2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Alabama EDGE Ryan Anderson

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.

Ryan Anderson / EDGE Alabama 6’2 252 lbs #22

The Good:

– Fluid hand technique to get under or around tackle’s shoulder
– Combination of speed and foot work leaves tackles off balance
– Shows ability to cover the flat
– Sets the edge in run defense
– Physical at the point of attack
– Not a flashy player but has grit and is a hard worker

The Bad:

– Not as athletically gifted as team mate EDGE defender Tim Williams
– Lacks a counter move
– Short arms for EDGE, only 31 3’4 inches
– A bit too slow to match up in coverage with tight ends


– 2016: 61 Tackles, 19 TFL, 9 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles & 1 INT
– SEC Defensive Player of the Week for Performance against LSU
– Had a pick-six vs Washington in Peach Bowl Playoff Semi-final
– Semi-finalist for Butkus Award which is given to Nation’s top linebacker
– 30.5 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks in last two seasons

Tape Breakdown:

Nick Saban was fortunate enough to feature two top tier edge defenders on his defense this season. After previously profiling Alabama’s Tim Williams, my focus has now turned to the opposite side of their defense with edge rusher Ryan Anderson.

Both Williams and Anderson have a knack for getting to the quarterback but only one of the two is receiving first round discussion. With a variety of moves in his arsenal, Anderson could be a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

Anderson’s biggest strength is his ability to use his upper body, with quick and powerful hands, Anderson can find his way around opposing tackles. What NFL executives will like to see is how Anderson uses his forceful hands to rip around and under opposing tackles on route to the quarterback.

Here is Anderson matched up against USC tackle Chuma Edoga, though this matchup is a long way from being a heavyweight clash of pass rusher versus left tackle. Anderson makes quick work of Edoga by using his hands to get under the tackle’s shoulders leaving only the USC quarterback in Anderson’s sights.

What makes Anderson’s hand technique extremely effective is the support of his greatest raw gift – speed. Anderson’s speed off the edge is good enough to stand on its own but when on the same page with his hand technique, you can almost bet on a sack. Anderson can use his speed in a variety of ways, either right around an offensive tackle or opening the tackle wide before cutting back inside.

As you may notice, Anderson was not done abusing the USC offensive line yet, this time coming from the opposite side against USC right tackle Zach Banner. Anderson drives Banner back, opening the tackle’s hips in the process and then disengages right into the USC quarterback for a sack. It is relevant to note that Banner is no slouch either, coming into last season Banner was voted USC’s 2015 lineman of the year.

Now for exhibit B, watch how fluid Anderson’s path to the quarterback becomes when the pass rusher times up his outermost step and hand movement.

Anderson times his burst with his hands and is able to skip past the Arkansas offensive tackle, an impressive feat that falls just short of a sack. Though you would like to see Anderson have a more direct path to the quarterback, rather than the rounded one seen above, it is a rather minor issue for a player of Anderson’s caliber.

Where Anderson lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in grit and physicality. Anderson is a blue-collar player who is strong at the point of attack. Anderson’s 19 tackles for a loss speak volumes of his contribution in the trenches. As a potential outside linebacker, Anderson will be asked to not only be physical but also to set the edge in the running game, a task in which the Alabama defender has done adequately under Nick Saban.

Set up against the bruising Michigan State running game in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, Anderson held down the fort against the Michigan State offensive line. Watch above how Anderson sets the edge and then pursues the ball carrier for a loss.

In what figures to be the only aspect affected negatively by Anderson’s lack of raw athleticism is the edge rusher’s coverage skills. Depending on the scheme Anderson is drafted into to, he may be asked to drop into coverage on occasion. This could present a problem as Anderson seems to be too stiff to change direction when dropping back. What could make this issue more tolerable for Anderson’s case is if he continues to make plays like the one below.

In honesty, Anderson’s pick six was likely more of a result of a great blitz call rather than ability. As Anderson baits the tackle into thinking he is coming, a free rusher shoots straight towards the quarterback leading to an errant throw that Anderson returns for a touchdown. With that said, Anderson’s playmaking will only help his build his case as we get closer to draft day.

