HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans made a splash in the NFL draft Thursday night, getting their franchise quarterback by drafting C.J. Stroud at No. 2 and then trading with Arizona to get the third overall pick and beef up their defense with Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr..
The picks were greeted with elation from thousands of Texans fans who gathered in downtown Houston for a draft party featuring a rap concert Thursday night.
General manager Nick Caserio was quick to note that this was just one step on a long process.
“If the fans are excited, that’s great,” he said. “I think they’ll be more excited when we win games. We’re a long way away from playing our first game here in September.”
Stroud was a two-year starter for Ohio State, where he threw for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Buckeyes went 21-4. His 85 touchdowns over two seasons broke a Big Ten record held by Drew Brees.
“I know that it’s meant to be,” Stroud said. “And I know that, with this franchise, it’s going be something that I’m really going to take very, very seriously and I’m going to work my tail off to get some wins.”
Stroud joins a team that has failed to find a reliable quarterback in the two seasons since Deshaun Watson requested a trade before being traded 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.
Caserio wouldn’t say that Stroud or Anderson would move into the starting lineup right away.
“In the future days here they have to earn the respect and the trust of their teammates,” he said. “They haven’t really earned anything to this point and they’re certainly not entitled to anything.”
But he did rave about the signal-caller.
“C.J. was a really productive player,” Caserio said. “He’s a player that has an edge about him in a good way. He loves football, wants to compete, wants to be great, good size, comes from a good program.”
Stroud was asked about dealing with the expectations of being a franchise quarterback.
“I don’t believe in pressure,” he said. “I think you either do it or you don’t.”
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.
“He was a player we thought very highly of,” Caserio said. “And we knew he wasn’t going to last.”
Anderson was a three-year starter with the Crimson Tide, where he piled up 204 tackles, including 58 1/2 tackles for losses and 34 1/2 sacks, which ranked second on Alabama’s all-time list.
“It can’t say enough good things about Will just the person that he is, the human being that he is and his leadership,” Caserio said. “And unsolicited before the draft we received commentary about (him) and the praise was just incredible.”
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Anderson was the second player in history to win the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player twice. He also won the Chuck Bednarik Trophy given to the nation’s top defender and the Rotary Lombardi Award, given to the best lineman in college football, last season.
Houston is the first team to make two of the first three picks in the draft since Washington selected linebacker LaVar Arrington second and offensive tackle Chris Samuels third in 2000.
The 6-3, 218-pound Stroud becomes the third quarterback Houston has selected in the first round, joining Watson, taken 12th in 2017 and David Carr, the team’s first draft pick who was the top overall pick in 2002.
The Texans hired former player DeMeco Ryans to coach the team this offseason as they try to turn things around after winning just 11 games combined in the past three seasons.
Anderson is excited to play for Ryans, who also starred as a linebacker Alabama.
“I’m just super blessed, super excited to be a part of something so special and a part of a lot of great defensive minds that just share the same mindset and mentality,” Anderson said. “To go from one coach like coach Saban to another coach that was at ‘Bama and knows the process and knows the standard and has the expectation, that’s exactly what I needed.”