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Houston Texans once again facing a top pick in draft without standout quarterback

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How many QBs will go in the first round of the NFL draft? (1:44)

Todd McShay isn't projecting any quarterbacks to be among the top 10 picks in the draft, but he believes there is plenty of first-round talent at the position. (1:44)

HOUSTON -- Before drafting Deshaun Watson in 2017, the Houston Texans spent most of their franchise history chasing a quarterback. Fifteen months after signing Watson through the 2025 season, though, here they are again.

Watson’s future in the NFL, as unclear as that even is at the moment, is not going to be in Houston. Facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, he has made it clear that he wants out. The Texans quarterback even went as far as trying to settle all 22 lawsuits before the Nov. 2 trade deadline so he could be traded.

Now, as the Texans (3-11) enter the 2022 offseason with what seems likely to be a top-four pick in the upcoming draft, they have to figure out how they want to go about finding a franchise quarterback -- preferably one as good as Watson, who Houston thought could lead them to a Super Bowl.

Houston still has an 11.1% chance of earning the No. 1 pick in the draft, according to ESPN’s FPI, though that would take a late-season surge (that means one win each) from the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions.

Since their first draft in 2002, the Texans have had five picks in the top 10, one of which was No. 10 and saw them take defensive tackle Amobi Okoye in 2007. Houston took David Carr in 2002 with the No. 1 pick and Andre Johnson at No. 3 the following year. In 2003, Carson Palmer went No. 1 overall and Byron Leftwich seventh.

Outside of those three instances, the only other two top-10 picks were No. 1 overall. Neither of those drafts -- 2006 or ‘14 -- had a consensus elite quarterback prospect in the draft.

That is again the case in 2022, as Houston prepares to have another top pick.

In 2006, the Texans chose defensive end Mario Williams from N.C. State. That year, the top quarterback in the draft was Vince Young, a Houston native who went No. 3 to the Tennessee Titans but made 50 career starts in the NFL. Next was Matt Leinart at No. 10 to the Arizona Cardinals, then Jay Cutler went 11th to the Denver Broncos.

Before the draft, then-Texans general manager Charley Casserly told reporters he would not be taking a quarterback, instead choosing between Williams and USC running back Reggie Bush, who had won the Heisman Trophy that year.

Then, in 2014, the last time the Texans had a pick in the top 10, Houston took pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 pick. He was the consensus top pick, clear even before a 2-14 Houston team had locked in the pick. The first quarterback taken that year was Blake Bortles, by 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 about potentially picking 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 drafted only one quarterback in the first two rounds. After the Texans failed with Carr, mostly because of their inability to protect him, Matt Schaub was a decent starter from 2007-13, though he never looked like a quarterback who could lead Houston to a Super Bowl.

Then, after three seasons of rotating veterans and unproven quarterbacks, general manager Rick Smith traded up from No. 25 to draft Watson with the 12th pick in 2017. After Watson’s rookie season, which ended with a torn ACL suffered in practice in the middle of the season, it was clear that Smith had finally ended Houston’s quarterback carousel and found the Texans’ franchise quarterback.

Smith left, and coach Bill O’Brien took control of personnel. When the Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio months after O’Brien was fired, reports immediately came out 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 toward the future, Houston drafted quarterback Davis Mills in the third round this year with its first pick of the draft under Caserio. Watson has been on the 53-man roster all season but has remained a healthy scratch.

The Texans did not have a first-round pick in 2020 or 2021, trading both to the Miami Dolphins in 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, has suffered because of a lack of protection as a rookie, though he has shown flashes this season. He will remain the starter this season if he can stay healthy.

Mills might even get most of the ‘22 campaign to audition, as well, since it appears the Texans won’t be able to solve their quarterback issues through the draft -- once again.

In 2021, the first three picks of the draft were quarterbacks -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance -- and Justin Fields and Mac Jones also went in the top 15.

For 2022, ESPN’s Todd McShay’s latest mock draft has five quarterbacks going in the first round, but the first one is at No. 12, at which point Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Texans have many holes they need to fill on both sides of the ball as they go through a rebuild, with only a couple of young players looking like they could potentially be part of a successful rebuild moving forward.

However, Houston should have at least one top-five pick in the draft, if they decide to keep it, to begin finding impact talent. Potentially trading Watson before the draft could give Caserio another top pick -- or at least one or more in the first round in this draft or in future drafts. Once again, though, as has been the case most times the Texans have found themselves at the top of the draft, that top-five pick likely would be wisely spent on someone who is not a quarterback.