In the first edition of the trade evaluation, we looked at the big draft day trade as if it was a trade for C.J. Stroud. A lot of people would naturally look at it that way for a number of reasons. For one, teams make that kind of bold move for quarterbacks a lot more often than for any other position. Secondly, we are fairly certain that the Houston Texans coveted Will Anderson Jr. from day one.
However, the trade will officially go down as a trade for Will Anderson Jr. since that is who was actually taken with the third overall selection. So, we can ask the same series of questions that we would ask about the quarterbacks. The first question is how rare of a prospect he is over a brief history of the draft. In order to evaluate that, we will look at the NFL.com draft grades for all defensive ends, outside linebackers, and edge rushers taken in the first round since 2014.
The second question is how often those picks end up working out. Naturally, “working out” is a nebulous term that could mean any number of things. So, we will define it as players that either have gotten a second contract or players that have been starters for the majority of their time and appear to be on pace to receive a second contract.
How rare is Will Anderson’s Talent?
The NFL.com site rates players on a scale from 5 to 8. Players at 7.00 or greater are seen as a Pro Bowl type talent. Players from 6.00 to 6.99 will either be an eventual starter all the way up to a day one starter. Players below 6.00 are seen as backups and special teams players at the next level.
Will Anderson Jr. Draft Combine Grade= 7.02
First Round Edge Mean (59)= 6.48
First Round Edge Median (59)= 6.70
So, unlike his teammate, Anderson is a bit ahead of the curve here. That makes perfect sense as he was a top five overall selection and here we are looking at the entire first round. While we will get to the top ten and top five guys, we should note that only six players have been given significantly higher grades as an edge defender (DE or OLB) since 2014. J.D. Clowney and Myles Garrett led the way with 7.50 grades in their respective seasons.
Will Anderson Jr. Draft Combine Grade= 7.02
Top Ten Overall Edge Mean (22)= 7.03
Top Ten Overall Edge Median (22)= 7.00
Top Five Overall Edge Mean (14)= 7.02
Top Five Overall Edge Median (14)= 7.00
This is a pretty tight distribution of scores and Anderson fits right in. The Jaguars bypassed two superior edge prospects to take Travon Walker. So far, we could consider it a hit because he started in year one, but Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson both had better seasons. Anderson was clearly the top guy on the board in terms of his profile as a prospect.
How successful are edge rushers?
In this case we are using the same criteria to evaluate edge rushers that we used to evaluate quarterbacks. How many would get a second contract? Obviously, some of these guys have already gotten a second contract and some we will just project to get a second contract based on what they have done already. For full disclosure, that involves players being a starter in all or most of the seasons they have been in the league.
First round Edge Rushers (excluding 2023)= 31 out of 55
Top ten overall Edge Rushers (excluding 2023)= 17 out of 20
Top Five Overall Edge Rushers (excluding 2023)= 10 out of 13
If you are being perceptive, you would notice that all of the top ten overall misses were actually top five overall misses. I’m not sure if that is a coincidence or if something significant is going on. Out of that group, Chase Young might still be a hit if he can be healthy this season. Solomon Thomas and Clelin Ferrell are still active, but are more or less part-time players at this point.
This is obviously different that the situation with quarterbacks. Edge rushers should be productive if they are taken in the top five or top ten. So, it probably won’t be enough for Anderson just to get a second contract. He needs to be really good. The top five guys taken in the top ten over the years include Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, Bradley Chubb, and Myles Garrett.
Myles Garrett— six seasons, four Pro Bowls, 74.5 sacks, 77 tackles for loss, 142 QB hits
Bradley Chubb— five seasons, four Pro Bowls, 28.5 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, 70 QB hits
Joey Bosa— seven seasons, four Pro Bowls, 60.5 sacks, 76 tackles for loss, 135 QB hits
Nick Bosa— four seasons, three Pro Bowls, 43.0 sacks, 56 tackles for loss, 106 QB hits
Khalil Mack— nine seasons, seven Pro Bowls, 84.5 sacks, 115 tackles for loss, 148 QB hits
Total— 31 seasons, 22 Pro Bowls, 291.0 sacks, 358 tackles for loss, 601 QB hits
Per Season- 0.71 Pro Bowls, 9.4 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, 19.4 quarterback hits
So, in a typical five seasons as a part of his rookie deal, this would have Anderson attending either three or four Pro Bowls, having 45 or 46 sacks, collecting between 55 and 60 tackles for loss and collecting between 90 and 100 quarterback hits. That might make him a successful top five edge defender, but would that be worth the trade? Let us know what you think in the comments.