There’s no set path to the NFL. But while there’s a huge variety of ways in which college prospects can get to the NFL, Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen has to have had one of the most interesting.
Andersen started his career at Montana State as a running back and linebacker and was named freshman of the year. He switched to quarterback in 2018 and did well enough to be named First Team All-Conference. In 2019, Andersen made the permanent move to linebacker, playing inside and outside linebacker, and was earned All-Conference honors at those positions as well. Andersen has also earned accolades for his off-field work as well, and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.
Andersen has great size, top-shelf athleticism, and obvious football IQ. He may not be a big-school prospect, but he definitely has big-time potential. Few people on the national stage have heard Andersen’s name, but he has the opportunity raise his draft stock over the coming weeks and months.
Could Andersen be a sleeper for the linebacker-needy New York Giants? Or will he follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Chinn and Kyle Duggar and raise his profile above “sleeper” status?
Prospect: Troy Andersen (15)
Games Watched: vs. Montana (2021), vs. UT Martin (2021), vs. South Dakota State (2021), vs. North Dakota State (2021)
Games Played: 15
Tackles For a loss: 14.0
Passes Defensed: 7
Best: Size, athleticism, space play, football IQ
Worst: Technique, experience
Projection: Starting MIKE or WILL linebacker
(Andersen is LB number 15)
Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen is an intriguing prospect with high upside at the next level.
Andersen possesses a prototypical blend of size and athleticism for a modern NFL linebacker. Andersen’s 6-foot-3, 235 pound frame, long arms, and fluid athleticism, allow him to play a variety of positions at the second level of the Bobcats’ defense. He aligned at both strong and weak outside linebacker positions, the middle linebacker position, and occasionally as a slot defender.
He is an easy and fluid athlete, possessing quick-twitch agility and good long speed. Andersen is a capable off-ball linebacker with good range in coverage, the agility to stay with tight ends and receivers in space, and enough speed to be effective in pursuit. Andersen is best in zone coverage, and does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and allowing the passer to lead him to the target. He’s active at the catch point and is a consistent threat to knock the ball away.
Andersen is a patient linebacker who is only rarely fooled by play-action or misdirection. And once he is committed to a course of action, he shows a quick trigger and an explosive burst toward the ball. He does a good job of using his length to keep most blockers from latching on. He is also excellent when scraping laterally across the line of scrimmage and
Andersen’s greatest weakness is his inexperience. He only has two years’ worth of experience at the linebacker position and was an All-American quarterback before transitioning to the defensive side of the ball. Andersen is still figuring things out and occasionally needs a moment to sift through offensive misdirection and eye-candy, though his discipline keeps him from running himself out of the play. He can also be swallowed up by offensive linemen and needs to improve his ability to stack and shed blockers in addition to keeping them from latching on.
He was frequently used on blitzes for Montana State, and his athletic profile suggests upside in that area. However, he needs significant work on his pass rush technique and currently just tries to run past blockers.
Overall Grade: 7.5
Montana State’s Troy Andersen projects as an eventual starting linebacker at the NFL level. He is still new to the position and might need a season as a nickel linebacker first.
Teams might want to keep him at weakside linebacker and not ask him to take on bigger blockers that often. There, he will be able to use his athleticism in pursuit and make plays in coverage. His length and athleticism allow him to outflank blockers in space, but he can struggle when asked to take blockers on playing downhill. Likewise, he needs to develop his toolkit as a blitzing linebacker. The raw materials are there, he just needs to learn how to use them.
That said, he is obviously a smart player and has earned All-Conference honors as a quarterback (2018), outside linebacker (2019), and inside linebacker (2021). Andersen was also a finalist for the 2021 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is awarded to the college football player with the best combination of academics, community service, and on-field play.
Andersen will, understandably, need a bit of development as he enters the NFL. He’s a small-school player who is still new to his position. However, his blend of size, athleticism, and football IQ suggests that he can be a true 3-down linebacker once he reaches his ceiling.