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Alabama linebacker/edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. is arguably the top defensive player in the 2023 NFL Draft. The former 5-star recruit garnered 22 sacks during his senior campaign at Dutchtown High School before immediately impacting the Crimson Tide defensive line.
A three-year starter, Anderson tallied 52 tackles and seven sacks in 13 games as a true freshman. The second-team All-SEC linebacker put up elite numbers in 2021 with an FBS-high 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. Besides earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, he was also a unanimous first-team All-American selection.
The Georgia native sacked 10 quarterbacks in 2022 and finished his collegiate career with a whopping 34.5 sacks. The two-time unanimous first-team All-American notched his second SEC Defensive Player of the Year award and became only the second player to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy twice.
NFL Draft Profile
Current Year: Junior
Height/Weight: 6’4″, 245 pounds
Anderson is a premier pass rusher with elite physical talent and the most productive Alabama defender since Derrick Thomas. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting after his sophomore season in Tuscaloosa and possesses game-impacting defensive skills.
Anderson is an impressive physical specimen with a high-end mix of speed and strength. Although he can consistently drive offensive linemen backward with a powerful bull rush, the gifted edge rusher also features an array of countermoves – including an effective spin move.
A versatile playmaker, Anderson is an explosive player that causes havoc in opposing backfields with his quickness off the line of scrimmage. He is a solid run defender adept at dropping back into pass coverage and defending tight ends and running backs.
Anderson boasts impressive pursuit speed that allows him to hunt ball carriers from the backside and has a closing burst to bring down quarterbacks looking to escape the pocket. He is also a capable inside blitzer who can shoot through gaps and collect tackles for losses.
Anderson must add weight to shed run-blocking offensive linemen and upgrade his bag of pass-rushing tricks. He struggled against offensive tackles with power and length during his final year in college and must develop better hand counters against bigger NFL linemen.
He has been criticized for preferring to run around the edge instead of using his athleticism and has difficulty disengaging from linemen who manage to get into his frame. But overall, Anderson is a complete player who should be able to grow into a dominant performer in all phases of the game.
Anderson is one of the top players in the 2023 NFL draft but will not be the top overall pick because several teams are seeking a potential franchise quarterback. However, he almost certainly will be the first non-quarterback selected and should be a top-five pick.
The Arizona Cardinals have the third pick and probably will choose between Anderson or Jalen Carter. If Anderson falls out of the top five, the Detroit Lions or the Las Vegas Raiders will land a future Pro Bowl player with tremendous upside.
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