Will Anderson Draft Profile
No player in this year’s draft has been held in higher regards than Alabama Edge Rusher, Will Anderson Jr. It makes sense; Anderson won the Chuck Bednarik award for the best defensive player in college football in 2022, was the back-to-back Bronco Nagurski award-winner, a two time All-American, three time All-SEC, Cotton Bowl MVP, and College Football National Champion. He has received just about every accolade a collegiate defensive player can get. Anderson is not just an incredible player on the field, but a high-energy, personable human being off of it. It is easy to see why he is projected as a top-five pick and I anticipate a team falling in love with the idea of Anderson becoming the face of their franchise.
The area where Anderson separates himself is his overall body control. He has the ability to convert speed to power on the edge while getting proper hand placement on the man in front of him. There is intention behind his rushes; he has elite coordination that allows him to change directions, bend, and use his hands efficiently. He is able to maintain the edge while condensing the pocket. Against mobile quarterbacks, Anderson remains aggressive with his pursuit angles because of his ability to redirect and change his path. The torque he gets at the top of his rush is rare; it allows him to turn the corner and close in on the quarterback. In the run game, Anderson’s strength is his best attribute. He does a really good job at pressing the block and meeting pullers without any fear. In-turn, this narrows running lanes and prevents backs from bouncing out to the perimeter of the defense. When Anderson does his speed to power rushes, his strength allows him to drive blockers back into the quarterback. My favorite part of Anderson’s game is the effort he plays with; he does not give up on his rushes and runs down the field to make plays. The effort is apparent from the snap all the way to the end of the play. He has a very good get off and makes up a lot of ground with his first three steps. If he is able to bring that same level of intensity to the NFL, he is going to play in the league for a very long time.
The most exciting part of Will Anderson’s game, also causes the most opacity. In 2021, Anderson looked like the next Khalil Mack; but in 2022 he was a completely different player. In 2022, he did not look nearly as explosive or instinctual despite being very productive. It just looked like he was moving faster and was disruptive every single play. If he is able to get back to his sophomore form, Anderson is going to have a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The one facet where Anderson’s game improved in his junior year was how he used his hands. When he is rushing the passer, he displayed the ability to gain control of their wrists causing them to lose power in their set. Anderson’s favorite counter move is the forklift where he grabs the lineman’s wrists raises them to the sky and quickly replaces his hands to a bullrush. In order to use this move, it takes an elite perception of timing and anticipation (of when the lineman is going to throw his hands). While his game slowed down in 2022, he may have gotten a better feel for his rushes.
Outside of the inconsistency from his sophomore to junior season, my biggest question with him is his lack of knock back. While he does not have any fear of meeting blockers at the point of attack, there is no explosion at that initial point for Anderson. I want to see him be the hammer, not the nail and be violent with anyone who gets in his way. There are times where he looks overly occupied by the blocker in front of him; instead his eyes should be beyond the block. I want to see him disengage and make plays in the backfield rather than just sealing the perimeter off. That is the difference between good and great. The other thing that bothered me was that he would just allow tight ends to block him one-on-one. That should be taken as a sign of disrespect; he needs to make the opposing offensive coordinator for even considering that.
When it comes to Anderson’s upside, the sky is the limit, but I have a ton of questions pertaining to his drop-off. With that being said, if he can pair his 2021 level of athleticism and speed with the hand usage he picked up in 2022, he could end up being the next Khalil Mack. His overall game reminds me of the old Seahawks edge rusher, Chris Clemons who put up three straight double-digit sack seasons under Pete Carroll. He is a perfect fit for the Seahawks at pick five where he can take on an evolved version of Clemons’ role, but his versatility gives him flexibility for almost any type of defensive front. Anderson is going to have the chance to be the face of a franchise, but his career trajectory depends on whether or not he can get back to his sophomore form.
Bend + Fluidity: 10.5/12
Speed + Burst: 10/12
Strength + Violence: 10/12
Explosiveness + Point of Contact: 8.25/10
Length + Hand Usage: 8.75/10
Short-Area Quickness + Change of Direction: 7.25/8
Block Shed + Play-Making: 6.25/8
Run Game + Gap Integrity: 7/8
Instincts + Intelligence: 5.25/6
Effort + Pursuit: 5.5/6
Final Rating: 86
Pro Comparison: Floor: Chris Clemons (Seahawks) Ceiling: Khalil Mack
Team Fits: Seahawks, Bears, Falcons
Draft Projection: Top 5 Player
Draft Grade: Top 5 Pick