The Houston Texans gave up a lot to trade up and draft Will Anderson Jr. last week. But at least Anderson is an elite prospect.
Anderson, a pass rusher from Alabama, was the top defensive player off the board in last week's draft. Not surprisingly, he's also the favorite to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Anderson has +350 odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at BetMGM. No other player is shorter than +600, giving Anderson a big gap in the odds.
We're about to find out if Anderson was worth what Houston gave up to draft him.
Odds for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
To get the third overall pick from the Arizona Cardinals (and a fourth-rounder from Arizona), the Texans gave up the 12th overall pick, a second-round pick (No. 33 overall), and a first- and third-round pick in 2024. That 2024 first-round pick could be very high in the draft; the Texans have one of the lowest projected win totals in the NFL this season.
The Texans are banking on Anderson's pass-rush ability. And he could thrive in DeMeco Ryans' defense. That's why Anderson leads the DROY odds:
Will Anderson Jr. +350
Jalen Carter +600
Tyree Wilson +700
Devon Witherspoon +900
Christian Gonzalez +1000
Lukas Van Ness +1200
Nolan Smith +1600
Emmanuel Forbes +1600
Jack Campbell +1800
All other players are +2000 or longer. Anderson has the clear lead in the odds but seeing so many players bunched up behind him is a sign of how wide open the race could be this season.
Anderson has an obvious path to the award, being a highly drafted player from a big college football program, with the ability to put up sack numbers that get voters' attention. Or perhaps it's a year in which someone down the odds can cash a big ticket.
Could a long shot win DROY?
Unlike offensive awards, the defensive awards get spread around different positions, particularly in rookie of the year.
Cornerbacks have had a decent run in the DPOY award. Sauce Gardner of the New York Jets won it last season. Cornerbacks have won three of the last eight DPOY awards. Off-ball linebackers have a little harder time winning it, though Shaquille Leonard (2018) and Luke Kuechly (2012) are recent winners.
The easiest path is still by rushing the quarterback. That's why Anderson is the favorite. A long shot like Denver Broncos linebacker Drew Sanders, whose versatility includes an enticing pass rush ability, could end up getting in the race if he collects enough sacks. Sanders is +2000 to win DPOY.
Right now, Anderson leads the race, at least in the odds. If he's able to live up to those expectations, the Texans will be pleased.