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Rodney Anderson viewed as Bengals’ best value pick

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An extensive history of injuries dropped Anderson out of the top-200 picks in the NFL Draft. An impressive blend of size and playmaking ability can make him one of the best selections from this year’s class.

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UCLA v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Starting with five picks, going to six picks, and ending up with three picks, the Bengals had an unusual amount of opportunity to work with in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft. With their first two picks in the round, they addressed their third running back opening with Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams and the backup MIKE linebacker spot with Auburn’s Deshaun Davis. Two solid players to fill two notable needs.

Many didn’t expect a second running back to be taken by Cincinnati in the draft. Many didn’t expect Rodney Anderson to be available at the 211th overall selection either. Nonetheless, the Bengals added Anderson to an already dangerous running backs room to effectively close out the sixth round.

Out of the 10 players the Bengals drafted, Anderson might have the best chance to outperform his draft status. Chris Burke of The Athletic tabbed Anderson as the Bengals’ best value pick outside of the first round:

Cincinnati Bengals: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma (Round 6, No. 211 overall)

Once the draft hit Day 3, Anderson probably was going to wind up on this list no matter which team drafted him. Still working through rehab on an ACL tear suffered last season, Anderson has the size (6 feet, 224 pounds) and skill set of a No. 1 NFL back. At the least, healthy, he’s a perfect complement to an established starter because he can play in all situations.

When it comes to the Bengals and “when healthy” proclamations, things rarely ever pan out. But there’s many reasons why Anderson cracks this list.

Leading up to the 2018 season, Anderson had just one full season of college football under his belt. Accounting for 1,442 yards from scrimmage on just 205 touches during Baker Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2017, Anderson was ready to make his mark as an elite running back prospect in the form replicating that success last year. Unfortunately, a torn ACL during the second game of the season ended those hopes and sent his draft status into a world of skepticism.

Burke does have a point though; no matter where Anderson would go off the board this past Saturday, he represented an ideal piece to round out a running back group. It just so happens he ended up with a former teammate in Joe Mixon with Cincinnati. Though they only appeared in two games with one another during Mixon’s redshirt freshman season and Anderson’s true freshman season in 2015, it’s safe to say Mixon’s excited to play with an old colleague once more.

Maybe it’s just an Oklahoma thing, maybe it’s because Mixon and Anderson are roughly the same size, but the two move very similarly on the field. We never got to see Anderson test at the NFL combine or at his pro day because of the injury, but Anderson can succeed in similar ways as Mixon. When he’s healthy and ready to make an impact on Sundays, the Bengals can effectively rotate the two in and out and keep the offense the same, benefitting both of them.

And down the road when it’s time decide on Mixon’s long-term future with the Bengals, Anderson can potentially take his place for the cost of a late sixth-round pick, if he proves he’s durable. Not a bad investment at all.

The Bengals tried to play it safe this year, drafting players who may not develop into anything more than long-term starters. The selection of Anderson on the other hand was a swing for the fences at a position where depth was at a comfortable level. It’s hard to get more of a reward for less of a risk.