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Patriots Draft Profile: LB Ryan Anderson

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
March 23, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots Draft Profile: LB Ryan Anderson(PHOTO: usa today - USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 3 minutes

Anderson, Big, Physical SAM Linebacker to Play Next to Hightower

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots could use more depth at the linebacker position. The good news is that Dont’a Hightower is returning with a new 4-year, $43.5 million-dollar contract. But after him, they have some questions. Elandon Roberts did a good job at stuffing the run but was a liability in coverage. Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy are sub-backers on passing downs, while Jonathan Freeny spent the year on IR.

Hightower is the glue for the entire front seven and calls the plays on defense. The Patriots really don’t have a player that can replace him. Roberts may make a big jump in Year 2 but they’d be best served to draft a three-down linebacker that can set the edge in the running game but also help with some blitzing off the edge on passing downs.

Ryan Anderson from Alabama comes from a Pro-ready program with Nick Saban and can step in on Day 1 and be a key contributor. He paid his dues with the Tide and was a fifth-year senior. Although he had played extensively in 2014 and 2015, it wasn’t until this past year that he got to start. Anderson performed well in the Crimson Tide’s defense logging 61 tackles including 19 for a loss along with 9 sacks in 2016.

He’s thick in the chest and shoulders and has very good functional strength and power at the point of attack. Sets the edge very well in the running game. Can rush the passer although he doesn’t have elite speed and can use both power or moves to get to the QB.

He’s instinctive, aggressive with good ball skills and is consistently good against both the run and pass. He’s also got very good STs value.

Pros:

– Quick instinctive player that makes plays

– Tough, competitive, and aggressive

– Smart edge setter and strong pass rusher

– Good ball skills and WR awareness

Cons

– Speed is only so-so

– Short arms and only marginal height

– Only a starter for one season

What his Role Will Be:
Anderson’s role would be to be pushing for starting reps at the SAM linebacker spot on Day 1. With the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Anderson and Hightower should give the Patriots a pair of Alabama backers for the next several years.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with his ability to set the edge in the running game and another year in the system he should see his level of play increase to where he can become an impact player.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll challenge for starting reps right away, his spot on the roster would impact any of the other three McClellin, Freeny, and Van Noy. It should generate some good competition at training camp.

What is his ST Value?
Very good, he can be an immediate contributor in all four phases.

Conclusion:
Anderson is a very intriguing player, he comes from the Alabama and Nick Saban program, a close friend of Bill Belichick and played in a scheme that should translate very well for the Patriots.

He’s a relentless pass rusher and plays his angles superbly on defense and rarely if ever gets caught by a cutback run. Is never out of position. He’s a finisher as a tackler with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three passes defensed in 2016.

Anderson has a high football IQ with a great work ethic and was lauded by Saban for his leadership on a defense full of leaders. He’s a perfect player for the Patriots defense. He’s isn’t Von Miller flashy, he just does everything well and does them right. He’d be a tremendous addition next to Hightower.

His lack of ideal length and the fact that he isn’t a speed demon from the edge will probably set him back a bit in the draft which would help Belichick and the Patriots. He may just probably last into the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft which would put him in a good position to be picked up by New England.

Anderson’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Tags: 2017 NFL Combine 2017 NFL Draft 2017 Patriots Season 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Dont'a Hightower Jonathan Freeny Kyle Van Noy New England Patriots Patriots Patriots linebackers Shea McClellin

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