Davis Mills’ progress will allow Texans to focus on other needs in draft – Chron

Posted: December 29, 2021 at 10:24 am

It's too early - after just nine NFL starts - to say whether Davis Mills is the Texans' quarterback of the future. However, it's not too soon to say the rookie quarterback has done enough to earn the starting job in 2022. More importantly, Mills has done enough to allow the Texans and general manager Nick Caserio to focus on areas of need other than quarterback in April's NFL Draft.

The Texans (4-11) figure to have a top five pick - if the season ended today, they'd be picking third behind the Jaguars and Lions. If they're able to trade Deshaun Watson in the offseason, the Texans will have multiple first-round picks in a draft where there isn't an obvious franchise quarterback available.

With the way Mills has played recently, that might suit the Texans just fine. With a top five pick - assuming Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson are gone in the first two selections - the Texans will be able to focus on their offensive line with the likes of Alabama's giant 6-foot-7, 350-pound offensive tackle Evan Neal or perhaps improve the secondary with LSU's stud cornerback Derek StingleyJr, or Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.

That will be a luxury since they won't be forced to reachon a quarterback like Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett or Ole Miss' Matt Corral, because Mills has shown rapid improvement late in the season.

Mills had the best game of his young career in Sunday's 30-16 upset of the Chargers, completing 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.Since being handed over the starting role three weeks ago over an ineffective Tyrod Taylor, Mills has gone 2-1 and completed 73-of-106 passes (68.9 percent) for 794 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception.

"We expected him to be where hes at at this point," Texans coach David Culley said Monday.

Not everyone was so sure after the third-round pick wasprematurely thrust into the starting lineup when Taylor injured his hamstring in Week 2. Mills struggled in some of those games as he adjusted to game speed and the game plans were limited as he got his feet under him.

"The way Ive grown in this offense, I feel like Im able to make smarter decisions and not force footballs into tight coverage," Mills said. "Our guys protected me up front so I was able to have time and see guys get open and then credit to the receivers for winning their matchups and getting open and allowing me to get the ball to them."

Mills' progress was never more evident than late in Sunday's upset when the Texans were trying to milk the clock and hold on to a 27-23 lead with less than three minutes remaining. On a first-and-10 at the Chargers' 13, Mills changed the play at the line of scrimmage, switching from a run to a pass and delivered a strike to fellow rookie Nico Collins for a game-sealing touchdown.

"Id like to say I was doing some of the same stuff earlier in the season, but I feel like Ive progressed a lot with stuff like that," Mills said. "How weve been playing recently, Im able to anticipate more pre-snap based on what were getting and based on what were expecting on certain downs and distances and situations in the game, so Im able to go out there in the game and really just take what the defense is giving us."

This was a lost season from the start, so the Texans' No. 1 objective was finding outif Mills is a guy they can count on at least in the short-term. So far, he's proven at least that much and shockingly looks like the second-best quarterback behind the Patriots' Mac Jones in a draft class that includes the highly touted No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, who has played poorly in Jacksonville.

"Hes a very mature guy and hes getting much better and much better the more he plays," Culley said.

That means the Texans can fill various needs in a quarterback-weak draft, and give Mills another year to develop and see if he can turn into a franchise quarterback. If Mills proves he's not that guy next season,then quarterbacks like Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud should be available in the 2023 draft.

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Davis Mills' progress will allow Texans to focus on other needs in draft - Chron

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