NFL draft profile: No. 44 — Alabama LB Ryan Anderson, productive and smart playmaker

Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
6-foot-2, 253 pounds

Key stat: Anderson was named first-team all-SEC — by media but not by coaches — in collecting 61 tackles (19 for loss), nine sacks and a pick-six.

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Alabama LB Ryan Anderson is always around the ball but isn’t a great athlete. (AP)
Alabama LB Ryan Anderson is always around the ball but isn’t a great athlete. (AP)

The skinny: Gradually increased his role on the most talented defense in the country over the past four seasons and finished strong in his final year for the national runners-up. Collected 38.5 tackles for loss over his final three seasons as an edge player in Nick Saban’s scheme. Only ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Saw his 40 time get worse at his pro day less than a week later (from a best time of 4.78 seconds to 4.84 and 4.85) and turned in a vertical jump of 28.5 inches, which would have been the worst combine mark among all linebackers and tied for 36th (out of 51) among defensive linemen.

Best-suited destination: Although Anderson could play in a 4-3 system as a strong-side backer in a base system and as a nickel end, his best home might be as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts would be good fits. He also could be appealing to multiple-front teams such as the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.

Upside: With strong football intelligence and working in Saban’s demanding system, Anderson should be up to snuff as far as absorbing a voluminous NFL playbook and being able to impact a unit in multiple roles. He has lined up as a down rusher in a three-point stance and on his feet as a linebacker in both three- and four-man fronts. Country strong. Plays with an edge. Keeps his head up, even in traffic, and locates the ball well. Finds ways to generate consistent pressure when rushing the passer, even if he doesn’t get home to the quarterback. High-effort player who always seems to be around the ball. A hitter and a finisher. Wins battles with good leverage, whether it’s facing more athletic tight ends or squaring up against 320-pound tackles. Was a monster in the title-game loss to Clemson.

Downside: Anderson is below-average athletically and he might be maxed-out physically. He has short arms, a square build and doesn’t have elite get-off or quickness. Wasn’t the most explosive edge rusher on his own team; that would be Tim Williams. Stiff trying to bend the edge. College production might not translate similarly in the NFL because of average traits. Was nearly invisible at the Senior Bowl — despite being one of the bigger names there — as he adjusted to playing off the ball at linebacker. Reportedly looked ordinary at linebacker drills at his pro day.

Scouting hot take: “What position is he? That’s my biggest question. He’s a [3-4] rush guy for us, but I am not sure you’re going to have him play the same volume he did in college. I think he has been Sabanized a bit. You see that with some of his guys, they’re not as good in the pros.” — AFC scouting director

Player comp: Lorenzo Alexander, who went from special teams standout to Pro Bowl defender over time

Expected draft range: Top 75 pick.

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!