Falcons Draft Profile Will Anderson Jr.: Strengths, weaknesses, prediction
Strengths and weaknesses
First, let me just say that I thought I wouldn't enjoy watching a player more than Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon but I was immediately proven wrong when I dove into Will Anderson Jr.'s film—he is a freak off the edge. Obviously, I had seen him play a lot before from just casually watching College Football each Saturday but I had never focused on him and I am disappointed that it took me so long.
Will Anderson is a blur off the snap. Often times he knows the offensive snap count because the exact second the ball is snapped, he is a yard down the field. If you are an offensive tackle, you have no chance. Watching him made me question if my computer was skipping frames.
He is also the type of prospect that you would expect to come out of Alabama; he is versatile, technically sound, and the smartest player on the field. Anderson is ridiculously good at distinguishing between a pass or a run play.
Just by watching him on the field, I know, undoubtedly, that he spends a ridiculous amount of time each and every week watching and studying film on his upcoming opponent. He is such a smart defender.
Anderson uses excellent leverage and knows how to use his arms and hands. He keeps contain on quarterbacks, sets up offensive tackles and creates panicked hands, has exceptional balance and never gets taken down by chop blocks, absorbs power from blockers, has a solid and stout base, played all over the front seven, keeps good contain on QBs, and has a deadly inside move.
Much of the reason (besides simply being outmatched) Desmond Ridder and the Cincinnati Bearcats struggled against Alabama in the playoffs is because of Will Anderson—he wrecked them.
Speaking of that 2021 season, Will Anderson had stupid stats that year; 101 tackles, 17.5 sacks, and 31 tackles for loss in 15 games.
There are some weaknesses, or more accurately, concerns, with Will Anderson. The first one is that he isn't great when it comes to 'playing to the whistle.' In college, there were times when he would get blocked early and basically become an unintentional quarterback spy—it is frustrating to watch.
He isn't the most relentless edge rusher and he routinely watches tackles be made. He expected his Alabama teammates to make the tackle and when they missed, he would be playing catch up.
And to build on that, he is an inconsistent tackler. He'll make a thumping tackle then on the next play will miss a tackle because of laziness. In a microcosm, against Texas, he missed some tackles and then randomly blasted Texas tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders to the ground as Sanders was getting back up after falling, which drew a warranted unnecessary roughness penalty.
Anderson could improve his acceleration and speed through blocks and contact. And for what it is worth (likely nothing), he doesn't have good technique in coverage.
Then there is the simple concern about his drop-off in play from 2021 to 2022. While he was still a great player this past season, he looked different, and his stats showed it. He had 7.5 fewer sacks, 14 fewer tackles for loss, and 50 fewer tackles. Again, you could see a visible difference between the two seasons.
And finally, he only had one forced fumble, which came in his first season at Alabama. Over his three seasons, where he totaled 34.5 sacks, 58.5 tackles for loss, and 204 tackles, he had just one forced fumble. It is strange to see a player have that many sacks and just one forced fumble. For comparison, Ryan Kerrigan had one less sack while at Purdue, yet had 14 forced fumbles.
Will Anderson Jr. is something else. He was ridiculously dominant in 2021 and while he had a drop off in production in 2022, he still was one of the best players in the country. He could become one of the best players in the NFL with his excellent explosion, technique, power, and smarts. He needs to start playing hard until he hears the whistle, and if he does, he will be unstoppable on every play.