By Adam Aniba
This year's linebacker draft features some versatile prospects with Montana State's Troy Anderson being the most intriguing mid rounder in the class. After impressing teams during the NFL Combine, he witnessed his stock rise after posting a 4.42 second forty yard dash and a 36" vertical leap. At 6'3 and weighing 243 lb with 32 1/8 " arms, Anderson certainly fits the profile for the next level.
Anderson might be the most versatile prospect in the entire class after being utilized at QB, RB and LB at Missouri State. His versatility is reminiscent of UNC linebacker Chaz Surratt, who was also a former QB and was selected 78th overall (3rd round) by the Vikings in the '21 NFL Draft.
Anderson's position flexibility is just one intriguing aspect of his game, but his ceiling as a potential MIKE linebacker could lead to a long career on the next level.
6'3.5" 243 lbs | LB | MSU
Draft Proj 3rd-4th Rd Grade
Career Defense- 217 total tak (134 solo), 27.5 TFL, 11.5 sack, 3 ints, 1 td, 1 FR & 1 PD
*Offense- 117/210 att for 1,200 yds 4 tds & 7 ints
*Rushing- 2,260 yds for 33 tds
'21 (15 games) 150 total tak (83 solo), 14 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 2 int, 1 td, 7 PD &
Anderson grew up in Montana playing for the Beaverhead HS football program. He was a two-way prospect playing safety and quarterback. His squad played in back-to-back State Championships during his final 2 seasons, winning the title his final season.
As a senior in '16, he had his best season. Anderson threw for 1,403 yards in addition to 877 rushing yards with 30 total touchdowns. On defense he finished the season with 71 tackles, 3 ints and 2 fumbles recovered. Anderson also played on the basketball team and was apart of the track team, that were 2-Time State Champions in the 100 and 200 meter events.
Anderson committed to play running back for Montana State University in 2017 and made an immediate impact, earning the Big Sky Freshman of the Year Award.
“I was just excited to have a scholarship to play football here, let alone to be able to play early and then have the success that I’ve had,” Andersen said. “It’s been awesome. I’m extremely blessed and lucky and don’t take it for granted. It’s been a really awesome time.”
Anderson was the first true freshman to start at running back for Mizz State dating back to 1990, in addition to earning Academic All-Big Sky. As a freshman he played in 11 games, rushing 90 times for 515 yards with 5 touchdown, while catching 7 passes for 45 yards a a score. He saw snaps at linebacker later in the year. recording 9 tackles and a sack. He finish his first season, earning Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year All-American honors.
In '18 Anderson was moved to QB, where he was able to utilize his ability as an athlete and dual-threat signal caller. He finished the season earning 1st-Team All Big Sky honors, while throwing for 1,195 yards, rushing for 1,412 yards (6.9 PCA) and accounting for 24 total touchdowns in 13 games (11 starts). His efforts as a runner, particularity in the red zone, set a school record with 6.85 per rush and 108.6 yards per game (8th all time).
In 2019, Anderson was named 1st-Team All-Conference, but this time for his play at linebacker. The MSU linebacker registered 54 tackles (11.5 for a loss), 6.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups and 1 interception. The quarterback project was over in '19 for MSU, but Anderson still lined up with the 1st-team offense at running back (336 yards rushing for 7 tds with a 6.9 yard per carry average).
The physical grind of two way football caught up with him, which many think resulted in a lower-body injury that November and would lead to him missing the last 4 games of the season.
Believing the injury would heal in time, surgery was taken off the table. After changing course and deciding to undergo surgery in '20, matters were complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson's surgery was pushed back, all but eliminating any hope of a late season return. Electing to take advantage of another year of eligibility, it was decided that Anderson would sit out the year and return in '21.
Anderson was full-go in '21 and coaches were intent on keeping him at linebacker. The Bobcats linebacker finished the season ranked 2nd in the FCS with 150 total tackles (14 for a loss), 3.0 sacks, 2 int (one returned for a TD) and 7 passes defended. His efforts led to him being named as a 1st-Team Associated Press FCS All-American and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
During the Senior Bowl, he showed scouts he could be an asset in coverage, displaying the ability to make up ground in a hurry.
High football IQ which was demonstrated by his memorization of the offensive and defensive playbooks
Versatility to play multiple positions (offense & defense)
Excellent in pursuit as a sideline-to-sideline enforcer
Non-stop motor with little hesitation in his reads
Fierce hitter and a backfield disrupter (27.5 tak for a loss)
Looks comfortable in coverage with an understanding of pursuit angles
Still raw with the nuances of paying linebacker, will need work in sub-packages initially
Pre-snap processing is a work in progress
Can over-pursue the ball at times
Still learning to consistently drop his hips in coverage
Can get caught up in the wash when attempting to get past o-lineman
Too upright in his stance, which affected his overall balance and timing when playing the ball
Anderson was an All-American on Offense and Defense while at MSU, earning the FCS National Defensive Player of the Year Award for his play at linebacker. His type of versatility is rare for a linebacker prospect, after playing his fourth position in 4 seasons. Although still raw in many aspects of playing linebacker, his leadership is notable. The Bobcats linebacker's ability to constantly adjust and do anything for the team is impressive and valued on the next level.
Anderson displayed how effective he can be at linebacker, with a career high 150 total tackles (5th most in school history) with 14 tackles for a loss ans 2.0 sacks last season. Although Anderson has a lot of room to grow as a coverage linebacker, his ability to cover running backs and tight ends is notable with his 2 interceptions and 7 passes defended in '21.
Getting Anderson comfortable and consistently working with other NFL linebackers, particularly on special teams, will be a huge factor in his growth on the next level. Instincts are an important trait when developing a potential signal calling MIKE linebacker, which can't be rushed.
Although he shouldn't immediately be thrust into a starting MLB signal calling role, it shouldn't take long for that to happen with his ability to adapt. Anderson is the type of Bill Belichick throwback prospect, that will do all the dirty work and should play in the league for the next 15+ years at a high level.
*Game Watched- 9/4/21 vs Wyoming, 10/11 vs Drake, 9/18 vs San Diego, 9/25 vs Portland St, 10/2 vs N.Colorado, 10/9 vs Cal Poly, 10/15 vs Webber, 10/23 vs Idaho St, 11/13 vs Idaho, 12/4 UT vs Martin & 1/8 vs NDCU
Team Fits- WAS, PHI, GB, ATL, SEA, BAL, DEN and Tenn