Is Will Anderson worth the Houston Texans deal?
We already know the Texans believe he is, so let’s convince ourselves.
For starters, Anderson is the best edge prospect we've seen in two years and more accomplished than any other edge in the last four years. Anderson produced a PFF grade of 89.8 in 2021 and 83.6 in 2022. Per PFF, 81% of the time Anderson rushed the passer he ended that play with either a TFL, sack, QB hit, or QB pressure. That means four out of every five plays, Anderson made an impact. Statistically speaking, the Crimson Tide star racked up 207 total pressures in three years at Alabama.
Historically, edge defenders who fill up the stat sheet in college tend to do the same in the pros. While I do not expect Anderson's numbers to mirror his college numbers, a drop-off would still be an incredible rookie year. Somewhere in the six to eight sacks range would be a very successful rookie season along with being the Texans' leader for tackles for a loss, QB pressures, and all-around havoc.
Let's look at Anderson in a vacuum against other draft-eligible edge defenders. Had the Texans not traded up for Anderson, they would have had to select an edge a tier below, possibly with the 12th pick, or wait until next year’s draft. The 2024 class does not currently have a projected, bonafide, top-tier edge rusher like Anderson. To wait or select a non-blue-chip prospect for the position would have been a much more significant risk and slowed the rebuild by a considerable margin.
While we definitely liked edge defenders such as Lukas Van Ness, Nolan Smith, and Will McDonald; each of them comes with considerable question marks in either experience, size, or pure ability. Anderson started as a true freshman for Nick Saban's defense. He was the best edge defender in college football all three years that he was there and played routinely against the best competition in football. Anderson also has the "it" factor as he played his best football in crunch time and in the playoffs.