With two weeks left until the 2023 NFL Draft, it sounds like the Carolina Panthers are zeroing in on taking Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick.
While rumors and speculations always ramp up this time of year, what would it look like if the Panthers indeed took Young and the Houston Texans opted to take Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick?
Having the second-option at quarterback in this year’s draft will cause a few certainties for the Texans. The first will be that Houston fans will be polarized on the decision to take Stroud. Some will feel like the Texans settled for a need and made the wrong choice, while others will argue the team ended up with the best prospect in the draft.
The next thing that will be unavoidable will be the comparisons.
From the moment all the quarterbacks leave Kansas City, especially for Young and Stroud if they go No. 1 and No. 2, their careers will forever be linked by not only the fan bases of their new respective teams but NFL followers all over the country.
When Young makes a dazzling play to help his NFL franchise, in this scenario the Panthers, fans will marvel at it and use it as fuel to support why he is the best quarterback in the draft.
When Stroud makes an impressive throw, you can bet there will be a “Stroud SZN” account on social media that will let everyone in Houston and the country hear about it.
When it comes to the actual Texans, they will do their best to put him in a position to succeed, beginning with trying to take pressure off him.
Head coach DeMeco Ryans has already put it out there. Regardless of who the team takes at No. 2, he is not going to put the weight of the world on his shoulders with pressure.
With veteran Case Keenum in the quarterback room, the Texans will hope he can offer Stroud guidance on how to navigate the NFL waters.
Considering that Keenum’s first ever NFL offense came from the same tree that offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will draw from — the Gary Kubiak, Shanahan system — he can also help Stroud with intricacies of the playbook.
Running backs Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary will be key in the success of Stroud if he is the team’s new QB1, and so will veterans like receiver Robert Woods.
With the plethora of draft capital the Texans have available, there will likely also be rookie prospects that stir up optimism for them to make plays.
At the end of the day, the biggest things Houston fans will look for if the Texans indeed take Stroud is proof. When the team took Deshaun Watson in 2017, it was clear the roster was filled with holes but the quarterback raised the ceiling of the program altogether.
While Stroud might not convert the Texans from a three-win team into a 13-win juggernaut, fans will be looking for plays.
Does he have an act for escaping a would-be sack, can he make an impressive throw on third-and-long to keep a drive going, and does he look better than the guy in Carolina and the two other quarterbacks — Will Levis and Anthony Richardson — while doing so?
There will be pressure. And that pressure will stem from a constant desire to have the No. 1 guy, even if Stroud is taken at No. 2 in this year’s draft.