One week ago, the Houston Texans shocked everyone within the first 15 minutes of the 2023 NFL Draft. After selecting QB C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick, Houston jumped from No. 12 to 3 following a trade with Arizona to grab defensive standout Will Anderson Jr. But even before the picks were made, national media loved Stroud, Anderson and their fits with the Texans.
"With C.J. Stroud, to me, he could certainly fit that bill because he is the best pure passer in this draft," NFL Network's Rhett Lewis said of quarterback needs on the Deep Slant podcast. "Plain and simple. He throws the ball better than anybody on a consistent basis."
Stroud, who led the Buckeyes to a 21-4 record during his three seasons, will begin his NFL career in Texans OC Bobby Slowik's offensive scheme. After starting all 13 games for Ohio State last year, Stroud led the nation in pass efficiency rating in 2022 (177.7). Pro Football Focus' lead draft analyst Mike Renner praised Stroud's accuracy and liked the pairing of the young quarterback with Slowik.
"I think in the system you're bringing over from San Francisco, Bobby Slowik's offense, I don't expect it to be too dissimilar from what the 49ers run," Renner said. "And if you look at his tape at Ohio State in his best season, 2021, when he really had statistically lit it up, he was working the middle of the field. He was hitting guys over that area where the 49ers offense lives, like it's play action and it's get right in behind those linebackers. You know that's why Jackson Smith-Njigba, the slot receiver for Ohio State, why he put up so many numbers is because Stroud was very comfortable going to him between linebackers, between safeties hitting those type of windows. That's just the type of quarterback he is."
Predictions for the Texans' first round picks varied widely with many experts torn between mocking a quarterback or defensive player to Houston at No. 2 and No. 12. A successful draft for the Texans would have to include playmakers on both sides of the ball, Lewis predicted.
"I want the cornerstones of your franchise here, right," Lewis said. "So to me, take the quarterback at (No.) 2, take the best defensive player available to you at No. 12 and you're setting yourself up for the next decade on both sides of the ball. That's what I feel like. This draft really represents that kind of opportunity."
Little did anyone know, the Texans wouldn't have to wait until the 12th pick. With the very next selection, the Texans added Anderson, who earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year in two of this three seasons at Alabama. He played in all 41 games and recorded 205 total tackles (115 solo), including 62 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks, five passes defensed, one interception for a touchdown and one forced fumble.
"You've seen the productivity at the highest level in college football at Bama in the SEC over the last two years," Lewis said. "So he's got a great body of work and just feels like the type of player that you can hang your hat on the defensive side of the ball. You can count on that player week in, week out."
Anderson's play earned him a list of awards and recognition during his time at Alabama including the Bednarik Award (2022), the Lott IMPACT Trophy (2022) Nagurski Trophy (2021-22), Unanimous All-American (2022) and many more.
Lewis made an analogy comparing Anderson to another Houston athlete garnering national awards, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
"I talk about this analogy a lot with my buddies, Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks on the 'Move the Sticks' podcast," Lewis said. "So with the first round pick, you got to hit a double. Now, double doesn't sound as sexy as a home run, okay? But you know what? Every now and then, an Altuve stand-up double works just fine. It puts you in scoring position and you're there and you're ready to at least, you know you've hit, you've found success. And to me, that's what Will Anderson feels like at No. 2 from Alabama."
To hear the full interviews with Stroud, Anderson and the drafted rookies, click here.
The Texans rookie minicamp will take place May 12-14 at the Houston Methodist Training Center.