I hate the term generational talent. We overuse it to the point that every few years has a “generational” NFL Draft prospect at every position despite a generation being 30 years long. This will be my 19th season scouting for the NFL Draft and I’m not sure I’ve seen a true generational talent though plenty of best I’ve scouted at their positions (like Trevor Lawrence at QB). But, Alabama EDGE rusher Will Anderson has made me pause and truly consider if he is the first generational talent I have scouted.
Alabama EDGE rusher Will Anderson should have won the Heisman for the 2021 college season instead of his QB Bryce Young. 17.5 sacks and 33.5 TFL was game changing including a big SEC Championship. He was even more impactful on film too rushing the passer and setting the edge to adjust offenses playcalls. Is this enough to be generational?
There have been plenty of athletic pass rushers over the past 20 years, but very few show the pure bend and explosion Anderson has. He can evade the hands of OTs fairly easily and get them off balance to even try and block him. There have been games Anderson’s athletic ability was jaw dropping as he got penetration nearly every play. Even for some of the best pass rushers to ever be in the NFL Draft, that is rare.
Not only the athletic ability, but playing so smart. Anderson often plays different week to week, utilizing OL weaknesses against them. It helps having the ability to use inside moves or bend around the edge to win (especially when he is so fluid). If Anderson finds an opponent who can’t defend a rip, he will rip. If they are slow to get to the edge, he can bend right around. That is pretty unique.
Despite not having the bulk of a Chase Young or Myles Garrett, Anderson was still able to utilize strength against bigger offensive linemen. Though he won’t full on bullrush a 330 pound lineman, they often struggle to keep their balance when locked in against him. Anderson always FEELS bigger than he is, and that is a pretty big compliment.
A Major Problem
This past week against Texas exposed a weakness of Anderson that has reared its head in the past. Discipline. Drawing 4 penalties over the course of the game, Anderson can get frustrated when things aren’t going well and it can diminish his play and discipline. It is a concern, and a game that will draw plenty of questions from NFL teams.
Anderson got a 60.0 grade from Pro Football Focus for the Texas game, lower than any grade he received last season. The biggest contributor was his pass coverage and pass rush grade, despite getting a sack in the game. As the game went on, Anderson’s grade worsened pass rush wise as Texas gave him a lot of focus. The frustration and discipline showed as Anderson tried to do too much and couldn’t get that penetration consistently late.
I am not prepared to call Will Anderson a generational talent. The best pass rusher I have graded? It is possible and he will likely be in competition with Myles Garrett for that, but generational means consistently playing at a top level. Anderson had that shot after last season, but this season hasn’t exactly started off great. Perhaps my bar for generational talent is too high, but Anderson is a great player who doesn’t quite hit that yet. Perhaps the rest of this season and offseason can change my mind, but I’m not sure I’ve seen the generational prospect yet in my scouting time.
Follow Shane on Twitter @ShanePHallam