Sunday, April 30, 2023

Houston Texans 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Houston Texans? What are they saying about the Texans' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: B+

The Texans made the correct move to select Stroud as their next quarterback. Anderson could be an excellent edge -- and he will need to be to justify the heavy trade price tag. The trade up from No. 65 to No. 62 for Scruggs, though he's a solid player, struck me as a bit impatient, while the move up from No. 73 to No. 69 for Dell as a tough and quick slot/returner seemed more justified.

Horton is a good example of the kind of power end new head coach DeMeco Ryans used when he was defensive coordinator of the 49ers. I thought Hutchinson was a fourth- or early-fifth round value as a future No. 2 option. Ryans had to see a bit of his own instinctual play in To'oTo'o, for whom the Texans traded up from No. 174 to No. 167. Hill was an excellent seventh-round selection.

ESPN - Grade: B

After going a league-worst 11-38-1 over the past three seasons, this draft was Houston's chance to accelerate its rebuild and get the ship righted. With 12 total picks entering Day 1 -- tied for most in the league with Las Vegas -- including two in both Rounds 1 and 3, the Texans needed to find starters on both sides of the ball. They ranked near the bottom of the league in both offense and defense last season. Like the Panthers, they needed a face of the franchise, someone to build around.

That's why I was always confused by the rumblings they could pass on a quarterback at No. 2. Were they really going to trot out Davis Mills in Week 1 again? Sanity prevailed, and they took C.J. Stroud there. The stunner happened right afterward. Houston traded pick Nos. 12 and 33 plus first- and third-rounders in 2024 for pick Nos. 3 and 105. It then drafted top-ranked edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. (3), giving the team two of my top-five prospects overall. Normally, I'd say that's amazing for the Texans, but they gave up a ton to make it happen, as I wrote Thursday night. I don't expect them to compete for the AFC South title this season, which means that 2024 first-round selection could be a coup for the Cardinals. Ultimately, general manager Nick Caserio & Co. will talk about the prospects they added; but at this time next year, they could be in real trouble.

On Day 2, Houston reached significantly -- and traded up to do so -- for center Juice Scruggs, though I'm a fan of wideout/returner Tank Dell and what he could bring to this offseason. Give Dell the ball in space and let him score touchdowns. On Day 3, Houston added back a 2024 third-rounder in a deal with Philadelphia, which was a nice move. I also think linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (167) and wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson (205) could be solid finds.

This is another class that will hinge on what happens with the quarterback. And though I didn't love giving up the future draft capital, I do think Anderson has All-Pro potential. That's why I'll leave this as a B.

SI - Grade: A

The Texans are apparently tired of being a speed bump for good teams. Houston was ultra-aggressive in the first round, spending consecutive picks on Stroud and Anderson. If those two live up to expectations, the days of the Texans being a contender for the league's worst record are over. Houston also landed a local product in Dell, who despite being 165 pounds was incredibly productive with the Cougars, totaling 2,727 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns over the past two years. Scruggs is also a nice piece with potential, giving Texans fans reason to believe for the first time in years.

PFF - Grade: B-

Day 1: After a lot of speculation that they would pass on a signal-caller, the Texans ultimately select the second-ranked quarterback on the PFF big board. Stroud earned a 92.2 PFF grade in 2021, tying with Bryce Young, and he was the seventh-highest-graded player at the position this past season.

The Texans shock everyone and move up to No. 3 to select the top edge defender on the PFF big board. Anderson produced a PFF grade of 89.8 in 2021 and 83.6 in 2022 and racked up 207 total pressures in three years at Alabama. Houston lands a top player, but they pay a steep price.

Day 2: Scruggs comes off the board before Ohio State's Luke Wypler after producing 67.5 and 71.5 PFF grades in each of the past two seasons. The 138th-ranked player on the PFF big board, there's still plenty of development needed, and he is likely scheme dependent. He produced a 72.6 PFF run-blocking grade on zone plays and a 62.9 PFF grade on gap plays.

