HOUSTON – Prior to drafting Deshaun Watson in 2017, the Houston Texans spent most of their franchise history chasing a quarterback. Fifteen months after signing Watson throughout the 2025 season, here they are again.
Watson’s future in the NFL, as unclear as it is at the moment, will not be in Houston. Faced with 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, he has made it clear he wants to leave. The Texans quarterback even went so far as to try to settle all 22 lawsuits before the November 2 trade deadline so he could be traded.
Now, as the Texans (3-11) enter the 2022 offseason with what appears to be one of the top four picks in the upcoming draft, they must figure out how they want to go about finding a franchise quarterback – preferably one as as well as Watson, who Houston believes could lead them to a Super Bowl.
According to ESPN’s REIT, Houston still has an 11.1% chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft, although that would require a late-season raise (meaning one win each) from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
Since their first draft in 2002, the Texans have had five top 10 picks, one of which was No.10 and saw them take on defensive tackle Amobi Okoye in 2007. Houston took on David Carr in 2002 with the pick. No. 1 and Andre Johnson at No. 3 the following year. In 2003, Carson Palmer became No. 1 overall and Byron Leftwich seventh.
Other than those three cases, the other two top 10 picks were # 1 overall. None of those projects – 2006 or ’14 – had any consensual elite quarterback prospect in the draft.
This is the case again in 2022, as Houston prepares to have another top pick.
In 2006, the Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams from NC State. That year, the top quarterback in the draft was Vince Young, a Houston native who went on to become No.3 with the Tennessee Titans but only made 50 career starts in the NFL. Next was Matt Leinart in 10th place with the Arizona Cardinals, then Jay Cutler went 11th at the Denver Broncos.
Ahead of the draft, then Texans general manager Charley Casserly told reporters he wouldn’t be taking a quarterback, but would instead choose between Williams and USC running back Reggie. Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy that year.
Then, in 2014, the last time the Texans made a Top 10 pick, Houston took on passer Jadeveon Clowney with the No.1 pick. He was the consensus first pick, clear even before a team. Houston’s 2-14 did not lock the pick. The first quarterback taken that year was Blake Bortles of Jacksonville with the No.3 pick, which was a huge shock on draft night. Johnny Manziel (No. 22) and Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32) also went in the first round. There was some fanfare over the potential pick of Manziel, who played about 90 minutes north of Houston at Texas A&M, but it was never seriously considered.
Since taking Carr in 2002, Houston has only drafted a quarterback in the first two rounds. After the Texans’ failure with Carr, mainly due to their inability to protect him, Matt Schaub was a good starter from 2007 to 2013, though he never looked like a quarterback who could lead Houston to the Super. Bowl.
Then, after three seasons of veteran rotation and untested quarterbacks, GM Rick Smith moved up from No. 25 in Watson’s draft with the 12th pick in 2017. Following Watson’s rookie season, which ended in With a ripped ACL suffered in training midway through the season, it was clear Smith had finally ended the Houston quarterback carousel and found the Texans franchise quarterback.
Smith left and head coach Bill O’Brien took control of the staff. When the Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio months after O’Brien’s sacking, reports immediately revealed that Watson was upset. A few months later, the lawsuits were filed and it was clear Watson was never going to play for the Texans again.
Looking ahead, Houston drafted quarterback Davis Mills in the third round this year with his first draft pick under Caserio in preparation for life without Watson, who has been on the 53-man roster all season. but remained a good scratch.
The Texans had no first-round pick in 2020 or 2021, trading the two with the Miami Dolphins as part of the deal that brought left tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston in an effort to better protect Watson. Because the Texans finished 4-12 in 2020, the 2021 pick ended up being No. 3 overall.
Mills, like Carr, suffered from a lack of protection as a rookie, although he has shown flashes this season. He will remain the holder this season if he can stay healthy.
Mills might even have most of the 22-year-old campaign to audition, as it looks like the Texans won’t be able to fix their quarterback issues through the draft – again.
In 2021, the top three picks in the draft were quarterbacks – Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance – and Justin Fields and Mac Jones also entered the top 15.
For 2022, ESPN’s Todd McShay’s final draft is five quarterbacks in the first round, but the first is at No.12, in which case Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Texans have plenty of holes they need to fill on both sides of the ball during a rebuild, with just a few young players appearing to be part of a successful rebuild going forward.
However, Houston should have at least one top-five pick in the draft, if they decide to keep it, to start finding impact talent. Potentially trading Watson ahead of the draft could give Caserio another top pick – or at least one or more in the first round of that draft or future drafts. Again, however, as has been the case most of the time, the Texans found themselves at the top of the draft, this top-five pick would likely be wisely spent on someone who isn’t a quarterback. .