Toledo isn’t exactly an NFL pipeline. Since 2000, only 12 players have been selected in the NFL Draft. In fact, no Rockets were picked in the last two cycles. Additionally, only one of those 12 players has been a defensive back. So to say the odds are stacked against safety Tycen Anderson in the 2022 NFL Draft is a bit of an understatement. Nevertheless, with his expansive scouting report, Anderson hopes to be the 13th Toledo prospect to hear his name called this century.
Tycen Anderson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Toledo
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 209 pounds
- Wingspan: 79 6’8″
- Arm: 33″
- Hand: 10 1/8″
Tycen Anderson Scouting Report
It’s not a matter of if Anderson will be selected — it’s a matter of when. That’s due to his defensive versatility, special-teams ability, and size/speed combo. At 6’2″, nearly 210 pounds, with 33″ arms, Anderson enjoyed a stellar performance at the NFL Combine. He posted a 4.36 40-yard dash (fourth among safeties), 35.5″ vertical, 10’3″ broad, 6.64 three-cone (second), and 4.28 short shuttle at the event. In fact, his Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.69 ranks 24th out of 778 safeties who have tested at the Combine since 1987.
Anderson played all over for Toledo’s defense. While he spent most of his time in the slot, he received significant snaps at deep safety and in the box. Anderson is best near the line of scrimmage and coming downhill. Although he has the straight-line speed and length you want in a single-high safety or outside corner, he’s high-hipped, not the best laterally, and can be slow to react.
That said, Anderson is a special-teams ace, logging over 800 reps across all units in his five-year college career. That and his frame and physical tools will see him drafted come April. If a team falls in love with his potential, he could go as high as the fourth round. However, due to his limited scheme versatility and lack of ball production (0 INTs the last two seasons), I believe Anderson goes later on Day 3 — likely in Rounds 5-6.
Where Anderson wins
Anderson owns the speed to recover when receivers cross his face or win at the top of routes. His closing speed coming downhill is just as noteworthy. That will be far less consistent at the next level, where WRs and QBs are far better than the MAC competition he has faced. Nevertheless, he is rangy sideline to sideline and sniffs out screens and outside runs.
Moreover, Anderson is a disciplined defender, often waiting for the play to evolve before striking. When he likes what he sees, he quickly attacks allies and zones. Rarely will you see him make the wrong read or fill the wrong gap against the run. He follows the eyes of the quarterback and can break to the ball briskly. The Toledo safety fits the run exceptionally well and can shed blocks in space.
If bigger blockers get hands on him, he will likely get taken out of the play. But receivers will struggle to fend him off. This was easily visible against screens, as Anderson swiftly dispatched any WRs in front of him to reach the target. His pursuit flowing downfield is a sight to behold.
Furthermore, he flashed physicality as a hitter and blitzer off the edge. Anderson stunted rushers when they met in the box. And his burst, agility, and length allow him to close space rapidly in the open field.
Coverage ability, versatility, and leadership
In coverage, Anderson can be a tight end eraser. He’s natural in space and positions himself well on the low hip of his opposition. His length helps him disrupt passes at the catch point, which he repeatedly showcased at the Senior Bowl. His wingspan also blossoms underneath in zone. Anderson’s acceleration from transitions is impressive and makes up for some slow reaction times against route breaks.
But possibly Anderson’s most attractive quality is his overall versatility. In any given game, you can see him lined up as a single-high safety, playing man from the slot, coming in as a dime LB/box add-on, or even as an overhang defender. You name it, and Anderson has likely done it in his career. Heck, he even played receiver at the high school level.
That versatility translates to special teams, as Anderson was a staple of every phase outside of the field goal unit. He played over 100 career snaps each on kickoff coverage, punt coverage, punt return, kick return, and field goal block.
Moreover, Anderson has been the glue on Toledo’s defense. In 2019, he was the only junior to earn a captain nod and didn’t relinquish the title the next two seasons.
Areas for improvement
In coverage, Anderson plays too upright and struggles to sink his hips. This leads to high and stiff backpedals. Anderson also battles with flipping his hips and matching route breaks. His more straight-line profile pops up with stiffness in and out of breaks and poor deceleration to break down.
While his speed made up for a lot of those issues in coverage, it won’t be able to in the NFL. Additionally, the Rockets defender can be too handsy, especially at the top of routes, which could lead to penalties. NFL QBs can take advantage of his aggressiveness in coverage, misleading him with their eyes for shots over the top. He can struggle to maintain coverage beyond the first level, losing sight of the ball downfield.
