The FCS ranks can be a treasure trove for under-the-radar talent. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the scouting report of Montana State LB Troy Andersen is the latest to come under the microscope. The buzz has been building around Andersen all season, and there’s a reason for that. He’s incredibly productive, but he also has an incredibly high ceiling in the NFL.
Troy Andersen NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Montana State
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3 1/4″
- Weight: 242 pounds
- Wingspan: 77 5/8″
- Length: 32 1/8″
- Hand: 9 3/8
Troy Andersen Scouting Report
All-star games draw some of the top NFL Draft prospects each cycle. Each game is valuable, but the Senior Bowl has recently drawn the most eyes. It’s at the top of the ladder, and every so often, a lower all-star invite gets elevated to the Senior Bowl later in the cycle. That’s what happened to Andersen, who joined the Shrine roster early on, only to make the jump to Mobile in mid-December.
Ultimately, invites sent by the Senior Bowl are a reflection of NFL interest. If a player gets the opportunity to go, it means that there are executives who want eyes on that player. And watching Andersen’s film, it comes as no surprise that more scouts want to see him. Because once you see him play, you can’t get enough. Here’s what makes the Montana State LB such an enticing prospect.
Andersen’s athletic profile
Right away, Andersen stands out amidst his counterparts. He stands at 6’4″, 235 pounds, sporting a large, dense frame that hits with force. He can wrap up runners with his length, and his sheer size can make quarterbacks pause when testing passing lanes. Andersen has the size and strength to stack and shed in run defense. Additionally, in open space, he’s able to open up his strides and cover ample ground in pursuit.
Beyond his size, Andersen is an exceptional athlete. He has great straight-line explosiveness for his frame, and he can rocket through gaps. Andersen brings torrid closing burst to the contact point, and he can close ground in an instant in the box. In coverage, his explosiveness translates especially well. He can launch off his back foot, and he has click-and-close quickness. He also carries a lot of heat as a blitzer.
Going further, Andersen has surprisingly fluid hips. He can flip out of his stance and carry receivers downfield up the seam. He can also stack direction changes and manage open space with his fluidity and lateral athleticism. With his explosiveness and range, Andersen can easily cover running backs on swings and screens. And with his athleticism, he’s a versatile player who can line up at each LB spot and even the slot, depending on matchups.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Andersen’s athletic upside is tantalizing, but the Montana State LB isn’t just a case of upside. He shows the capacity for play recognition and quick processing on tape, along with plenty of other operational strengths.
First off, Andersen is a fiery, energetic player who’s an all-out competitor from snap to snap. He has a hot motor, and he’s also a tough player who can gut out injuries and fight through pain. Though self-preservation is important, that toughness will win over scouts.
Andersen also flashes instincts. He processes fairly well and has shown he can recognize concepts, then close ground with quickness. He also has some awareness in zone coverage. Andersen follows the quarterback’s eyes well and naturally flows to the targeted area with his rangy frame. Additionally, he knows how to adjust his angle to take away passing lanes, and he possesses solid ball skills. Andersen can get his head around and track the football, and he’s a physical disruptor at the catch point.
Andersen’s fundamentally sound tackling ability and physicality are appealing. While he does have some misses, he actively goes low and seeks to dismantle the base when triggering on ball carriers. He doesn’t get tunnel vision when faced with blockers at the second level. He knows when to disengage and attack the ball, and he’s able to scrape past blocks and secure tackles as a result.
Areas for improvement
It’s easy to fall in love with Andersen’s potential, but he does have some things to work on. Even though he’s a great athlete, his hip transitions can be a bit smoother at times. With his high-cut frame, Andersen’s feet can get tied up at times, and he can get flat-footed when changing directions. He’s reasonably agile but not elite there, and he also doesn’t have much twitch in short areas. Additionally, his top-end speed is not elite. Most of his range derives from his burst and long strides.
