If you’ve been reading The Draft Network since day one (which you should have been), you’ve certainly read an article or two talking about how the top choice for a running back in this 2019 NFL Draft class has been cloudy for some time. That moment started when Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson went down with a knee injury.
Entering 2018, Anderson was the consensus No. 1 back on all four of Crabbs, Ledyard, Sikkema and Marino’s big boards. Following his knee injury (torn ACL), it was unknown what Anderson would do. Would he rehab and stay another year at OU, or would he go pro and hope the tape he’s already put out there would be enough for his draft stock despite the injury?
As of Thursday, Anderson let the world know he was going pro.
Boomer Sooner⚡️ pic.twitter.com/weW7REn7ra
— Rodney Anderson (@24RAnderson) November 1, 2018
Though Anderson’s contributing time has been short, it was absolutely sweet. In the 2017 season, his sophomore year, Anderson carried the ball alongside Heisman trophy winner, quarterback Baker Mayfield. Anderson rushed for 1,161 yards on just 188 carries for a 6.2 yards-per-carry average with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also had 281 receiving yards off 17 caches for five more touchdowns.
Anderson didn’t even really start to get carries until halfway through the Sooners’ 2017 season, either. He carried the ball just 22 times in the first five games, but after that exploded onto the scene. In his final eight games of the season, Anderson rushed for over 100 yards in six of them, including a 201-yard performance in the College Football Playoff against Georgia.
To start the 2018 season, Anderson rushed for 100 yards on just five carries in the team’s opening game against FAU before tearing his ACL the following week.
At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Anderson is the total package for the NFL. He has size, speed and strength. He’s a back who can win with both power and speed, and shows good balance through both. His vision as a ball carrier can be noted as spotty, at times, but whose isn’t? Not every running back picks the perfect hole every time, and Anderson has gained effectiveness through experience, which lends to an even higher potential in the NFL, as he becomes more experienced. Anderson has a knack for finding open space, whether through contact or speed, and once he gets into open space he’s a nightmare of a player to bring down, as he uses both power and explosiveness to his advantage.
The big problem with Anderson will be now his injury history. Anderson got playing time as a true freshman in 2015, playing in two games before a broken leg ended his season. The following year, Anderson had a neck injury that forced him to miss all of the 2016 season. In his lone healthy season, Anderson put up monster numbers and one heck of a highlight reel in 2017. But, then here in 2018, he once again missed most of the season suffering the worst injury of them all, a torn knee ligament.
Medicals will be everything for Anderson. On the field, he’s RB1 — no question. But, as they say, availability is sometimes the best ability, and that is especially true with a position that takes as much punished as running back. A first round player on the field whose draft stock is in jeopardy out of fear for how long he’ll hold up — perhaps the only hope for a first round back in this class.
As for what it means to Oklahoma, they seem to be doing just fine without him. Though they would certainly like a player of Anderson’s caliber still on their team every Saturday, quarertback Kyler Murray has that Sooners’ offense running up the scoreboard like they usually do. But, make no mistake, if Oklahoma were to make the College Football Playoff, they’d dearly miss Anderson in the backfield against the top schools from other conferences.