Oklahoma Sooners running back Rodney Anderson may be the best running back in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he has skeptics whom he must silence.
The Oklahoma Sooners are preparing for a season that will define the legitimacy of a number of key contributors. Oklahoma lost a slew of its featured players to the 2018 NFL Draft, and will now look to remain in the College Football Playoff discussion with a new cast of stars.
One could argue that no player will face more pressure to perform in 2018 than redshirt junior running back and 2019 NFL Draft prospect Rodney Anderson.
Anderson is one of the most dynamic talents in the country, which is reason enough to be intrigued. He’s facing significant question marks, however, including the fact that his freshman season ended when he broke his leg, and his 2016 campaign was over before it began due to a neck injury.
It doesn’t help that some are of the belief that Anderson’s on-field success is a product of the players around him—a stance that could be quickly disproved.
Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield was the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Furthermore, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews were third-round draft picks in 2018.
For as strong as Oklahoma’s offensive line, quarterback play, and receiving corps have been, Anderson is the real deal when he’s healthy.
Anderson finished the 2017 season with 188 carries for 1,161 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. That includes the 201 yards and two touchdowns he ran for against the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff.
For perspective: Georgia ranked No. 3 in the country in rushing touchdowns, No. 18 in rushing yards allowed, and No. 19 in yards allowed per carry.
Anderson ran for at least 111 yards in six of his final eight games after struggling through his first five appearances. It was a sign of how well he can play when he’s at 100 percent, as well as a preview of what many are hoping to see with Mayfield out of the picture.
What works in Anderson’s favor is that he proved to be a modern running back in the sense that he can make plays on the ground and through the air.
Anderson started slow, but ultimately recorded 17 receptions for 281 yards and five receiving touchdowns. That includes a game during which he produced five catches for 139 yards and two scores against the TCU Horned Frogs.
Anderson finished that game with 290 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns, meaning he also ran for 151 yards and two scores.
With averages of 6.2 yards per carry and 16.5 yards per reception, Anderson is the definition of explosive. In 2018, he’ll be tasked with proving he can stay healthy and shine without the presence of an all-time college quarterback.
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN has Anderson pegged as the No. 1 ranked underclassmen running back in the 2019 NFL Draft, which certainly implies there’s a measure of faith in his ability to do so.
The concerns are understandable, but Rodney Anderson of the Oklahoma Sooners has a chance to earn a first-round grade at the 2019 NFL Draft.