DOLLARS AND SENSE

Why the price to draft Will Anderson Jr. is not as steep as it seems for Texans

Why the price to draft Will Anderson Jr. is not as steep as it seems for Texans
The Texans spent a lot of draft capital on Will Anderson Jr. Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans stole headlines last Thursday when they traded up just moments after selecting Ohio State quarterback CJ. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick to take Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. at No. 3 overall.

Houston came away with potentially its franchise quarterback and arguably the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft. Despite the shocking move, however, there were some concerns raised about the price the Texans paid to trade up. While at first glance, the cost to move up is eye-popping, here is why it might not be as expensive as it may seem.

Houston traded its No. 12 and No. 33 overall picks in the 2023 draft and also included its own first-round pick and a third-round pick in the 2024 draft.

In exchange, the Texans landed the No. 3 overall pick that was used to take Anderson, and they also got an additional 2023 fourth-round pick, No. 105 overall, from the Arizona Cardinals. Houston later traded that fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2024 third-round pick.

When it was all said and done, the Texans essentially swapped the No. 12 pick to move up to No. 3 and the main cost was giving up their second-round pick (No. 33) and their own first-round pick for next season. The third-round pick Houston obtained from Philadelphia helps minimize the one it gave to Arizona.

The Texans losing their first-round pick is also mitigated by the fact they still own the Cleveland Browns’ 2024 first-round pick from the Deshaun Watson trade.

The biggest cause for concern for Houston is that despite still holding the first-round pick from Cleveland, its own first-round pick that now belongs to Arizona could be a really high selection in 2024.

While that is a valid concern, if both Stroud and Anderson turn out to be home run picks that Houston’s staff envisions they will be, the chances the Texans remain a bottom team in the NFL are reduced.

At the end of the day, what will determine if the Texans paid too much of a price to move up in the 2023 draft will be determined by two factors that are closely linked. The first is how good Houston is during the 2023 season.

The trade sort of becomes a bet, and general manager Nick Caserio and head coach DeMeco Ryans are doubling down that the team has its cornerstone players with Stroud and Anderson. The better Houston does, the less expensive giving up its own first-round pick becomes.

With the Texans residing in the AFC South, being a competitive six-to-eight win team is not that far out of the realm either. Houston, with all the holes it had on the roster, defeated all three AFC South opponents in 2022.

Add in the fact that the Cleveland Browns play in the much tougher AFC North that features the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, and it shouldn’t be too shocking if this time next year the Browns’ pick is higher than Houston’s.

The second factor that will determine whether Houston paid too much to move up comes down to the play of Anderson. With Ryans at the helm, it is no doubt he had a big influence in the Texans’ decision to pursue the Crimson Tide player.

If Anderson develops into an every down impact player and a Pro Bowler year in and year out, no one will remember the price Houston paid to take him. The better he does, the more likely the Texans will find success on the field as well.Ultimately, the Texans are going all in, and only time will tell if the payout will be a jackpot.

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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