s got all the intangibles: character, leadership, toughness.”
Perhaps that's true. There's so much unknown surrounding the 22-year-old due to injuries that impacted the COVID-19 season. In two seasons, Mills finished 287-of-438 passing for 3,468 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions.
But, that potential was never reached in Palo Alto. Still, the legacy Mills left behind with the program won't soon be forgotten. According to Shaw, should he have stayed for an extra season, he likely would have been a top selection next April.
What's a head start going to hurt?
Coming out of Greater Atlanta Christian School in Duluth, Ga., Mills was the No. 1 pocket-passing QB of 2017. Names in that class included Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, Kellen Mond and Tate Martell.
Scouts believed that Mills' passes were the strongest of the class. Maybe looking back from the start, Caserio sees the same thing.
Don't expect Mills to be the Week 1 starter, but he'll have the teachers to get him ready for eventually taking first-team reps. The Texans signed veteran Tyrod Taylor, who recently helped Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert show their franchise potential.
Teaching the position will be Pep Hamilton, who recently was the QB coach with the Chargers. Herbert just set the rookie record in passing yards and touchdowns under his direction.
Before Hamilton left the NFL for college and the XFL, he was the offensive coordinator for two seasons in Indianapolis. His QB?
Watson currently is still facing 22 lawsuits of sexual misconduct and assault. His status in the NFL is still up in the air. As of now, Mills looks to be the future and Watson maybe is the past.
There's an added pressure when taking over for the franchise name. For Mills, he doesn't have to be the next Stanford great. He doesn't have to be the next Watson 2.0.
Mills must be the best version of himself. That alone could help him be a name hopeful Texans fans never forget.
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