Moving away from his physical traits, Andersen can be a tick late recognizing play fakes at times. He’s sometimes drawn away from the ball by misdirections. Like many linebackers, he falls for eye candy at times. He can do a better job reading blocking techniques and angles to diagnose the play.
There are also instances when Andersen can position himself better, both in coverage and run defense. He doesn’t always get proper depth in coverage, and he can let players sneak past him. He can also leverage himself better in man coverage at times. In run defense, Andersen can take suspect angles to the ball. He needs to be more consistent reading and attacking, as he can funnel himself into blocks if he’s not careful.
Among other things, Andersen can channel his physicality more effectively. He can be a bit upright when attacking blockers, which impacts his balance. He can also be more aggressive shooting gaps and stopping runs early. There are times where he hesitates ahead of contact. In a similar vein, while the Montana State LB has immense pass-rushing potential, he’s raw in that phase. He has plenty of room to add more hand moves to his arsenal.
Andersen’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
The offseason process will be more important for Andersen than for other prospects. But already, he’s shown enough promise to generate interest on the NFL Draft circuit. There’s definite room for refinement with Andersen. He can still be more consistent applying his physicality, as well as positioning himself in space and pursuing good angles. But his movements skills, processing capacity, and physical style all contribute to a high ceiling.
Andersen has a near-elite size profile, and he also has the explosiveness, fluidity, and range to be a nightmare in the box. Couple this with his ball skills, play strength, and functional stack-and-shed ability, and he can be a legitimate Swiss Army knife for a defense. His versatility and pass-rushing upside give him a great projection as a 3-4 ILB, but he could also rotate between roles in other schemes.
A lot of this is projection right now. Andersen is still raw in a few areas. But a strong Senior Bowl showing, combined with what should be excellent testing numbers, can make him a solid Day 2 or early Day 3 pick. At his peak projection, he can be a strong matchup defender with the flexibility to move all across the box, onto the edge, and even into the slot.
Andersen’s Player Profile
Andersen is the early favorite for the “Most Interesting Man in the 2022 NFL Draft” award. He earned early accolades as a star for Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Montana. Not only was he an all-state quarterback in his final two seasons, but he also won Montana Defensive Player of the Year as a safety in 2016.
Andersen’s talent popped, but he was far off the beaten path for many FBS programs. Hailing from Montana, Andersen signed with the Montana State Bobcats and took the one-hour, 54-minute trek to Bozeman in the spring of 2017.
Andersen’s career at Montana State
Andersen may be at a small school, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing big things. He wasted no time making a name for himself, earning Big Sky Freshman of the Year in 2017. He started games at both running back and outside linebacker, making plays on both sides of the ball.
In 2018, he switched to quarterback and became a dangerous offensive weapon for the Bobcats. With the ball in his hands, he was hard to stop. And with 21 rushing touchdowns, he was able to earn first-team All-Big Sky recognition.
With stops at running back, linebacker, and quarterback, it’s hard to believe that Andersen hasn’t also made stops at wide receiver or left tackle. But linebacker was ultimately where Andersen belonged, and the Montana State standout switched to LB as his primary position in 2019. And from there, he gradually developed into a full-time defensive menace.
2021 was Andersen’s best season yet. Switching to middle linebacker in a 4-2-5 scheme, the Montana State LB amassed 137 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery on the way to the FCS National Championship Game. He won Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and was named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award (given to the best defender at the FCS level).
Andersen’s NFL Draft ascension
Andersen has been one of the most productive playmakers in the FCS for years on end. And this year, he’s morphed into one of the most dynamic defenders in college football. He’s earned legend status on the field for Montana State, all while consistently earning academic honors off it.
Andersen is a hidden gem in the 2022 NFL Draft class, but he may not be hidden for much longer. He’s won awards for his play. Now, it’s time to show he can make the leap to the NFL. His upcoming appearance at the Senior Bowl will be key in accomplishing that. If he takes advantage, he can be a top-100 pick and maybe go even earlier. Get Andersen on your watch list because there’s plenty to be excited about.