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Rookie Scouting Report: Running Back Rodney Anderson

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 26, 2019

If it weren’t for injuries, Rodney Anderson would be a much higher draft pick

Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Height: 6’0″
Weight: 224 pounds
40-yard dash: N/A
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
3-Cone Drill: N/A

If you were to just pick up film on Anderson and not hear any backstory, you’d really wonder why he isn’t being discussed as a potential first-round pick. But when you look up at his measurements and then see he’s got ‘N/A’ by every category, you realize that something must be wrong. Anderson has dealt with a lot of injuries for someone who’s just coming out of college. He suffered a broken leg his freshman year, a fractured neck vertebra his sophomore year, and then a torn ACL that caused him to miss nearly the entire 2018 season.

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When on the field, Anderson was a game-changer for Oklahoma, averaging 6.43 yards per carry while scoring 21 touchdowns in his last 15 games. Due to all his injuries, he has just 200 carries and 17 receptions on his frame, though the injuries are a bit more concerning than the tread on his tires. He was unable to perform at the NFL Combine, which will cause him to drop down draft boards.

Vision/Awareness: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Not as decisive as some of the other top backs from this class when he gets the ball; you’ll see him hesitate behind the line of scrimmage at times. He also struggles when it comes to short-yardage situations, as he has little room to operate. It’s different on the second level, as he seems to see holes before they even open. He’s much better when facing a few defenders in the open-field compared to trying to decipher which hole to hit in-between the tackles. He knows exactly how to use his blockers out in front of them, as defenders get spun around more than they rightfully should. There should almost be a mixed grade here, as he’s below-average for the first second, but then flashes an elite grade on the second-level.

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking): 3.5 out of 5 stars
Despite being a bigger back, he’s not someone who’s a grinder, but rather one who manipulates defenders and blockers very well. He makes subtle cuts while in full stride that cause problems for should-be tacklers. While in the open-field, he’s about as elusive as they come, as you almost never saw a defender line up a solid strike on him. He has to take a ding at the line of scrimmage though, as he’s not someone who can juke a defender in the backfield and he’s still a bit upright, giving defenders a big tackling surface. He doesn’t just fall down and it will require some effort to bring down a running back his size, but he’s not a consistent tackle-breaker.

Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
For a guy who’s six feet tall and 224 pounds, he has plenty of speed for what he’ll be asked to do. He ramps his speed a bit, as he’s a bit sluggish out of the hole, but once he plants his foot in the ground, he really moves well. This may have had something to do with the offense at Oklahoma, as there were a lot of options and draws, which can make running backs appear to be moving in mud while the defenders are coming in. We didn’t get to see him run the 40-yard dash, but most expected he would come in around the 4.50-second range, which seems about right.

Pass-catching/Pass Protection: 4.0 out of 5 stars
He sells his assignment very well, as rushers will believe he’s blocking, only for him to sneak past them for a screen. Lined up out-wide at times, has size comparable to a wide receiver. He’s extremely fluid running his routes and has soft hands for a big wide running back. Knowing how good he is in space, it would make sense for him to be a pass-catching running back who’s capable of handling early-down work if needed. From his limited sample of pass-protection, he’s not someone you want protecting your quarterback too often. He was consistently shoved back towards the quarterback.

Balance: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s a bit up-and-down in his approach, though he lowers his shoulder at times. He’s not a shifty runner, but more of a downhill, one-cut running back. Because of that, you won’t see him get his body lateral very often. He relies on his vision far more than his balance to gain yardage. If there’s one plus to his balance, it’s that he won’t lose speed when making his cuts while moving downhill, though it’s not as if those runs are going to come along all the time.

Potential Landing Spots
It’s unlikely that we see Anderson walk in and contribute immediately for a few reasons. There aren’t many vacancies for starting jobs, and on top of that, Anderson is going to fall into the later rounds due to his injury-plagued past. Truth be told, there aren’t many teams who couldn’t use a lottery ticket like Anderson on their depth chart should the starter go down with an injury. He would make a lot of sense in Tampa Bay, as the Bucs shouldn’t be giving up on Ronald Jones after just 23 career carries, but they do need to have a backup plan in case he doesn’t pan out. They have a lot of holes to fill at the start of the draft, but taking a shot on Anderson on Day 3 makes tons of sense.

NFL Comparison
When looking at Anderson’s size, one-cut running style, and soft hands, it’s hard not to compare him to Arian Foster. While I don’t believe he has the vision Foster had, he has that smoothness in the open field. This isn’t me saying he’s going to be named to four Pro Bowls, but rather the type of player he is/can be. Neither of them are tackle-breakers, though they’re not easy guys to bring down. Both of them make defenders look silly in the open-field, and both of them plant their foot on their one-cut style and ramp up speed. Foster also had a bit more lateral agility, though it wasn’t anything that stood out. Unfortunately, Foster dealt with plenty of injuries as well, starting all 16 games just once in his eight-year career.

Other Rookie Scouting Reports
Josh Jacobs (RB – Alabama)
David Montgomery (RB – Iowa State)
Damien Harris (RB – Alabama)
Darrell Henderson (RB – Memphis)

More to come in the following weeks…

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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