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Texans select Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud with No. 2 overall pick; trade up for Alabama's Will Anderson at No. 3 overall in 2023 NFL Draft

After weeks of speculation that the Houston Texans might go a different direction, they found their quarterback after selecting Ohio State's C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

And then they swung up for the No. 3 pick, too, taking Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. It was a dramatic, early takeover of the draft by general manager Nick Caserio and the Texans' front office.

To move up, Houston sent the Arizona Cardinals the No. 12 and No. 33 overall picks in this year's draft plus first- and third-round picks in 2024. The Texans also received pick No. 105 as part of the deal. The Cardinals quickly continued to their draft-day moves, packaging the No. 12 pick to move up to No. 6 to select OSU offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr.

The Texans were coy about their plans at No. 2 leading up to the draft, leaving the door open that they could take a pass rusher or possibly go another direction. But at the end of the day, their desire to upgrade the QB talent likely trumped the other possibilities.

Stroud figures to get a chance to start right away for the Texans, who also have Davis Mills, Case Keenum and E.J. Perry on the roster. Mills has started 26 games for Houston the past two seasons, with a 33:25 TD-to-INT ratio and a 5-20-1 mark as a starter. Keenum returned to Houston after starting his career there in 2013, but he has been on seven different rosters since then and has started only two games over the past three seasons combined.

A two-year starter at OSU, Stroud posted 8,123 yards and 85 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions en route to back-to-back Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. The Buckeyes compiled a 21-4 record with Stroud under center after he redshirted behind Justin Fields in 2020. In 25 starts the past two seasons, the QB averaged 324.9 yards passing with 3.4 passing TDs per game.

There had been discussion in recent days over Stroud's scores in the S2 Cognition test, which he responded to on Wednesday.

Stroud is a smooth passer with excellent accuracy from the pocket. His ability to anticipate throws and layer the ball to any area of the field provides him with a solid floor at the NFL level. Boasting ideal size at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Stroud is a distributor who can win pre-snap and is a good decision-maker, able to identify holes in the defense.

While he's a solid athlete, Stroud showed reticence at times to use his legs. Part of that reluctance stemmed from often having a clean pocket, and with an all-star cast at receiver, OSU didn't need to unlock that part of his game to be successful. However, he showed against Georgia in the College Football Playoff that he's more than capable of scrambling -- forcing three missed tackles -- when needed. Pivoting to the NFL, will that dominant Peach Bowl performance be a one-off, or was it a sign of the tremendous upside Stroud brings to the pros?

Stroud's bread and butter is dominating from the pocket with good footwork and beautiful, tight spirals. His ability to drop the ball in the bucket on deep passes and calibrate on short throws makes him a pro-ready prospect. One knock on the 21-year-old is he needs to speed up his processing -- like most young QBs -- and he too often locked onto his primary targets in college.

He'll also be playing in Houston for a first-year head coach (DeMeco Ryans) and a first-year offensive coordinator (Bobby Slowik). Stroud arguably had better weapons at Ohio State than he currently does with the Texans. But he possesses the type of low pulse and excellent touch and placement of his passes that could make him a respectable performer from the get-go.

Anderson was a menace off the edge for the Crimson Tide, generating 34.5 sacks in 41 games. His ability was evident from the jump, starting as a true freshman under Nick Saban on his way to compiling 204 tackles over three seasons.

At 6-foot-3, the long, athletic edge rusher boasts power and speed off the edge, owning the ability to zip around offensive tackles or run through blockers. Anderson wrecked opposing backfields, generating 58.5 tackles for loss.

With an explosive first step and burst to close, Anderson earned back-to-back unanimous All-American honors while taking home the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the best defensive player in college football in 2021 and 2022. Anderson also won two straight SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards to close his dominant run at Alabama.

If there is one thing to quibble with in Anderson's game as he moves to the NFL, it's his ability to get off blocks after his initial rush move.

Anderson projects as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate off the bat for Houston as a twitchy edge rusher who can turn speed into power and should find immediate success in the NFL.

The Texans had big needs on both sides of the ball, and specifically at quarterback and edge. Within the first three picks of the 2023 NFL Draft, they've found a way to address both.

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