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Film Room: Rodney Anderson’s all-around ability is worth the risk

The Bengals’ third sixth-round pick comes with plenty of durability concerns, but Anderson brings an identical skillset to that of Joe Mixon.

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After rushing for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017, Rodney Anderson’s 2018 season was abruptly cut short, as was his right ACL in Oklahoma’s second game. It was Anderson’s third season-ending injury in his four years with the Sooners and the nail in the coffin for his aspirations of becoming an early draft pick.

Injuries have unfortunately defined Anderson’s profile, but when healthy, he’s an extremely impressive back. He has speed and power and anytime he gets his hands on the ball he is a threat to take it the distance. Let’s take a look at Anderson’s film to see what he is capable of.

You don’t have to use a stopwatch to tell that a player is fast. An offensive player can demonstrate great speed by beating a defensive player who appears to have a good angle on him.

In this clip, the free safety takes an angle that is clearly too tight to beat Anderson to the edge, but appears to be taking a good pursuit angle when he turns to chase him down. But looks can be deceiving.

Anderson is just fast enough to beat this angle and shake off a diving tackle attempt. The middle linebacker and the right cornerback also appear to be taking good angles, but they are left in the dust as Anderson runs 64 yards for a touchdown.

Anderson is not just fast; he is powerful. In this clip, he breaks through the line only to have two defenders converge on him at the three-yard line. With a defender on each hip, Anderson drives forward and into the end zone.

It is not enough for a running back to just be fast and powerful, he must also have the vision to read his blocks. On this play Anderson reads the center’s block on the defensive tackle. This tells him to cut back, and he does with great speed. As he gets to the second level he cuts again, this time off of right guard’s block on the linebacker. From there, he is off to the races and scores a 30-yard touchdown.

Blocks do not always set up as quickly as they did in the clip above. Like his predecessor in the Oklahoma backfield and now teammate Joe Mixon, Anderson demonstrates great patience. He is able to throttle down in the backfield, and burst through the gap once it opens up.

In this clip, the Sooners are running a counter play with the right guard and right tackle pulling to the left side. Anderson pauses allowing the pullers to get around before cutting behind their blocks and bursting through the hole for a big gain. His patience combined with his vision and speed make him a dangerous runner.

Once he gets past the line of scrimmage, Anderson does some impressive things to avoid would be tacklers. He embarrasses the first defender who he comes across in this clip as he jukes to the outside leaving the defender diving and tackling nothing but air.

Further down the field he pushes to the outside, then cuts in. This sets up a block for one of the Oklahoma receivers. Setting up downfield blocks and evading potential tacklers in the open field helps Anderson make big plays on the ground.

Of course, the other thing that allows Anderson to make big plays is his ability to break tackles. In this clip he catches a dump off from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Several tackles are missed on this play, but the first is just a wild dive by the defender. Anderson breaks the next attempted tackle, by lowering his shoulder and keeping his feet moving. Another would-be tackler bounces right off of him and Anderson outruns the last defender to the end zone.

Anderson is an every down back. He is a bit of a liability as a pass blocker, but he can contribute as a receiver. In this clip he runs a standard running back route. He pushes towards the edge, which makes the linebacker fly outside of him expecting him to continue his route into the flat. Anderson then cuts back to the inside at an angle. He makes the first down reception, and is able to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge (the 5 D’s of dodgeball) for 20 more yards after making the catch.

In this final clip, the Sooners line Anderson up as the second receiver from the bottom of the screen. Anderson runs vertical looking over his inside shoulder for the ball, but the ball is thrown to his outside, away from the defender. No matter. Anderson turns and jumps, laying out on his back to make the grab. This is a great adjustment to the pass and an extremely athletic catch by Anderson.

Anderson has one extremely productive season in college, but an early 2018 injury canceled the sequel. He is a versatile runner who can catch the ball and has a very similar skill set to former and current teammate Joe Mixon. Anderson is the ideal backup to Mixon as the offensive play caller would not have to make any adjustments with him on the field.