Five carries. Five carries is all it took for Oklahoma’s Heisman hopeful running back Rodney Anderson to reach 100 yards on the ground in the Sooners’ first game of the season. After coming off a year where he ran for over 1,100 yards with 17 touchdowns, it looked like everything was going according to plan for Anderson to continue being one of the best running backs in all of college football in 2018.
But the following week everything changed.
They were just trying to run out the first quarter — that’s all they were trying to do. Just get a few yards, keep the drive going and head into the second quarter. Though the result of 10 yards on the ground was routine for a man like Anderson, the aftermath that followed was anything but.
Anderson tore his ACL just 11 carries into what would be his final season for the Oklahoma Sooners. As the consensus No. 1 running back in the class by all of The Draft Network’s analysts, this was suppose to be Anderson’s year; a year where he made his name known and put his past of injury demons behind him.
Instead the demons came back in the worst way.
Anderson has had several injury issues since his time at OU. He broke his left leg against Tennessee as a freshman in 2015, and in 2016 he broke a bone in his neck during a preseason scrimmage, missing the season.
Anderson’s 2017 season where he ran alongside Baker Mayfield all the way to the College Football Playoff ended up being the only healthy season Anderson has had in the last four years. Anytime you put that kind of wear and tear on a running back, the outlook is iffy at best when it comes to the NFL Draft.
But I’m here to remind everyone that just because his injury history will likely prohibit him from being a first round pick, don’t forget about Rodney Anderson in this class.
First of all we have to recognize what Anderson is in order to appreciate him fully.
Anderson is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound power back. Everything in his analysis as a player should start there. Don’t treat him like a one-cut back or something like that. He is a power back. Once you identify him correctly, then you can see other traits in his game that should really make him stand out — things not many power backs can do.
Anderson isn’t going to be the most laterally explosive or agile guy in this class (remember: he’s 220 pounds), but he does move pretty smoothly for a power back when it comes to getting north and south.
Stiffness and overall size show flexibility limitations from Anderson by nature, but the power in his legs is evident by how quickly he can accelerate, and the top speed in which he can maintain.
For a power back, both are quite alluring. He’s not going to beat some of these smaller running backs in a footrace or anything, but combining the speed and acceleration we see with the power he has to run through contact and break tackles gives him a leg up on most power backs — even ones in the NFL.
Anderson can get you the short yardage tough yards, and he can even surprise you by extending a few plays after contact if he can get upfield, but the icing on the cake for him is his receiving ability.
Anderson is a natural hands catcher, meaning he’s not one of those running backs that has to try to trap the ball against their chest to make catches. Anderson has more than a few plays where he is able to adjust to passes and catch the ball with arms fully extended naturally.
On top of having natural hands, Anderson shows a good understanding of route running concepts for running backs. Whether it’s routes inside like the one shown above, wheels routes up the sideline or seam routes up the middle of the field, Anderson has shown a good understanding of each concept as a receiver out of the backfield. That and his size to be a blocker make him an ideal third down back in the NFL.
I really don’t know what round Anderson will end up getting drafted in. Some teams will have him off their boards completely for medical reasons. But for the ones that don’t, taking a chance on Anderson in the early Day 3 range could make a lot of sense for a team that already has an established running back room that can afford to take a risk on a potential home run hit when Anderson heals up.