NFL draft sleeper to know: Georgia pass rusher Adam Anderson

·6 min read

We’ve rolled through the 10 NFL draft prospects you need to know for the 2022 NFL draft. Now it’s time to meet some sleeper prospects.

Anderson isn’t your typical sleeper in that he’s a fourth-year player from the SEC. But his lack of playing time prior to this season is the reason why he’s not that well-known outside Athens, Ga. and NFL scouting circles.

So let’s take a look at what the slippery, explosive pass rusher might be capable of this season, during which he really could burst onto the NFL draft scene.

Georgia LB-EDGE Adam Anderson

6-foot-4, 226 pounds

Year: Senior

2020 stats: 14 tackles, 6.5 sacks (for minus-51 yards), 21 QB hurries, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one batted pass in 10 games

Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson could be one of the surprise 2022 NFL draft prospects to emerge this season. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson could be one of the surprise 2022 NFL draft prospects to emerge this season. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The skinny

When one scouting service used by NFL teams issued its spring grades for 2022 NFL draft prospects, the name of a defender with fewer than 400 defensive snaps over his first three seasons appeared close to the top.

Anderson has been a fairly deep reserve for the Bulldogs since arriving on campus as a top-20 overall recruit in the Class of 2018, but he at least carved out a limited role in 2020, mostly as a designated pass rusher. And he’s an electric athlete whose pass-rush win rate certainly caught the eyes of NFL scouts.

Anderson has never started a game at Georgia. He’s never even played more than 19 defensive snaps in a single contest. Yet his explosive ability could allow him to be a breakout player as a senior.

Anderson entered the program as a freakish athlete. That hasn’t gone away. But the hope is that the rest of his ability will develop to the point where he can be one of the team’s most disruptive defenders.

Adam Anderson’s strengths

Anderson is a lithe and lanky but twitched-up athlete with terrific length and burst. He was measured by scouts at a verified 6-foot-4 1/8 with 10-inch hands, 33 7/8-inch arms and a 82 1/4-inch wingspan this spring. He’s also estimated to run in the 4.6-second range for the 40-yard dash and should be a superb NFL scouting combine tester once we get to that point.

Anderson’s burst, get-off and bend was evident in plays such as this one last season, going up against Auburn’s Brodarius Hamm, who is roughly 100 pounds heavier:

Anderson has logged a stunning 51 total pressures (sacks, hits and hurries) in 197 career pass-rush snaps, or one every 3.86 snaps. That rate was even better in 2020 at one pressure per every 3.74 snaps. For context, Ohio State’s Chase Young — one of the best pass rushers in college the past five or so years — had a rate of one pressure every 5.71 pass-rush snaps.

Of course, Young played far more snaps than Anderson has to date. But Anderson has also displayed some disruptive hands, been credited with two forced fumbles and helped dislodge at least one more ball last year that we know of.

It’s hard not to get excited about what he can do this season, likely to play a lot as the “Sam” linebacker, where he’ll be asked to both rush the passer and drop into coverage occasionally. He hasn’t looked completely out of place in limited duty attempting that last season. When you watch the bowl win over Cincinnati, it's easier to project how Anderson might be used extensively this season.

Adam Anderson’s weaknesses

Size and stamina are two major question marks for Anderson heading into what likely is his final college season.

How will Anderson hold up physically for a long season playing far more snaps per game than he has in the past? Doing so at roughly 230 to 240 pounds this season (he weighed 226 in the spring but has focused on adding weight) will tell us a lot about Anderson’s NFL future.

What also will do so is how he handles a more diverse role — namely in coverage and as a run-stopper. There are times when he runs around the field and will overshoot his landmarks and miss opportunities to disrupt the run game. Anderson has a great reach and good strength once he latches on but doesn’t always play with ideal leverage on every snap.

He’s also raw until further notice in coverage. Anderson has shown he can play on his feet and move well, but gaining the instinct that’s needed to be good in coverage will be a gradual process. He can get rooted to the spot in zone coverages and fail to gain proper positioning in his handful of man-coverage snaps we watched.

There’s a heck of a prospect in Anderson, but it’s still waiting to come out in many respects.

2021 outlook

Georgia had six defenders drafted last year, and it has around the same number (or more) who could be selected in 2022. Anderson very much is on that list. His pro position will be a matter of conjecture, but there is some real intrigue into what he can accomplish prior to April. Expect Anderson to land at the Senior Bowl at the conclusion of this season and be one of the players with the most sets of eyes on him that week in practice drills.

But prior to that, Anderson has set incredibly lofty goals for the season. While admitting it might not be attainable, he says he’s shooting for 20 sacks in 2021. If you do the math, that total is possible based on his per-snap production of the past. But we know it’s not as simple as that.

Right now Anderson's draft grades vary wildly from one source to the next, from early Day 2 to mid-Day 3, based on what we'e gathered. Even still, this is a player who could end up going higher than his teammate and the man Anderson often backed up, Azeez Okulari, who ended up being selected 51st overall this spring by the New York Giants.

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