Not only does Anderson do what you would like to see out of an edge defender, he also does it well. The Alabama edge prospect could be a great consolation prize for a team unable to grab an edge rusher in the first round. The Steelers are in the market for an edge rusher but I believe by the time their second-round selection rolls around, Anderson will be already taken.

Projection: Early Day Two

Games Watched: vs Arkansas, vs Washington, vs USC, vs Michigan State, vs Tennessee

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek Rivers

About the Author

Daniel Valente
Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel
  • Spencer Krick

    Love his hand usage, would consider him in round 2.

    Here’s a question: Derek Rivers, Ryan Anderson or Tyus Bowser?

  • Steelers12

    pass on both Alabama Pass Rushers

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    I wouldn’t go for him on day two.

    I just don’t see his game translating to the NFL well. Definitely not 2nd or 3rd round well. I’d take him in the 4th, but he won’t last that long, he’s got good film.

  • PaeperCup

    Question is, who made who better? Always a little skeptical when a team fields two “dominant” edge rushers. Most opponents can only handle one of those, leaving the other open to have a solid game. Not saying it can’t happen, but I’d bet money that only one of the two will have a really good career.

  • Clutterbox

    Great write up. I agree with most of this analysis. I would love the Steelers to pick him. I doubt he will be available in round 2 for the Steelers unless we trade up. He reminds me a lot of Lamarr Woodley. Not as gifted and with shorter arms than him, but imo is better in run D and has a great motor.

  • Daniel Valente

    Hard to decide between Rivers and Anderson but I’d put both ahead of Bowser.

  • Daniel Valente

    Thanks ! I doubt Anderson will be there as well. The market for a edge rusher on draft day is only going to continue heating up.

  • Sdale

    Rivers. Higher upside and I don’t think it’s as much of a gap between FCS and FBS talent as it used to be. He might not be as refined as Anderson to start, but I’d rather have his upside…and he’s already got a better repertoire as a pash rusher.

  • PaeperCup

    Edge Rushers are fast becoming the most important piece of a defense. It seems to be the best way to combat the leagues best QBs. With the way plays are drawn up these days coupled with how talented WRs and TEs are becoming, a talented secondary just isn’t enough. Need to get to the QB before the play has a chance to work.

  • Clutterbox

    For me, definitely Anderson. Rivers competition was nowhere as tough and too much boom or bust for me.

  • Rotten Sircus

    Agreed, I’m no fan of Saban & his over-rated players !!! ie. Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson

  • LucasY59

    or both of the edge guys benfitted from Jonathan Allen inside and good corners that can cover (plus the other DL were good two gap guys that ate up blockers for the rest of the D to roam free) I will not say that Bama players dont have talent, but I think some of the guys are products/beneficiaries of the overall team talent

  • LucasY59

    funny thing is that I see 3 totally different players,

    Rivers is the typical OLB (good pass rush and solid on the edge against the run, but not as good dropping into pass coverage) if they havent picked a pass rusher in the 1st and Derek is available he is the guy I want in rd 2

    Anderson is kinda a OLB/ILB mix, I think he can move in open space and plays angry (which is what I like best about him) but I think he will struggle as a pass rusher in the NFL, but isnt a 3 down ILB either, more of a 2 down run stuffer that can blitz, I dont really want Anderson in the 2nd at all, maybe not even in the 3rd (I think there will be better players available instead)

    Bowser is the new ILB that can run and cover, he will have the hardest time of the 3 as a edge rusher, but moving him around the field and blitzing him from different places would result in good pass rush pressure, plus being the best athlete of the 3 makes him versatile and useful in other ways, If the 1st pick is a OLB (which is very likely) then picking Bowser in the 2nd could be a really good idea (unless Tyus has a very good combine he might even last to the 3rd pick)

  • Spencer Krick

    Landon Collins turned out okay 😛

  • Steelers12

    Yeah great college players but marginal nfl talent. I do think Eddie Jackson and Da’Arius Stewart will be good at the next level

  • Aaron Dickerson

    Hey, are you guys going to do Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, guy out out FAU? Been seeing some buzz about him and would love to see a breakdown on him.

  • Ike Evans

    I like him more then tim williams….

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Not in love with the guy but could stomach him if he is the 2nd edge rusher we choose in the draft sometime in the later part of the draft.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He was quite obviously the least athletic linebacker in the drills. Tough thumper though.