2019 RB Class Shifts Following Rodney Anderson Injury

Photo: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There's nothing worse than a promising prospect who just can't stay healthy.

For Rodney Anderson, he wasn't quite there yet. He broke his left leg during a kickoff in his 2015 freshman season -- the bone was characterized as non-weight bearing, which is interesting. I know there are folks concerned that that left knee could have long-term structural issues -- but after a freak neck injury sidelined him in 2016, Anderson put together a strong, healthy 2017 season that could have built up a resume of health.

But in light of the news Oklahoma just released, we need to re-evaluate how likely it is that Anderson comes out for this year's draft -- and how valuable he'll be to the NFL.

Sunday night, the Sooners announced that Anderson would miss the 2018 college football season with a knee injury. No further details were specified, but there is plenty of logical speculation that the running back tore major ligaments.

Anderson was the consensus RB1 on our All Draft-Eligible team, and nothing about his 5 carry, 100 yard, 2 touchdown game against FAU shook our confidence. In a rather inauspicious class, Anderson's athletic ability and vision shone as potentially elite.

With the announcement of Anderson's injury, the landscape of the running back class significantly changes -- as does the Oklahoma Sooners' offense.

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

Only one analyst didn't have Damien Harris as his RB2 on the aforementioned All-Draft Eligible team. The top rated senior RB in the class, Harris has excellent power and loves to initiate contact -- he rarely gets beat by first contact and can grind out a defense over four quarters.

In that Harris is a senior, his declaration this year is inevitable. He's shared time in every season with the Crimson Tide -- which won't change this season, with Najee Harris and Joshua Jacobs in the stable along with him. He'll enter the NFL with decently low mileage, great pedigree, and a good film profile -- as it stands today, he should be the favorite to be the first RB off the board if Anderson doesn't declare.

The junior backs

The junior class in 2019 holds some heavy-hitting names. David Montgomery. Travis Homer. Justice Hill. Tavien Feaster. Benny Snell. Damarea Crockett. Trayveon Williams.

How likely were these players to return to school? It would be surprising, giving how much the NFL values running backs without much wear and tear. But let's not forget: Bryce Love, Myles Gaskin, and even the titular Rodney Anderson all had nice Draft profiles last year, but elected to return to school.

But this class was already weak -- we should expect more than a few underclassmen to forgo a final season of eligibility to enter the Draft. Without Anderson, this class becomes even weaker. Expect some surprise declarations -- even following down seasons, for these players (and even redshirt sophomores).

Don't forget, that upcoming 2020 class of 'backs is absolutely fierce: Jonathan Taylor, A.J. Dillon, DeAndre Swift, Cam Akers, Travis Etienne, Trey Sermon -- and I'm sure I'm missing another 12 more. If I could avoid that class as a back, I would.

CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown

Do I expect the Oklahoma offense to become more pass-oriented across a Rodney Anderson absence? No -- not by design, at least. Kyler Murray is still the quarterback, and Trey Sermon, the sophomore back, has enough talent to keep the train chugging along.

But will Oklahoma be able to stay as ahead of the sticks without Anderson in the backfield? Or will they hit their characteristically explosive plays, without Anderson's stellar third-level running or downfield receiving ability? Other offensive weapons have to step up in a key player's absence -- that's what I'm expecting from Lamb and Hollywood.

Lamb exploded against UCLA for 7 receptions, 146 yards, and a touchdown. He's a catch-radius animal who wins a lot in the intermediate levels of the field -- and as a possession style receiver, he could be that stick-mover if Oklahoma deals with longer 2nd and 3rd downs.

Hollywood, on the other hand, is an explosive player receiver with his unbelievable speed. With his world-breaking speed, he might see more packaged plays that give him touches behind the line of scrimmage -- bubble screens and jet sweeps can imitate the effect of a running game, in terms of predictable 4-5 yard gains.

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Deputy Editor of Bleeding Green Nation. Undergrad at UChicago.