Dell recorded 928 receiving yards out of the slot in 2022, 10th in the nation, with his 19 missed tackles forced a top-25 mark. While he's undersized, he creates separation with ease and is extremely difficult to mirror in coverage. Houston adds another dynamic weapon for new quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Day 3: Houston traded down twice to kick off the day and still land a solid prospect at a position of need, as Horton is set to develop alongside No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr. Horton is a safety convert who has added a bunch of weight while maintaining plus athleticism. He posted pass-rush and run-defense grades above 70.0 in 2022.

To'oTo'o is a downhill, physical linebacker with a ton of big-game experience as a starter at Tennesee and Alabama. Much like Noah Sewell, To'oTo'o brings it in the run game but doesn't always diagnose well in coverage. He is a physical presence who isn't afraid of anybody. He'll bring solid on-field and intangible value to the to a Texans team that's trying to change its culture.

Hill is a safety who plays mainly in the slot and only gave up one touchdown in coverage this year after giving up six in 2021.

Fox Sports - Grade: B+

On paper, the Texans have one of the NFL's best draft classes at the top. They addressed several needs. Anderson was expensive to trade up for — Houston gave up five picks, including next year's first-round selection, to move up from No. 12 to 3 — but he might be the best overall player in this draft class, and the team gets to pair him with its potential quarterback of the future in Stroud.

USA Today - Grade: A

They wisely doused the pre-draft speculation by taking QB C.J. Stroud second overall and then made an expensive deal with Arizona to obtain the next selection for OLB/DE Will Anderson, perhaps the best player in this draft and an early front-runner for 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Second-round C Juice Scruggs and third-round WR Tank Dell should earn snaps quickly on a roster where they're largely there for the taking. And keep an eye on fifth-round LB Henry To'oTo'o, a teammate of Anderson's at Alabama. Despite the cost for Anderson (four picks, including two first-rounders and one second), this should be the draft that will be remembered as the point which Houston officially moved past the specter of former QB Deshaun Watson.

The Ringer - Grade: B+

The Texans came out of the first round with my two top-ranked players in Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., and while both could turn into foundational players long term, Houston paid a very, very steep price. Houston gave up no. 33 in this draft, plus their 2024 first rounder (and other future late-round picks) in order to move up 10 spots from no. 12 to draft a non-quarterback in Anderson. That's a huge gamble for a team that won just three games last year—and Houston runs the risk of giving up a top-10 pick in next year's talent-packed draft. The rest of the draft was a mixed bag. After adding Penn State center Juice Scruggs in the second round, Houston looked to give Stroud more help in the form of 165-pound Houston receiver Tank Dell. I wasn't a big fan of this pick, considering the bevy of receivers I had ranked higher who were still on the board at the time. I did like the team's addition of Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o in the fifth round; he'll give the Texans an experienced playmaker at the linebacker position.

Sporting News - Grade: A-

The Texans have a floor after going 2-3 to get Stroud as the cornerstone passer and pass-rusher of their promising rebuild under DeMeco Ryans and Nick Caserio. Scruggs was a reach in relation to Patterson up front, but Dell filled another offensive need minus Brandin Cooks and Hutchinson also fits the new passing scheme. Reuniting Anderson with To'oTo'o made sense for Ryans, a former Alabama star.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B

Stroud was my QB1, so no argument with getting him with the second overall pick the Texans had. Trading up (and giving up a lot) for Anderson is a suspect move, though Anderson does seem to have everything to transform Houston's defense as Stroud can do for the offense, and I'm not going to tell DeMeco Ryans what to do with his defensive players. Scruggs seems like a massive overdraft based on his tape, but I love the idea of Tank Dell in Bobby Slowik's offense. Skowik is from the Kyle Shanahan tree, and Dell seems like a total Shanahan "creative gadget" receiver, so there you go.

The steal of this draft, though, is Xavier Hutchinson in the sixth round. No clue how he lasted this long, but he's a potential WR1 in the NFL with speed, route awareness, and nuance to get open in contested situations.

The Texans have gone through a lot in the Bill O'Brien and Jack Easterby eras. They needed a solid draft with franchise-defining players up top, and the fact that they did that is a positive step. But Will Anderson Jr. had better be something else...

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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