CARDINALS CORNER

Texans heat index: Tracking the Cardinals’ other 1st-round pick in 2024 NFL Draft

Dec 7, 2023, 8:25 AM

Nico Collins celebrates in Week 13...

Nico Collins #12 of the Houston Texans celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The 2024 NFL Draft pick order gets closer to a resolution for the Arizona Cardinals.

Not only does the team have its own first-round pick, which is currently third overall behind a 3-10 mark, it also has the Houston Texans’ top pick in 2024 after a 2023 draft-day trade orchestrated by general manager Monti Ossenfort.

A potential top-10 pick has turned into anything but following a surprising season from rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and Co. under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.

Things can still change from now until the end of the year. There’s still a lot of football with five games left to play.

Here’s a closer look at where the Texans are currently and where they’re headed:

2024 NFL Draft order snapshot

The Texans scored in every quarter last week against a surprisingly improved Denver Broncos squad to take a 22-17 win on Sunday.

Stroud once again did his thing, throwing for 274 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-27 passing in the victory.

He did, however, snap his four-game streak of at least 300 yards passing.

That didn’t stop the rookie from surpassing Washington’s Sam Howell (3,466) for the league lead in passing yards with 3,540.

It wasn’t all positive for Houston, though, which saw rookie wide receiver Tank Dell go down with a fractured fibula that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

Dell paces the team in receiving touchdowns (seven) and is second in receptions (47), targets (75) and receiving yards (709).

With their win over the Broncos, the Texans now sit third in the AFC South and would hand over the 18th pick to the Cardinals if the season ended now.

The Falcons, Packers and Vikings would all be awarded a lower draft pick, despite having a better record than the Texans, due to those three teams being in a playoff position.

A look at where the Texans sit in the win-loss column, who’s around them and how the strength of schedules (SOS) stack up:

13. Buffalo Bills: 6-6 (.488)
14. Denver Broncos: 6-6 (.488)
15. Seattle Seahawks: 6-6 (.512)
16. Los Angeles Rams: 6-6 (.531)
17. Cincinnati Bengals: 6-6 (.566)
18. Houston Texans: 7-5 (.473)
19. Atlanta Falcons: 6-6 (.500)
20. Green Bay Packers: 6-6 (.471)
21. Minnesota Vikings: 6-6 (.510)
22. Indianapolis Colts: 7-5 (.475)

For those who followed along last week, there’s a noticeable change outside of the Texans dropping one spot.

Houston’s SOS fell from .481 two weeks ago to .473 this week, becoming one of the easiest schedules among the logjam of the 10 teams above.

The strength of schedule used as the tiebreaker — the lower percentage, the higher draft pick — is going to be a big number to watch as the season progresses.

There could be a hefty shakeup in the 13-22 range after this week.

Heat index: Temperature rising

Losing Dell is a brutal blow to what the Texans are building.

It’s not the end of the world, however, thanks to the emergence of wide receiver Nico Collins.

While Dell leads the Texans in touchdowns, it’s Collins and his six scores who lead in most every other statistical category.

That includes receptions (59), targets (85), receiving yards (991), catches of at least 20 yards (20), yards after catch (422) and first downs (39).

Noah Brown — if he can stay healthy — should also give Stroud another solid target to work with post-Dell injury.

Speaking of the QB, he fell one spot in the MVP odds, with FanDuel Sportsbook currently listing Stroud with +2500 odds, the eight-best in the league as of Tuesday.

The Texans’ remaining schedule

You might be thinking: Why is Houston still on the rise even though it lost a dynamic playmaker in Dell?

Simply put, the Texans’ remaining schedule features a handful of winnable matchups.

The Texans begin their final five-game stretch against a pair of 4-8 squads in the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.

They then meet up with the 7-5 Cleveland Browns that have quarterback questions before one last matchup against the Titans and a division showdown against the 7-5 Indianapolis Colts, who sit just ahead of Houston in the AFC South.

Given what we’ve seen out of Houston, a 3-2 finish is easily in the cards.

NFL Games to watch in Week 14

Texans-Jets won’t be the only matchup to keep tabs on this week.

A look at the others that could have an impact on Houston’s draft order moving forward:

– Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals
– Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns
– Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens
– Minnesota Vikings @ Las Vegas Raiders
– Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
– Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
– Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers
– Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins

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