2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: Rodney Anderson
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 220
Eligibility: Red JR
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Evaluated by: Austin Smith
In 2017, Oklahoma seemed to have a different offensive weapon step into the spotlight every week. It is easy to give credit to Baker Mayfield for his sensational year but he had a lot of talented players around him, and perhaps no one more skilled than Anderson. He is a perfect example of why you can't judge a book by its cover. When you see Anderson walk on the field, you would think he is a bruiser with his six-foot one-inch, 220-pound frame. He has broad shoulders, and looks like the type of punishing runner that defenders struggle to get to the ground. However, Anderson has incredible feet and lateral quickness for a player his size, and that helped him run for 1,161 yards two years ago with 13 touchdowns. He did that while sharing the backfield, and let's not forget what Mayfield and the passing game were able to accomplish.
Still, Anderson made an impact as a receiver later in the season finishing with 17 reception, 281 yards, and another five touchdowns. With Mayfield and a few of the targets in the passing game gone, he was expected to take a bigger role this year but a familiar scenario wielded its ugly face. Anderson suffered another season-ending injury, with this one coming to his knee. Injuries are nothing new for Anderson, and heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, they will play a major role in assessing his draft stock.
As I said, Anderson is surprisingly elusive for a player his size, and can change direction fairly easy when moving at top speed. He runs with good balance, and once he gets going downhill, he is not easy to get to the ground due to that size. He also seems to have good running instincts and vision. It was impressive to watch the amount of times he was carrying the ball inside, just to find an escape route to get into the open field. There are times I'd rather see him lower his shoulder to maximize his yards, as opposed to attempting to change direction and go for the big play, but that can be coached out of him. The Sooners don't exactly line up in traditional running sets like they used to, but there are still examples of him following his blocks, and overall, he shows a good understanding of the blocking schemes in front of him. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield. He may not be very advanced as a route-runner, but he catches the ball fairly naturally, and turns into a playmaker once it is in his hands.
On the downside, I’d really like to see him run north and south more often. That isn’t always possible running out of the shotgun, but he doesn't exactly run with an intimidating manner in the first place. His athleticism may be good for his size but he is going to find more consistent success in the NFL lowering his shoulder on defenders and falling forward. The ultimate goal would be to set the tone early as a physical back, then when tacklers starting hesitating or showing up a step late, he can make them pay with his change of direction and explosion.
Like most backs, he still has a lot of room to develop in pass protection, but it will be vital for Anderson because of his ability to make plays catching the ball. If he offers the complete package on third downs, it can make it difficult for opposing coordinators to decide personnel and how to defend the offense. If not, his value decreases in a league consumed with putting the ball in the air.
You have to admire Anderson as a person. He has played on championship contenders since his high school days, and aspires to be great. He works hard, and holds himself to a high standard. Some may lose sleep over his litany of season-ending injuries (broken leg, broken bone in neck, knee injury), but Anderson has been a model of perseverance, and I don't expect that to change. There will be some investigating to do over a sexual-assault claim last season prior to the Rose Bowl, but charges were not filed due to what police called "verifiable evidence to support Anderson's innocence."
He also showed a mature patience while waiting behind Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine despite high expectations, and continued to get better when his health permitted it. He is a man of few words, but leads by example on and off the field, and often credits "faith, family, and friends" for his success.
Anderson has the look of an every-down back, but while 2017 was his breakout season, it was a shame we didn't get to see him in a bigger role last year. He has size, athleticism and instincts, and he is hungry. It is easy to see him as a first-round prospect, but with a limited sample size due to the injuries, I don't anticipate that being the end result. Limited experience is always a concern, injury-related or not, so teams will likely show restraint. The extent to how much he is able to do for scouts will interesting. Most prospects spend the months leading up to the draft trying to answer doubts about their game, but Anderson will be pushing just to be able to put together a full workout. Still, a full workout should show the kind of talent he possesses, and that should be enough to get him selected on day two.
NFL player Comparison
Between the skillset and the injuries, I can't help but see Matt Forte. At his best, Forte was one of the most complete running backs in the NFL, despite coming in a bigger package. He ran for over 900 yards each of his first seven seasons, and came up just two yards short the following year. Forte also had at least 40 catches every year but his final two, and in 2014 had 102 receptions. Anderson may not produce 100 receptions in a year, but with his ability to change direction, I could certainly see him becoming the kind of route runner necessary to be a weapon in the pass game. While Forte never had the major injuries of Anderson, he certainly played hurt through a good portion of his career, and that hindered him from being even more special than he already was.
- Sturdy build for the position
- Exceptional feet and lateral quickness
- Appears to have good running instincts
- Hard worker away from the field
- Added value as a receiver
- Would like to see him finish more runs physically
- Has a history of injuries
- One season of production where passing game was top priority for defenses
- Sexual assault allegation will need to be addressed
|Scouting Video Courtesy of Harris Highlights|