X

Will Anderson Jr. NFL Draft 2023: Scouting Report for Alabama Edge

BR NFL Scouting DepartmentContributor I

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS - OCTOBER 1: Will Anderson Jr. #31 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at the line of scrimmage during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on October 1, 2022 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Crimson Tide defeated the Razorbacks 49-26. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

HEIGHT: 6'4"

WEIGHT: 243

HAND: TBD

ARM: TBD

WINGSPAN: TBD


40-YARD DASH: TBD

3-CONE: TBD

SHUTTLE: TBD

VERTICAL: TBD

BROAD: TBD


POSITIVES

— Good get-off, quick to react to the snap with good acceleration while taking short, powerful steps to maintain his base.

— Takes on blocks with low pad level and quick, accurate hands on the offensive lineman’s chest to gain leverage.

— Recognizes blocking schemes well to put himself in a good position to take on blocks—i.e., working wide versus reaches or shooting his hands to play the cut.

— Physical at the point of attack with plenty of strength to set the edge against offensive tackles versus outside zone. He’s a lot stronger than his frame would suggest.

— Gap-disciplined, won’t leave his assignment until the running back commits. Has no issues shedding blocks with his hand placement and strength, and has the agility to cross the face of the offensive lineman he’s engaged with to make tackles in the adjacent gap.

— Can be lethal when slanting with his get-off and movement skills. Gains ground laterally and vertically with his L-step and can get penetration easily.

— Powerful for his size as a bull-rusher to put offensive tackles on skates. Also works to get on an edge and has developed several inside countermoves off the bull rush.

— Excellent change of direction for a defensive lineman to test offensive linemen’s ability to redirect and consistently win with inside pass-rush moves. Also uses his hands well to get clean wins that lead to sacks.

— Has shown solid hand-swipe and arm-over moves to win on the outside that he can develop in the pros.

— Recognizes and anticipates chip blocks well, which allows him to take them on and avoid getting caught off guard or put on the ground.

— Effort rusher who will get coverage sacks.

— Effective on stunts as both the penetrator or looper. As the penetrator, his get-off and aggressiveness at the point of attack will catch offensive linemen off guard and get them off their feet. As the looper, his change of direction and agility allow him to move laterally without losing ground, and he has the acceleration to win and close on the quarterback.


NEGATIVES

— Could afford to add weight to maintain his physical playing style in the NFL.

— Might struggle to get extension versus NFL offensive tackles. Wasn’t routinely locking out tackles in college, more just getting them off his frame with enough room to shed the block.

— Against power, counter and split zone, doesn’t get his eyes inside to see and get underneath pullers as the spill player in run fits.

— Likes to lunge and leave his feet to make tackles, leading to a high rate of missed tackles.

— Doesn't have a go-to outside move that he consistently wins with, and lacks top-tier bend to turn a tight corner at the top of outside rushes.


NOTES

— A 5-star recruit in the 2020 class, No. 17 nationally, No. 1 WDE, per 247Sports' composite rankings

— DOB: Sept. 2, 2001

— 40 career starts

— 2021 Honors: Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (CFB’s top defensive player), unanimous first-team All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year

— 2020 Honors: FWAA Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-American, SEC All-Freshman team


OVERALL

The best way to describe Will Anderson Jr.'s college tape is that everything just looked easy for him. From his movement skills to how effortlessly he took on blocks, it almost looked like he was getting bored out there. That's part of the reason why he’s been considered the top player in this year’s draft class since last January.

As a pass-rusher, Anderson is impressive with his inside countermoves. His speed off the ball puts pressure on tackles vertically, and once they open their hips, he has the quickness and change of direction to dart inside and leave tackles grasping at air.

He also has an effective bull rush that he’ll use to set up those inside countermoves and allows him to be effective when turning speed to power.

The biggest concern about the Alabama product’s pass-rush arsenal is that he hasn’t shown a go-to move that he can win with on the outside. He also isn't super bendy to turn tight corners at the top of the rush or around the edge. With that being said, he’s shown flashes with the hand-swipe and arm-over moves mentioned above. The latter is more that he just lacks the elite bend that one might expect from a potential No. 1 overall pass-rusher.

While Anderson led the nation with 17.5 sacks in 2021, he's probably an even better run defender. He’s hard to move one-on-one with his strength and leverage at the point of attack, and he has little to no issues getting off blocks with his excellent hand placement.

He needs to do a better job of getting his eyes inside when unblocked to see pullers coming and shore up his tackling form, but those are two very fixable flaws.

He’d fit best as a stand-up outside linebacker in a scheme that uses a lot of odd fronts and occasionally has edge-rushers drop into coverage. He held his own when Alabama asked him to do the latter, which suggests he can be asked to zone-drop in the NFL as a change of pace.

As far as even fronts go, Anderson can play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end as well, so he’s scheme-versatile and a plug-and-play type of player. He just might be a little more effective as a stand-up outside 'backer.


GRADE: 9.6 (Top-Five Prospect)

OVERALL RANK: 1

POSITION RANK: EDGE1

PRO COMPARISON: Derrick Thomas


Written by B/R NFL Draft Scout Matt Holder