The Houston Texans made the right call by taking C.J. Stroud but what about the other rookies? Which one was the second-best option for the Texans? That's a solid question, as there were nine quarterbacks this year who made their NFL debut, including Stroud.
There were the first-rounders, Bryce Young, the first overall pick that went to the Carolina Panthers. Stroud, the second pick, who went to your Houston Texans, and Anthony Richardson who went fourth to the Indianapolis Colts. Then we had the second-round pick in Will Levis, who ended up with the Tennesee Titans. Aiden O'Connell was picked by the Las Vegas Raiders in the fourth round, while the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings selected Clayton Tune and Jaren Hall in the fifth round.
Lastly, the Chicago Bears and New York Giants signed Tyson Bagent and Tommy DeVito respectively as undrafted free adults. So clearly, we had a pretty diverse list of quarterbacks out there.
Let's be honest though, not all of the players should be considered for the next best option to Stroud. Firstly, Bagent and Tune didn't play well at all. They're not in consideration. Richardson only played a small portion of the season, so it's not going to be him, as we don't know how he would've done across 17 games.
That leaves Young, Levis, O'Connell, and DeVito. Now, we're not looking so much at long-term expectations, just simply off the idea of their rookie year, who we would've taken after Stroud.
So with that, the first cut is Young. He had eight touchdowns in his first seven games, that's true. He also had three touchdowns over his last nine. You can say that he had no one to throw to, but the same was said about Stroud's arrival in Houston. He elevated the play of those around him, Young did not. So Young's out.
Levis has a high upside, as he's a great runner, but he bunches his touchdowns all together and isn't consistent. He scored six touchdowns in his first four games and then had three more over his last five. He, like Young, may stand out eventually but as a rookie, no thanks.
That leaves us DeVito and O'Connell. Now, DeVito had the best big-play potential of anyone not named Stroud, as he was a walking highlight for a while but he was highly inconsistent and eventually got benched. So we're going to pass on him. So believe it or not, it's O'Connell that we think had the second-best rookie season.
He got better as the season continued, throwing four touchdowns to seven interceptions in the first seven games, but then having eight touchdowns over his last four, where he went 3-1 down the stretch to not only put his name in contention to start next season but was a major factor why the Raiders picked Antonio Pierce, O'Connell's interim head coach, to be the full-time head coach in 2024.
O'Connell has promise and hopefully the Raiders nurture that.