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Panthers vs. Texans: Who is Houston quarterback Davis Mills?

This rookie quarterback will be leading the charge against the Panthers suddenly impressive defense

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers string of luck continues in Week 3. After facing a highly touted rookie and an old friend at quarterback, the team now has the fortune to play against a third round rookie on a team that may actually be trying to tank their own season. The Houston Texans selected quarterback Davis Mills with the 67th overall pick, their first of the 2021 NFL Draft. Mills was chosen for his upside, with the idea that he could be a quarterback of the future. That future came early this season after Tyrod Taylor pulled a hamstring before a short week. So, who is Mills?

He is a supposedly athletic quarterback with tremendous arm talent. Scouting reports initially had him excelling on deep balls and touch throws along the sidelines. A five-star recruit out of high school, Mills went to Stanford. It was there his journey from top prospect to project began. He played in 14 college games, with only 13 as a starter. Injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic had a hand in his lack of experience. That was his first knock.

Next, film junkies in draft season started to raise questions about his accuracy. His arm strength was evident on tape, but he proved capable of sailing deep passes as often he was completing them. He also apparently struggles to connect on shorter passes, with one analyst saying that he is the “worst check down quarterback to ever play.”

Mills apparently, and unsurprisingly, is at his best when he works off play action and can have time in the pocket. That puts him in the exalted company of every other quarterback in football. However, in the preseason, Mills was graded by USA Today as having the most “uncatchable passes” of any rookie this year. Any judgement based off of the preseason always come with an asterisk, but it is relevant here as those snaps represent the bulk of his NFL playing time to date. Accuracy is a notable concern going forward.

That isn’t all to say that Mills is an awful or no upside quarterback. There is plenty to be liked about his game, but most of that comes with the caveat that he isn’t pro ready today. He is still a project. Battle Red Blog, our sister Texans community at SB Nation, did a deep film dive on him after the draft. Check that out if you want a detailed break down on who Mills is and how that might mesh with this Texans coaching staff. Or, just take a peek at their conclusion:

Mills isn’t a special individual. He’s a higher upside backup quarterback, someone who you can with in a pinch, but is too erratic, and isn’t a great enough athlete, to expect consistent professional production out of. Murdered by the law of averages. Mills will probably be another third round footnote.

The Panthers this week are facing a rookie quarterback who never played a full season of college. He has poor to average accuracy and works best in an environment that is free of pressure and chaos.

Y’all might read this and expect me to predict a feast for Phil Snow and his hungry defense and y’all would be very wrong. The Panthers are playing a relatively unknown talent on national television in prime time. I assure you that the only thing I know about this game is that the Panthers reputation for falling flat on the biggest stages and in the easiest games is about to be well and truly tested.