2 undeniable x-factors that will determine success for Texans prized rookie
Will Anderson Jr. feels ready to make the jump from college football to the NFL and a big reason for that is because of how he was prepared with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“It just kind of makes me versatile,” Anderson told reporters over the weekend. “I am very excited. However they want to use me is just going to be anything I kind of did at Alabama, so you know, I am super excited.”
With the Texans trading up to select Anderson at No. 3, there will be a lot of eyeballs on his performance throughout the season. While every player is different, and there are various factors that will go into it, there will be a certain level of production that is going to be expected from the top prospect during the 2023 season.
But what exactly could be deemed successful for Anderson’s rookie campaign?
Anderson is going to be utilized as a true defensive end by the Texans. While with the Crimson Tide Anderson spent most of his time prior to snaps on two feet, he will be starting plays in three-point stances oftentimes with Houston, head coach DeMeco Ryans mentioned during his weekend availability with media.
While the change in itself will be an adjustment for Anderson, it is not going to be enough to temper expectations for Houston fans.
The last high draft pick the Texans took at defensive end was in 2014 when they selected Jadeveon Clowney as the No. 1 overall pick. Clowney didn’t have the best rookie season as he played in only four games and tallied just seven total tackles.
Whether fair or not, the chatter around the No. 1 overall pick following his rookie year revolved around his inability to stay on the field, and it was something Clowney was never truly ever to shake off during his tenure with the Texans.
In comparison, when Houston took J.J. Watt No. 11 overall in 2011, he played all 16 games. He tallied 56 total tackles and 5.5 sacks, and he was considered a key piece in Houston’s top defense that year as the Texans clinched a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history.
Looking at last year’s draft, the No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker had 3.5 sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Detroit’s top pick, No. 2 overall selection Aidan Hutchinson, had 9.5 sacks for the Lions in 2022.
Hutchinson was in the conversation for the 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year while Walker was not.
Heading into 2023, most Texans fans will want Anderson to be in the 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation if not the outright winner because of the draft picks the team gave up to select him. That is one factor to consider when deeming his rookie season a success.
Anderson will be compared to other defensive ends in the draft including the Las Vegas Raiders’ Tyree Wilson and Philadelphia’s Jalen Carter. When the 2023 season is all said and done, there will be two factors that determine the success of Anderson’s season — impact and availability.
Expecting 9.5 sacks for Anderson on a defense that struggled to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2022 might not be the best watermark to gauge the success of a rookie season. Again, Watt had 5.5 sacks his first year in the league.
A number anywhere between four and eight sacks should be considered a success, especially if he is impacting opposing offenses on a consistent basis, whether it be with tackles for loss, batted passes and quarterback hurries.
For Anderson himself, the focus is on being intentional with his moves, swarming to the ball and having a relentless mindset, he said. Anderson wants to hone his go-to moves, footwork, and hand placement.
“There is no pressure,” Anderson said. “Just come in here and be you, have fun, bring energy and just be together. I think that is the biggest thing that they harp on that I am understanding, is that there is no pressure. You’ve been playing football all your whole life. You are just going out there and doing what you like to do.”