Summary: Every year in the NFL Draft, there are some players who aren't great athletes, but are just solid football players. Anderson could be the poster child for that type of player in the 2017 NFL Draft. While others at Alabama were more shocking size/speed freaks, Anderson displayed that he is a pure football player with a tremendous ability to come up with big plays at clutch moments to help his team win. His ability as a player coupled with a skill set that might send him lower, Anderson could be one of the top values in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Anderson came on strong to close out his junior season. In 2015, he totaled 37 tackles with 11.5 for a loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles while helping Alabama to win a National Championship. Anderson was even better as a senior, using his instincts to make big plays for the Crimson Tide all season. He totaled 54 tackles with 17 for a loss, eight sacks, two passes broken up, one interception and three forced fumbles during 2016. Anderson had impressive games with huge plays against USC, Ole Miss, Auburn, Washington and many other opponents.
Anderson is a tough edge defender who is a well-rounded player. He is a dangerous pass-rusher off the edge with violent heavy hands, quickness to get upfield, and functional strength to shed blocks. Anderson has a real knack for getting to the quarterback with good play recognition to put himself in position to make big plays. Anderson isn't a pass-coverage linebacker, but his primary function will be to rush the passer off the edge. Anderson is very instinctive and finds a way to make plays.
As a run defender, Anderson is tough on tight ends and is capable of shedding blocks to get in on tackles. He is reliable to fill his gap and also will fire upfield to blow up runs in the backfield. Anderson is balanced and well-rounded defender.
Here is how one top scout broke down Anderson for WalterFootball.com, "There's a clear fit for Anderson in the NFL. If a 4-3 team drafts him, he's a 6-foot-2, 255-260-pound right defensive end in a seven- or nine-technique. In a 3-4, he's a Sam linebacker who can beat up tight ends in the run game and rush from a nine-technique. His role has been carved out for decades. He catches some flack because of his lack of length, but he's still got better length than Melvin Ingram coming out. Anderson is a deceptively good athlete; you often see him arriving at the same time as Tim Williams on tape. Anderson is just smoother and Williams is twitchier. Anderson has got such explosive hands and is probably the strongest backer in this class. New England is historic for taking guys like him in late one. His production and play would justify it as well. He's just a good all around football player and a true alpha leader. If he had 33.5-inch arms, he'd be in that 20-32 pick discussion."
Thus in the 2017 NFL Draft, Anderson could easily be a second-round pick. He might be a surprise pick late in the first round, and if he did slip out of the second round, he should get picked quickly in Round 3.
Player Comparison: James Harrison. Anderson reminds me of Harrison. Both are tough as nails with a knack for making big plays when it matters the most. Like Harrison, Anderson doesn't have the most impressive physical skill set, but they are just pure football players who are tough edge defenders. Both are leaders and workers who set the tone for their teammates. It wouldn't surprise me if Anderson is carves out a long successful NFL career like Harrison has.
NFL Matches: Green Bay, Atlanta, New England, Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New Orleans
There are a lot of teams that could consider drafting Anderson whether it is late in the first round, somewhere in the second round, or early in the third round. Perhaps the highest that Anderson could hope to go would be to one of the teams that played in the recent the conference championships. Green Bay could use an edge rusher to replace Julius Peppers and potentially Nick Perry. Anderson fits with other defenders the Packers have drafted.
The Falcons need an edge rusher across from Vic Beasley. The leadership and character of Anderson would fit with players Atlanta has targeted. His intangibles are also fitting of the "Patriot Way." New England could use another edge rusher to go across from Trey Flowers. After trading away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, the Patriots could use a player like Anderson, and he would be a great fit for them.
Staying in the AFC East, the Bills could use another linebacker to add to their change to a 4-3 defense. Miami has a huge need at linebacker and edge rusher. Mario Williams was cut; Olivier Vernon left last offseason; and Cameron Wake is aging. Anderson would make a lot of sense for the Dolphins' second-round pick.
The Lions could use more linebacker talent and an edge rusher to go with Ziggy Ansah. Meanwhile, the Chargers are switching to a 4-3 defense with Melvin Ingram entering free agency. Anderson could be a fit for Los Angeles as a linebacker or defensive end depending on what happens with Ingram.
The Bengals could use an edge rusher across from Carlos Dunlap and youth at linebacker. Cincinnati could play Anderson at linebacker and end. Staying in the AFC North, the Steelers need an eventual replacement for Harrison and a rusher to pair with Jarvis Jones. Anderson is a Steelers-type defender.
New Orleans could use another edge rusher to go with Cam Jordan, and Anderson could be a nice value for the Saints in Round 2.