Tackling is usually a strong suit for Anderson, but he shoulder tackles at times, leading to some extra yardage. He can get swallowed up in the action and fooled by RPOs/option runs in the box. Furthermore, he can overpursue and take inconsistent angles against ball carriers from a deep safety alignment.
But the most concerning aspect of Anderson’s scouting report is his hesitance and passiveness near the line of scrimmage. Occasionally, he doesn’t help bring down ball carriers and waits for the action to come to him. He rarely positions himself for big plays, as evidenced by his 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 21 pass deflections across 2,000+ career snaps.
Anderson’s Player Profile
In his youth, Anderson bounced between a few areas of Toledo, Ohio. But he was a mainstay on the football, basketball (watch his highlights), and track and field teams at St. John’s Jesuit. In three years, he snatched 14 interceptions and blocked a whopping 11 kicks.
As a junior, Anderson earned first-team all-conference honors on the football field and finished third during the state long jump competition. Then, in his final campaign for St. John’s, Anderson continued his dominance, garnering first-team all-conference, all-district, and all-state recognition.
Despite his immense production, Anderson was considered a three-star recruit by 247Sports’ composite rankings. He received five offers from Air Force, Kentucky, Bowling Green, Eastern Kentucky, and Toledo. In the March before his senior season, Anderson committed to his hometown school and officially signed in February of 2017.
“It’s real close to home. My parents live about seven minutes away from UT,” Anderson stated at the time of his signing. “They can get to every home game, and the coaches really made it easy for me. They welcomed me in with open arms from the first day.”
Anderson’s career at Toledo
Anderson saw playing time immediately as a backup safety for the Rockets, taking the field in all 14 games. His role increased in 2018, but he still served an ancillary capacity. Anderson produced 1 interception and 5 pass deflections in each of his first two years. But when the calendar turned to 2019, the Rockets plugged him into the starting lineup. He started all 12 games, racked up 84 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 5 PBUs.
After a COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign (only six games), Anderson took the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility and returned to the Rockets in 2021.
Heading into the season, he was named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, given to the nation’s best defensive back. Yet, he missed the first three games in 2021 due to a knee injury, marking the first time he was sidelined in his entire career. Anderson still bounced back with 44 tackles (2 for loss), 1 sack, 2 PBUs, and 1 forced fumble.
Anderson parlayed his senior campaign into a spot in the Senior Bowl, offering him a chance to prove his mettle against top competition. Anderson made a name for himself in the practices, stuffing runs and clamping down tight ends and bigger receivers.
Thriving on the field, Anderson didn’t waste time off of it. He is a three-time Academic All-MAC honoree and earned a bachelor’s degree in professional sales last December. As a result, he became the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college. But he isn’t done expanding his education, as he is currently enrolled in graduate school.
Anderson also gives back to his community, volunteering in the area since his high school days.
“Growing up, we didn’t have too many role models to look up to,” he said. “But I always had great youth league coaches that helped guide me in the right direction, as well as my dad. Just seeing how I have some influence in my city and in my inner-city community is huge. The young guys in our community, they really look up to us. It’s always good to just give back, to be there, to be a good leader because they don’t have too many people to look up to.”
What they’re saying about Anderson
“I’ve told him, ‘We miss your leadership more than we miss you as a player.’ And no player wants to hear that because it sounds like it’s being disrespectful to his ability, but it’s actually not. It’s about as great a compliment as you can get. He’s everything you want in a football player.” — Toledo head coach Jason Candle
Anderson’s NFL Draft ascension
To me, Anderson is a less physical but more explosive Deone Bucannon. The Arizona Cardinals selected Bucannon with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. But he was believed to be a reach, with many draft analysts projecting him as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect.
Still, their physical measurements are almost identical:
- Bucannon (2014 Combine): 6’1″, 211 pounds, 32 3/8″ arms, 9 3/4″ hands
- Anderson (2022 Combine): 6’2″, 209 pounds, 33″ arms, 10 1/8″ hands
Like Anderson, Bucannon played a versatile role at Washington State, lining up deep, in the box, and in the slot. However, his aggressiveness and physicality were ideal for the linebacker position, which is where Arizona deployed him in the NFL.
I think that is ultimately Anderson’s best fit as well. However, he needs to grow a more enforcer-type mindset to hold up there. Currently, he plays too passively to thrive near the line of scrimmage in the pros. If he can pair his patience with a quick trigger and physical mentality, he could hold his own.
Even if he doesn’t, Anderson can be a special-teams ace from Day 1 due to his experience and build. He’s best suited for zone-heavy schemes that will deploy him underneath, whether as a sub-package LB or nickel DB. Anderson has the frame, versatility, and character NFL teams covet. The only question is which one will select the Toledo standout?