The draft is usually one of the most captivating events in the NFL because it is an event that hosts the best college players from the previous season that will be entering the league. But this year was different. While everyone was excited for players like Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker and Derek Stingley Jr., it still felt like a little something was missing. That something missing was Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson. Even though Anderson was only a sophomore, there was talk that he was the best player in college football and would have been the number one pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The phrase “can’t miss prospect” is usually saved for quarterbacks. But in this case, it’s used for an edge rusher in Anderson, and it is a testament to just how dominant he has been in just two years of football. Last year Anderson put up an impressive stat line that included 101 tackles and 17.5 sacks. Opposing offenses just don’t have an answer for him. That being said, studying the film – I thought the source of Anderson’s production as an edge rusher was rather interesting.
Since Head Coach Nick Saban arrived In Alabama, they’ve been known to have a rather complex scheme, but as the game has evolved offensively, defenses have had to adjust, too. I believe that the biggest wrinkle recently has been Anderson’s usage. He aligns primarily on the edge of the defense like most OLB/edge defenders, but instead of becoming that contain guy for the defense, Alabama puts him in position to attack. At the snap on more than half the reps, Anderson is either attacking the tackle in front of him to quickly defeat his block and make his way to the backfield, or he is crashing down into the B-gap to blow the interior of the offensive line up and become a pure disruptor. In this role, Anderson is a pure menace for offenses and it is very hard to account for him. Anderson’s combination of size, speed and strength in an attacking role is something that I’ve personally never seen before. Watching how a large portion of his production comes with this attacking style, I couldn’t help but compare it to traditional edge rush play and for how great Anderson is, there is still an element of his game that he can improve upon.
Projecting him to the NFL and predicting how successful Anderson will be in partly how teams will use him. If they continue to allow him to play the role that he plays now, I believe that Anderson will pick up in the NFL right where he leaves off in college. But if NFL teams ask him to play more of a contain role and win via beating the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, then I think there may be an adjustment period for Anderson to get back to the production that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him. He’s has shown the ability to win on the edge, but I think there are still moves he can add to his pass rush repertoire that will make him a complete edge player.
I’m intrigued to see what he has been working on this offseason. If he is able to refine his pass rush moves and add to his arsenal, I believe that Anderson can have an even more productive season, inching closer to the 20-sack mark. He should be able to go from the beginning of the season to the draft as the number one overall player.
- Jun 24, 2022
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