Part 1 of the quarterback hunt focused on the current roster, free agents, and possible moves the Texans can make with the QB position. That can be browsed right here if you need a refresher. In short, the Texans will keep at least 1, and likely 2 QBs from the current roster and/or free agents. My hope is Weeden/Savage, but likelihood points to Hoyer/Savage (and maybe Daniels for another role and/or practice squad). After working through the possibilities on the roster, the next big question will be who do we draft as QB in the 2016 Draft, and when do we do it?
Realistically, with the NFL Scouting Combine still being a few weeks away, any projections or rumors of the 2016 draft class are nothing more than mere speculation. Draft prospects typically don’t take a nose dive after the Combine, though, unless they turn in an absolutely horrific performance, or drop a bomb in the interview process. In that regard, we can look at the current projected draft order of our 45 QB prospects (realistically, though, top 6, as I don’t see the Texans drafting a QB past the 3rd round) and come up with a reasonable picture of which prospects are in the Texans radar.
We’ll be taking a look at the following list of QB prospects in the 2016 draft for this overview, and discuss the possibility/probability of each of the top 5, which are current designated prospects to go in rounds 1-3.
First on the list: Jared Goff. I disagree with his ranking as the top prospect for a few reasons, but given the Cleveland Browns have the top QB pick in this draft, I can understand the #1 overall rank, as far as the QB position (#2 out of the draft). Goff spent his college football career at University of California, Berkeley, under two primarily different, but similar, offensive coordinators. The “Bear Raid” spread-style offense was highly successful in the West-Coast style coordination of plays, but it doesn’t translate well to O’Brien’s pro-style offense that keeps threatening a stronger use for tight end play than a more versatile use of wide receivers. Goff is also a junior declaring, and has been primarily positioned in the pistol/shotgun formation. And he’s likely to be taken by the Browns. So, next.
Next up: Carson Wentz. Wentz spent his years with North Dakota State, starting his final 2 years and leading the team to 2 consecutive FCS championships under his lead. If the Texans had a top-10 draft pick, I believe the Texans would heavily be eyeballing Carson Wentz as the potential 1st round pick. Wentz has the prototypical QB size that O’Brien likes, has a strong arm, good pocket presence, and is highly mobile. His main danger is throwing a floater that can make for some costly turnovers in the NFL. If the Texans could manage to trade up high enough to snag Wentz, it would costly, and would count on the Browns overlooking him, and a possible trade up deal with the San Diego Chargers. With the other pressing needs for the Texans this year in the free agency and draft, it’s not likely. Again, he’ll be gone before the Texans get a real chance.
Third on the list: Paxton Lynch. Lynch honestly hasn’t impressed me enough to be #3 QB overall. He played at Memphis, declared as a red shirt Junior (meaning he has another year of college football eligibility), and looks more like a potential project to develop. He has the protoypical QB build and height, has the arm strength, is pretty mobile, and played a pro-style offense. However, his accuracy and footwork need some real conditioning, has some work to do as a pocket passer, and would probably benefit from another year at the college level. Realistically, he could be picked up in the late 1st or early 2nd round, but he would need to be developed to the Texans system for the first year, at the very least, and that’s not a player you want to pick up in the 1st round. Realistically, I wouldn’t want the Texans picking him up til the 3rd, and he’ll likely go before that.
Fourth on the list: Connor Cook. Cook is a 4 year starter for Michigan State, and earned his place in the the history books for that football program. He’s got the size and arm strength to throw in the pros, and has consistently improved his game in a pro-style offense in his years as a starter. He will also realistically be available in the 2nd round, and possibly even the 3rd. His biggest problem is consistency in the passing game, and overall. For a 4 year starter, I’d signal this as a red flag. Quite possibly the most experienced, but most likely more of a game manager QB that could end up having a journeyman career in the NFL. It may be worthwhile to mention that his draft profile QB comparison is Brian Hoyer. Give that some thought. If the Texans want a game manager QB with questionable enough leadership skills to not be named as team captain of his college team, then Cook is it. However, there’s some proven vets in the NFL that can already do this, and by all appearances the Texans want more.
Fifth on the list: Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg was the first QB recruit of O’Brien’s head coaching career. His most prolific season came under the mentorship of O’Brien in Penn State in 2013. Hackenberg’s performance fell off after O’Brien joined the Texans, but in his first year as a starter he proved to excel under the O’Brien pro-style offense that O’Brien graduated to the pro level. Add me to the list of people getting a feeling of Hackenberg as the Texans QB pick, but not in the first round. Hackenberg’s draft stock isn’t necessarily impressive enough to rank him as the 6th highest QB overall in the draft, but he’s certainly the underdog candidate that could go higher than expected, primarily due to the lack of offensive weapons and coaching development in the Nittany Lions program. Hackenberg will need a good year or two of development, but with O’Brien’s tendency to go with what he knows, it’s highly possible to see Hackenberg join the Texans squad in 2016.
My wish list: Carson Wentz. Is that realistic? Probably not. Would I urge the Texans to use a 1st round pick on any of the top 5, outside of Wentz? Nope. Most likely prospect, pre-Scouting Combine, with a 2nd round pick? Christian Hackenberg, because he and Bill had a sweet thing going once.