This is part of a series on the best fits for the 2023 NFL Draft’s top four quarterbacks.
>> Others in Series: C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson
Draft projection can be a tricky proposition, and nowhere can it be trickier than for top quarterback prospects.
Rather than engage in a scoreboard exercise, it’s more fruitful to examine the quarterback-needy teams at the top of Round 1 and try to discern a fit for each of the four quarterbacks who have separated themselves from the rest of the 2023 NFL Draft class.
Next up, is Alabama’s Bryce Young (scouting report), who like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (scouting report), had his pro day last week.
Young’s Most Logical Landing Spot
If Young, the best quarterback in this class, is available for the Houston Texans at No. 2, it’s a slam-dunk pick and an enticing fit.
Why Texans Make Sense
The synergy with new coach DeMeco Ryans would just be plain cool. The coach in his 30s and quarterback in his 20s, both super high achievers at Alabama, each leaning into their high-profile and initial shot on the NFL’s big stage together.
Stroud seems like a fit for the Carolina Panthers at No. 1 overall. If the draft plays out this way and Young ends up a Texan, both he and Ryans would have draft slights in their pasts. Like Young, Ryans was tremendously productive for the Crimson Tide. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the year in 2005, yet because he was a tad smaller and a step slower than the prototypical NFL linebacker, he had to watch height-weight-speed prospects like Bobby Carpenter, Kamerion Wimbley and Manny Lawson hear their names called in the first round, while he didn’t go until the second.
Young’s “slight” would be lesser, going second overall instead of first, but if he were 6-foot-2 instead of 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds instead of 205, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t have gone first.
Ryans is a defensive coach, so it’s not like these two will be studying film or implementing offensive game plans together. But if the two new faces of the franchise share an alma mater and similarly driven anecdotal draft slights, the connection is unique and a fun place to start.
Now for the part of the Young-to-the-Texans fit that involves everyday football, specifically their hiring of Bobby Slowik as offensive coordinator.
While Ryans was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers the past two seasons, Slowik was their passing game coordinator. Ponder that title, and that offense, for a moment. Now consider the unique personnel — and specific offensive success — Slowik directed or witnessed, and what a benefit the knowledge gained could be for Young and the Texans.
Kyle Shanahan is in charge of all things 49ers offense, and his fingerprints are on their brand of offensive football much more than Slowik’s or any other assistant’s. Just being close to Shanahan (let alone the times he was delegated to) and the way San Francisco found its way to a high level of offensive production would bear fruit for Young.
Slowik’s quarterback experience, just this past season alone, is a master class for how to navigate NFL life with Young. There are so many ways to leverage his talent and instincts in and out of the pocket, and there are so many ways Slowik had to coach quarterbacks in 2022.
As San Francisco’s passing game coordinator, he had to design an offense first to match Trey Lance, the 49ers’ intended starter last season. The possibilities he presented outside the pocket had to be married with all he could do from inside of it, all while considering he was a first-year starter. That could turn into his exact task in Houston this season with Young.
Then, Slowik had to pivot back to Jimmy Garoppolo, a completely different type of quarterback. Garoppolo was excellent at executing the quick-hitting intermediate passing game designed to work between the hashes. While there’s no such thing as an “easy” passing game to operate as a rookie, a few concepts drawn up to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly and to be delivered 10-15 yards over the middle are staples to have in your arsenal for a rookie signal-caller. Slowik arrives in Houston with expertise in this area.
Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, we shouldn’t forget Slowik had to play a significant part in getting Brock Purdy ready to hit the ground running in December and helping him perform at an admirable level from Day 1. The hands-on leadership role he was forced to play in dealing with three different types of quarterbacks — one a rookie and one with rookie-type NFL experience — seems an ideal apprenticeship to being the one most involved with Young’s Year 1 development.
As I described in a feature about him a few weeks ago, I see Young as part shortstop, part point guard, equipped with a good amount of traditional quarterback skills, with his own brand of playmaking calm. As a fan, I’d love to see him paired with a coach whose background makes him well-suited to take advantage of all Young has to offer. There’s reason to believe he could find that in Houston.
Paul Burmeister, a former starting quarterback at Iowa, is a studio host with NBC Sports and the radio voice of Notre Dame Football. For a decade he worked as a studio host at NFL Network. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulWBurmeister