Texans build for future in NFL draft with Stroud, Anderson

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HOUSTON (AP) — The day after C.J. Stroud was taken with the second overall pick in the NFL draft, the quarterback raved about the job Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio did to not only get him but to trade up to nab outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. at No. 3.

“Shout-out to Nick,” Stroud said. “You’re doing a great job.”

Caserio looked sheepish amid the praise and had a simple message for Stroud.

“Just play well,” Caserio said. “That’s all.”

Many pundits believe the Texans won the 2023 draft with the addition of Stroud and Anderson. But Caserio won’t pat himself on the back until those two help Houston turn things around after the team won just 11 games combined in the last three seasons.

“We’re not going to solve anything in one draft, one player, one night,” Caserio said. “It’s going to take a series of actions over time with the right people, with the right mindset that believe in the things that we’re doing, that believe in what we’re trying to build, and then hopefully that will manifest itself on the field when we actually do play.”

Stroud is poised to become the franchise quarterback Houston has lacked since Deshaun Watson requested a trade before being dealt to the Cleveland Browns. Davis Mills has started most of the last two seasons, going 5-22-1 in 28 games with 26 starts as the Texans were among the NFL’s worst teams.

“His toughness, his competitiveness, his leadership, his accuracy, those are all strengths of his,” Caserio said of Stroud. “But there’s certainly things that he’s going to have to work on.”

Stroud, who was a two-year starter at Ohio State, isn’t daunted by the pressure of being the face of the team and the player expected to lead Houston back to respectability.

“I know that it’s special,” he said. “I know I’m going to treat it like my baby. The city of Houston hasn’t seen a franchise quarterback in a long time and that’s something that I hope I become ... but right now I’ve got to put in the work.”

First-year coach DeMeco Ryans beamed as he discussed not only getting a talented quarterback, but also a linebacker from Alabama, his alma mater.

“First emotion, to get C.J., I was elated,” Ryans said. “Once we were able to seal that deal and get Will, I was over the moon. I couldn’t have been happier, smiling, just being able to get both of these guys was outstanding.”

Stroud threw for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as the Buckeyes went 21-4 in games he started. His 85 touchdowns over two seasons broke a Big Ten record held by Drew Brees.

Anderson was a three-year starter with the Crimson Tide, where he piled up 204 tackles, including 58 1/2 for a loss, and 34 1/2 sacks, which ranked second on Alabama’s all-time list. He was the second player in history to win the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player twice.

He's thrilled to be playing for Ryans, who was a linebacker in the NFL for 10 seasons, including his first six with the Texans.

“I’ve always had a head coach that I shared the same mentality with,” Anderson said. “So when I came here and I talked to coach Ryans, I was like: ‘I’ve got to be here.’ The same exact mindset, the same mentality, what he’s trying to preach, everything. That’s what I’m all about, and that’s what I want to do.”

The Texans traded the 12th and 33rd picks in this year’s draft and a first- and third-round pick next year to the Cardinals to trade up to nab Anderson. Houston also received the 105th pick in this year’s draft in the deal. The 12th pick the Texans sent to Arizona was part of the deal for Watson.

After getting a star on both sides of the ball in the first round, the Texans added Penn State center Juice Scruggs in the second round and Houston Cougars receiver Tank Dell in the third.

Scruggs could start immediately at center after Justin Britt retired after a 2022 season where he spent most of the year on the reserve/non-football illness list. The team was looking for depth at receiver after trading veteran Brandin Cooks to Dallas in March.

On Saturday, Houston added TCU defensive end Dylan Horton in the fourth round and Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o in the fifth.

They wrapped up the draft by picking Notre Dame center Jarrett Patterson and Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchins in the sixth round and Pittsburgh safety Brandon Hill in the seventh.

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