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Davis Mills making Houston Texans’ QB decision tough for 2022

Andrew Buller-Russ
Davis Mills
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

When the Houston Texans selected Davis Mills in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, few expected him to be the quarterback of the future. No, fans were used to seeing Deshaun Watson lead the team, a player that had been in the spotlight since winning a National Championship at Clemson in 2016.

Although it didn’t happen until the second day, Mills was the franchise’s first selection in April. It had already been assumed that Watson would not play for the Texans this season, but the team had Tyrod Taylor seemingly entrenched as the starter.

So, who was this little-known Stanford product who didn’t exactly light up defenses in his 13 starts in college? The NFL got their first taste in Week 2 when Taylor suffered a hamstring injury.

Mills would then start the next six games, including an ugly 40-0 shutout in which he threw four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills. It was a dreadful performance against one of the NFL’s best defenses. But in his very next start, something changed.

Davis Mills makes history against Bill Belichick’s Patriots

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

While Davis Mills had been struggling, suddenly he woke up and had a brilliant performance against Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense of all matchups. Typically, first-year signal-callers struggle against Belichick’s squads, not Mills. He became the first rookie quarterback to have a 300-yard, 3+ TD passing performance against a Belichick-coached team.

Suddenly, there was hope. But it didn’t last long. After three more starts, Taylor was ready to return from his hamstring injury, relegating Mills back to a backup role. Even Taylor didn’t last long in the starting lineup, looking no better than Mills among a cast of misfits.

After Mills replaced Taylor during a Week 13 shutout to the Indianapolis Colts, head coach David Culley announced Mills would be the team’s starter for the remainder of the 2021-22 football season.

Mills immediately responded with a 331-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14, completing 67.3% of his passes.

Davis Mills leads Houston Texans on a winning streak

After gaining some confidence against a weak Seahawks secondary, Mills went head-to-head with the top pick in the 2021 draft. In battling Trevor Lawrence, Mills was actually able to come out ahead, throwing two touchdowns to Brandin Cooks to seal the deal.

Mills doubled down the following week, taking on one of the best quarterbacks from the 2020 draft class in Justin Herbert. While the Chargers aren’t a measuring stick for good defensive play, scoring 41 points in the NFL is no easy task, even if it was mainly inspired by the ground game.

Compared to other 2021 rookie QBs, Davis Mills fits right in

Aside from having a proven receiver with five 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, one could argue the Texans have provided Mills with even less to work with than any other rookie quarterback, even if it’s not by much.

If you were to ignore where they were selected and the names of the players, it would be tough to say who was selected first overall, and who fell to the third round. While each of these respective players has a long way to go in their careers, Davis Mills is off to a fine start.

67.2% completion rate3,313 passing yards18 TD12 INT9 wins/15 starts
58.7% completion rate3,225 passing yards9 TD14 INT2 wins/15 starts
66.6% completion rate2,200 passing yards12 TD9 INT2 wins/9 starts
56.7% completion rate2,013 passing yards7 TD11 INT3 wins/11 starts
58.9% completion rate1,870 passing yards7 TD10 INT2 wins/10 starts
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference

For the record, each of the players are in this order:

  • Mac Jones, New England Patriots, selected 15th overall
  • Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars, selected 1st overall
  • Davis Mills, Houston Texans, selected 67th overall
  • Zach Wilson, New York Jets, selected 2nd overall
  • Justin Fields, Chicago Bears, selected 11th overall