Former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was the Heisman Trophy winner in 2021, and last season it was Caleb Williams of USC. However, the best player in college football over the last two years was Crimson Tide Will Anderson Jr. Obviously, quarterbacks play such an important position and will always receive recognition and awards, but Anderson was certainly the most impactful.
During his time in Tuscaloosa, Anderson was a College Football Playoff National Champion, two-time Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and a two-time Unanimous All-American selection. Despite only playing for Coach Nick Saban for three years, Anderson wrapped up his collegiate career with a staggering 204 total tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss, and 34.5 sacks. In 2021 alone Anderson posted 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss which placed him fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. One of the higher finishes by any defensive player in recent memory.
If not for the premium placed on the quarterback position in the NFL Draft, Anderson would have been easily the first pick overall. Anderson was taken No. 3 overall in this past draft by the Houston Texans and is quickly becoming one of, if not the best players on their roster. Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is also a former member of the Crimson Tide and knew that a Nick Saban-bred guy is the exact type of player he wants calling his defensive shots.
Through the first two preseason games, Anderson has been far and away the most impactful player drafted in the first round with a minimum of 20 snaps. Anderson has earned a preseason grade of 92.4 with former USC wide receiver Jordan Addison coming in at second with a grade of 84.5, so the gap is really quite substantial. Anderson is so talented that he is the type of guy who could make a Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie.
The highest-graded first round rookies this preseason | min. 20 snaps 👀 pic.twitter.com/AF1myeZTGT
— PFF (@PFF) August 22, 2023