Davis Mills was handed arguably the toughest spot of all rookie quarterbacks in the 2021 season when he was selected by the Houston Texans. David Culley’s men were expected to finish bottom of the NFL standings amid a drain of talent at the franchise.
Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson was not going to play for the entire 2021 season amid off-the-field issues. Both the offense and defense of the team were stripped back to the studs amid a rebuild conducted by new general manager Nick Caserio after the failings of former head coach Bill O’Brien.
Veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor was expected to start, but an injury gave the opportunity to Mills to slot into the team in relief. Although the Texans struggled to win games, Mills was on point throughout the term, despite the lack of talent around him. He finished the 2021 campaign with 16 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and a 2-9 record in his 11 starts. The Texans are backed in the NFL odds at 80/1 to win the AFC Conference, the biggest price available, suggesting that the bookies are tipping them to struggle once more. However, the development of Mills could tip the balance, while the Texans are beginning to make solid moves to rebuild the franchise.
Houston received a significant haul of draft picks for Watson from the Cleveland Browns, including their first-round pick in the 2022 Draft. The Texans now have the firepower to put rising talent around Mills on offense, or stock up on options for their defense as new head coach Lovie Smith seeks to put his stamp on the team after replacing Culley.
Mills could be the gem that binds a successful run together in the future. Among the promising players selected in the first round of the 2021 Draft, the team can count on Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Mac Jones. Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond were also taken above Mills. Perhaps only Jones outplayed Mills over the course of the 2021 season, while in their duel against one another when the Texans faced off against the New England Patriots, Mills outplayed Jones putting 312 yards and three touchdowns on Bill Belichick’s defense.
Mills had plenty of low moments over the course of the season, but he defeated Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 12 for his first win and followed that up with a triumph over Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers. The 23-year-old ended the season with a three-touchdown performance against the Tennessee Titans, who finished as the number one seed in the AFC Conference.
With greater talent around him as well as a developing rapport with Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Chris Conley, Mills has the opportunity to take a major step forward in his sophomore season. If Houston can add speed in their receiving corps and backfield to further ease the burden on Mills, it will only benefit the franchise in the long term. In ten years we could be looking back at the 2021 Draft saying that the Texans got a steal with Mills in the third round.