Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Does the 2023 NFL Draft scouting report of Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr. boast generational upside? Here's a look at the Crimson Tide star.

Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr. returns in 2022 as one of the prevailing dominant forces in all of college football. But as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect, how does his scouting report stack up? Anderson has already fielded praise as one of the best prospects in a generation. Here, we see if he lives up to that reputation.

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Will Anderson Jr. NFL draft profile

It’s hard to say “from humble beginnings” with Anderson because, in truth, he’s always been at the forefront of the football landscape. Anderson was a top-50 prospect on ESPN’s board in the 2020 recruiting class after racking up 22 sacks as a high school senior. He signed with the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide and immediately factored into the starting equation. And in 2021, he finished fifth in Heisman voting and took home the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation’s best defensive player.

At 6’4″, 243 pounds, Anderson isn’t the hulking physical specimen that prospects like Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney proved to be. But on the field, Anderson is just as imposing. That was evident even in 2020 when Anderson logged seven sacks and 10 1/2 tackles for loss as a true freshman. But it was even more distinct in 2021 when Anderson ruled the trenches to the tune of 17 1/2 sacks and 31 tackles for loss.

  • Position: EDGE
  • School: Alabama
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’4″, 243 pounds

Will Anderson Jr. scouting report

Anderson has elite production, to the level where him failing almost seems impossible. But it’s important to make no prospect untouchable. Where does Anderson win, where can he improve, and where might he be limited? Here’s a comprehensive look at all those factors.

Anderson’s strengths

In Anderson, there is the marriage of elite physical talent and elite want-to. The Alabama EDGE has a strong and compact frame with good length. And within that frame, he has high-end athletic traits. Anderson is very explosive in short ranges. He generates excellent burst on his first step and accelerates instantly when keying on plays. Moreover, Anderson is an energetic, amped-up mover for his size, traversing congested areas with effervescent twitch.

Not only is Anderson explosive vertically, but he’s also extremely explosive laterally. He can traverse entire gaps with immediacy, and he has the elite lateral agility to stunt gaps and sustain acceleration while testing angles. The Alabama EDGE is very light on his feet and can capitalize on linemen lunging with brisk bursts of lateral movement. He’s able to use his finesse and lateral suddenness to scrape by moving blocks.

Anderson isn’t the largest edge rusher, but he’s an exceptional athlete, and he also brings surprising play strength and power capacity for his frame. His strong hands allow him to control reps, and he brings visible knock-back power at the point of attack. Not only does Anderson hit with force, but he can also generate excellent upper-body torque and use it to violently wrench down blocks when latched. Moreover, he can sustain leg drive on power rushes and drive generated power forward.

On top of all this, Anderson has a degree of bend capacity as well. He has enough ankle flexion to pinch tight angles around blockers when stunting. He can sustain acceleration while flexing his lower body and leaning into direction changes, making for dangerous closing speed in tight space. And he can flip his hips in tight spaces, making it easier to clog lanes in run defense.

Anderson is an awesome physical talent, but the other elements of his game are almost more impressive. His balance and leverage stand out as particular strong points. Anderson is extremely proficient at recollecting his feet after impact and maintaining balance amidst adversity. With his flexibility, he lowers his pads very naturally and constantly seeks superior leverage and positioning.

Going further, Anderson’s hand usage is advanced for his age. The Alabama EDGE can target and negate extensions with precise hands, and he can use brutal swipes to keep himself clean in congestion. In 1-on-1 situations, he can set up tackles with rushing angles, then capitalize on displacement and multitask around the apex. He consistently seeks to replace hands and re-exert power when anchored and can accomplish this with his torque and explosion. He has a brutal forklift move and can also win with rips, swims, swipes, and cross-chops.

Anderson’s entire game is tied together by his relentless, unending motor. He routinely plays to the whistle with elite energy and effort. He’s always battling in tight spaces, using rapid hands to fight through congestion. Additionally, his motor shows up on the chase as well. Anderson is a menace in pursuit. He’s extremely active on the backside, and he can engulf runners with his brisk closing speed and wingspan.

Continuing with his pursuit, Anderson consistently pursues to the sideline and can get his hands up to deflect passes and clog the passing lane. He reads the run very well, showing he can disengage in a timely manner and erase lanes. Finally, Anderson is a very reliable tackler in the pursuit phase. He consistently wraps up and has the strength to make solo tackles.

Anderson’s areas for improvement

Anderson has very few deficiencies, but there are several traits that aren’t quantifiably elite — among them bend, size, and hand usage.

Starting with bend, Anderson pops up a bit upright out of his stance at times, which can sap at initial explosiveness. His hips sometimes lock up at the apex, and with his high-cut frame, he doesn’t have elite bend or sinking capacity. Moreover, the Alabama EDGE shows minor stiffness when changing directions in space at times.

Anderson’s frame is lighter than average, and while he has good strength for his frame, he can sometimes be locked up in 1-on-1 situations. The Alabama EDGE lacks quantifiably elite strength and length and can struggle to deconstruct around the apex against larger tackles. More refinement with his hand usage, however, could help combat this.

With his hands, Anderson sometimes fails to drive power directly, losing coordination and control at impact. He can be more consistent stacking counters, as his rushes sometimes die after initial moves. Anderson can also improve his timing and spatial awareness. At times, he eats up too much space before engaging and can’t manipulate angles or load up his hands. In a similar vein, his hands can be somewhat lax on occasion.

Lastly, Anderson sometimes sacrifices leverage trying to stonewall blockers with sheer momentum, using his frame as a projectile.

Current draft projection for Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr.

While Anderson may go on to be one of the best EDGE prospects over the past few cycles, he falls a bit short of the generational label. If he were 6’5″ and 265 pounds, perhaps he’d meet that threshold. But Anderson’s size is a notable hindrance in that pursuit.

Anderson is far from a liability with his size. But at 6’4″, 243 pounds, he projects more as a stand-up edge rusher with relatively little inside-outside versatility. Having said this, Anderson is still a phenomenal prospect who very well could have competed for the EDGE1 mantle in the 2022 NFL Draft. Anderson brings good length at his size, with arms that will likely measure over 33″. With that frame, the Alabama EDGE has elite explosiveness, top-notch lateral agility, great artificial power capacity and play strength, and good bend.

Beyond Anderson’s physical traits, he brings immediate high-level utility both as a pass rusher and a run defender. When rushing, Anderson has a violent disposition. He can win on stunts with his physical traits or in 1-on-1 battles with various hand moves and combos. And when defending the ground game, Anderson has the strength to set the edge, the burst to surge into lanes, and the effort and range to be a constant tackling threat.

In fact, Anderson’s motor might be his best trait. And when you factor in his burst, agility, strength, and other qualities, that makes him more exciting. Even if he lacks elite size, Anderson is a potential blue-chip prospect and an early frontrunner to be a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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