Alabama Crimson Tide edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. is quite possibly the best defender in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Not only does he hail from one of the top defenses in the nation over the past few years, but he’s also been highly productive while also already looking like an NFL pro.
In most years, a player like Anderson would garner legitimate consideration to be the No. 1 overall pick, but not in 2023, with two top-rated quarterbacks vying to hear their names called first. But what makes the outside linebacker such a highly-touted prospect?
We’ll explain exactly what makes Anderson special while offering a draft projection for the top-ranked pass-rusher in the draft class.
Will Anderson Jr. measurables
- Will Anderson Jr. height: 6-foot-3 1/2″
- Will Anderson Jr. weight: 253 pounds
- Will Anderson Jr. 40 time: 4.6 seconds
Let’s dive into our Will Anderson Jr. scouting report and NFL projection.
Will Anderson Jr. stats and background
Even coming out of Georgia’s Dutchtown high school, Will Anderson Jr. was already viewed as a five-star recruit, according to 247 Sports. Coming away with 22 sacks as a senior likely didn’t hurt his chances to be recognized and recruited by coach Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.
Anderson Jr. earned a starting role the moment he stepped on the Crimson Tide’s campus, even earning second-team All-SEC honors for his stellar play. By the end of his sophomore season, Anderson had won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (awarded to college’s top defensive player) and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. These are feats he would later repeat in his junior year as well, while also being a two-time unanimous first-team All-American.
His accolades even include a championship ring from the 2021 season in addition to the Lott Trophy, which recognizes an athlete’s character on and off the field.
Related: 2023 NFL defense rankings
In short, Anderson has been dominant at every level of football he’s taken on so far and has a laundry list of stats and trophies to show for it.
|Will Anderson Jr. stats||Tackles||Sacks|
|2020||52 (10.5 TFL)||7|
|2021||101 (31 TFL)||17.5|
|2022||51 (17 TFL)||10|
There wasn’t a more productive edge rusher over the past two years than Anderson, and it’s not like opponents weren’t aware of his presence. They just simply couldn’t stop him.
Will Anderson Jr. scouting report
There are very few holes to poke in Will Anderson Jr.’s scouting report. He has NFL size, and after showing he can run a 4.6 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, he certainly has the athleticism too. It’s not like these traits don’t come with tons of production, too, as he racked up 34.5 sacks in college.
He’s a flexible edge rusher who consistently shows he understands leverage, using his ability to bend under pass protectors and his quick get-off to blow past them on the way to the QB. Watching Anderson work is a pure master-class example of how to be a game-wrecker.
It’s clear from Anderson’s tape that he doesn’t lack speed and won’t quit until he reaches the ballcarrier, whether it’s a QB or a running back.
While Anderson gets by thanks to having a ton of natural talent, there are a few areas he could continue to polish, such as continuing to develop a larger arsenal of pass-rush moves. For now, he succeeds with strength and speed, but he could run into more issues at the next level against the elite pass protectors who also have a lot of length and strength, as he did against Tennessee’s Darnell Wright.
While this was an extremely rare example, it shows Anderson, like every other NFL Draft prospect, is far from perfect. There are far more cases of the 21-year-old overpowering his opponent.
Simply put, Anderson is one of the most technically-sound prospects in the draft class. There is no way he drops out of the top ten picks, but chances are, he’s one of the first five players to hear his name called by Roger Goodell on April 27.
- Will Anderson Jr. draft grade: 94/100
- Will Anderson Jr. draft projection: Top-five pick
NFL projection for Will Anderson Jr.
Will Anderson Jr. is viewed as one of the safest picks in the draft class, with scouts strongly believing he will become an instant star in the pros. That’s not something we can say about each top prospect in this class, but there’s very little projection involved in Anderson’s game. It all translates to the next level.
After quarterback, pass rusher is one of the premier positions teams target early in the draft. Once the top two QBs are off the board to Carolina and Houston, Anderson becomes the next-best prospect available.
This should mean the Arizona Cardinals, sitting at No. 3, will gladly take Anderson, helping replace future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt with another menacing defender who can make an impact both against the run and as a pass-rusher. If Arizona becomes settled on another prospect, we’re looking at the Seattle Seahawks, with the fifth overall pick, as the next best option for Anderson Jr. to land.
Both teams desperately need a sack specialist, and Anderson certainly fits the mold. We’re looking at a player who could flirt with double-digit sacks in his first season, becoming an instant favorite to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. After that, there’s no reason to believe Anderson can’t become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, going on his way to making multiple All-Pro teams, which, if he can stay healthy, should translate into a Hall of Fame career as well. He’s that good.
Whichever team gets Will Anderson Jr. will be getting an instant playmaker and likely the new face of the defense. Remember the impact Micah Parsons had as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2021? That’s what we anticipate seeing from Anderson at the next level as well.