Learn the Name: Rodney Anderson
Learn the Name: Rodney Anderson
The most complete back in the 2019 draft class is the 6’1, 220 lbs., Rodney Anderson. From size to power, explosiveness, elusiveness, and soft hands, Anderson has it all. His open field game is dynamic and he possesses the coveted elite cutting ability that separates good runners from great ones.
With only 200 career carries over the course of his college career Anderson has minimal wear and tear. While his sample size is relatively small, he has been very impressive when he was on the field. Anderson is a powerful, angry, one-cut runner who posted a 200-1285-16 rushing line while at Oklahoma. In the passing game, Anderson put his plus receiving skills to work converting 17 receptions for 281 yards and five touchdowns. With a limited workload, his 6.4 yards-per-carry and 16.5 yards per reception are other numbers we should gauge.
If Anderson made it through the season healthy there would be no debate. In the Heisman conversation to start the season Rodney Anderson is the most talented running back in the draft. A full season as a starter in an offense with Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown would have been fun to watch.
As mentioned above, Anderson has a limited college sample size due to various injuries, so we will be focusing on his 2017 season. After seeing only 22 total touches in his first five games, Anderson exploded for 1,333 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns in his final eight. While he saw only 34 percent of his teams carries for 13.43 a contest, he still rushed for 1,131 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In the eight games Anderson started he put up 1,079 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also managed fourteen receptions, 254 receiving yards, and five touchdowns during that time span. To put these numbers in context he rushed for 134.875 yards per game at 6.5 yards-per-carry (a number that would place him fifth among backs with over 100 rushing yards per game).
Extrapolating these numbers puts Anderson at 1,753 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, 22 receptions, 412 yards, and eight touchdowns. His extrapolated pace as a starter would place him fifth in the nation and third among Power-5 runners.
A Closer Look
Anderson put up a rock solid 6.18 yards-per-carry during the 2017 season. This is a number higher than 2018 rookies Royce Freeman, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, and Saquon Barkley. As per PFF, Anderson was charted with 28 avoided tackles in 2017. This a number that makes sense when one watches film and sees the power and explosiveness he pairs with great contact balance and a dynamic open field game. Speaking of explosiveness, Anderson posted 34 runs over ten yards in 2017. This is a number higher than impressive 2018 rookies Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel, and Kerryon Johnson.
Touching on Anderson’s 2017 season necessitates looking at his time as a starter or extrapolating as we did above. In his four November games, Anderson put up 457 rushing yards at 6.23 ypc for seven touchdowns. His seven touchdowns during that month tied him for fourth in the nation with Saquon Barkley. Perhaps more impressively, he was the only power five running back to rush for over 450 yards in November. While his ypc dropped to 5.88 in his two December contests, he managed to see a spike to 147 rushing yards per game. This is in a large part due to his outstanding 201 rushing yards in the Rose Bowl against Georgia.
Anderson’s best game of the season came against TCU and the tape is must-watch material for anyone looking to get a glimpse of his upside as a prospect. He was dominant both on the ground and through the air and even lined up out wide. Anderson posted 151 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 135 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
No discussion of Rodney Anderson as a prospect would be complete without touching on his extensive injury history. Any running back with multiple season-ending injuries should be considered an injury risk. Whether it is due to an extreme case of bad luck or simply brittle bones, dynasty owners have to consider this ‘red flag’ before deciding when and where to call his name with their rookie pick.
The injuries do seem like an unfortunate string of bad luck that may have saved unnecessary wear and tear on the talented back. As a true freshman, Anderson suffered a broken fibula in his left leg on special teams. Anderson worked his way back as a sophomore only to fall victim to a fractured C5 vertebrae in camp. After a strong junior season, Anderson saw his college career end with a right knee injury.
His extensive injury history is likely to scare some NFL teams off but it only takes one to give him the opportunity he needs. This also presents a major opportunity for dynasty owners. Those in leagues who draft early can ‘steal’ a player who would have been the consensus 1.01 pick.
Trying to find a pro comparison for Rodney Anderson is a little tough. The one thing that I am certain about is that he looks like he has the tools of an elite RB1. With that in mind, I started running through the names of all current RB1’s and landed on Joe Mixon.
Both backs look very similar as runners. While Mixon was the more prolific receiver, Anderson flashes on tape both in the backfield and lined up out wide and will be able to thrive with increased volume. Much like what you see with Miles Sanders, it’s evident that Anderson is similar stylistically to former teammate Mixon. Anderson spent two years watching and absorbing Mixon’s game so it is no surprise he may have patterned his style after a back that has gone on to become one of the NFL’s best.
Mixon: 6.8 ypc, 17.64 rushes per touchdown, 13.8 ypr, 7.22 receptions per touchdown.
Anderson: 6.4 ypc, 12.5 rushes per touchdown, 16.5 ypr, 3.4 receptions per touchdown.
Based on averages Anderson was the more efficient back in every department but yards-per-carry. This helps highlight how gifted Anderson is when healthy as Joe Mixon was considered a first-round talent. Mixon is and was a more sure thing due to his health.
Anderson has an exciting every down skill set and could throw his name into the RB1 conversation come April. Like Mixon, Anderson would be the most talented runner on most NFL depth charts. With the skill set and physical tools to be a workhorse, all Anderson needs is an opportunity.
Projecting a running back becomes a lot easier once you can evaluate his combine performance and NFL landing spot. Without this information, dynasty owners are forced to rely solely on college production and tape. By these two measuring sticks Anderson indeed looks like the top running back in this class. With the NFL combine still over a month away taking a look at his recruiting numbers provides some potential insight. According to ESPN Anderson ran an outstanding 3.97 20 yard shuttle. 24/7 sports lists him with a better than expected 4.43 forty. If these numbers are accurate and Anderson improves on them as expected he could quickly become the consensus top running back. To put these numbers in context Anderson’s listed shuttle would be the top time since Ameer Abdullah in 2015. His 40 time would have placed him third in 2018 behind only Saquon Barkley and Nyheim Hines.
If Anderson has a strong combine or pro day he could instantly vault himself into the conversation as the top running back in the draft and into the mix at the end of round one. Rodney Anderson is a name too many dynasty managers seem to be sleeping on despite his obvious RB1 talent. It is time for that to change.