One of the joys of preparing for the NFL Draft is finding players in unexpected locations who could surprise in their NFL journey.
Linebacker Nick Anderson wasn’t invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Between his size (listed at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds), his status as a former 2-star recruit, and the fact that he played at Tulane, he seems to have been overlooked around the country.
However, it’s hard not to notice Anderson when turning on Tulane’s defensive tape. Number 1 was consistently involved in the play and made his share of splash plays over the course of his senior season.
The New York Giants are in dire need of help at the linebacker position, and could certainly do with drafting one highly. However, Anderson’s competitive toughness, athleticism, and versatility could make him a good value later in the draft should they double-dip at the position.
Prospect: Nick Anderson (1)
Games Watched: vs. Houston (2022), vs. UCF (2022), vs. SMU (2022), vs. UCF (2022 - AAC Championship Game)
Weight: 230 pounds
Games Played: 46
Tackles for a loss: 29.0
Forced fumbles: 3
Passes defensed: 6
Games Played: 14
Tackles for a loss: 7.0
Forced fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 4
Best: Competitive toughness, quickness, agility, downhill explosion
Worst: Size and length, hip fluidity
Projection: A core special teams player with upside as a rotational linebacker in a multiple defense.
(Anderson is Tulane linebacker number 1)
Tulane’s Nick Anderson is a compact, competitive, and athletic linebacker prospect.
Anderson is a highly competitive linebacker who plays the game with a sense of frenetic urgency and a white-hot, wide open motor. Anderson is relentless in pursuit and arrives at the ball carrier with bad intentions.
He aligned at several positions on the Tulane defense, playing both off-ball linebacker as well as EDGE in nickel situations.
Anderson typically makes an accurate first move as a linebacker, anticipating the flow of the play and putting himself in good position. He flashes good instincts and the ability to track the ball behind the line of scrimmage and understands how to leverage the ball. He does a good job of either positioning himself to make plays or to force the ball back to a teammate. Anderson has very quick feet as well as solid agility and is able to quickly get good depth when dropping into zone coverage. He shows a solid understanding of offensive concepts and how to read quarterbacks’ eyes, letting them lead him to the play. He has a great downhill trigger and fairly explodes out of his backpedal when driving on an underneath play.
Anderson’s explosiveness also shows up when playing downhill in run defense or as a pass rusher. He times the snap well and has a very good first step, often allowing him to beat blockers off of the snap. He has a good understanding of how to use his hands and agility to keep himself clean to scrape along the line of scrimmage.
Anderson is a very hard hitter and a sound tackler. He is generally reliable in getting the ball carrier on the ground and has enough wherewithal to tackle the ball as well as
Unfortunately, Anderson lacks anything like ideal length and also shows some tightness in his hips. Taken together, those limit his tackle radius, his range in the open field, and his ability to match up in tight coverage. His lack of length limits his ability to bring his full strength to bear on blockers, and he can struggle to shed blockers if they manage to get engaged.
Anderson will likely come in under many teams’ thresholds for a linebacker, which will knock him down draft boards. His size could make matching up with bigger, stronger, more athletic, and more skilled NFL players a challenge – and one he might not be able to overcome.
Overall Grade: 6.8
Nick Anderson likely projects as a core special teams player at the NFL level, at least to start his career.
Anderson’s lack of size will be working against him in draft rooms, as teams will likely have doubts as to how well he will translate to the next level. That said, it’s easy to see him becoming coach – and fan – favorite thanks to his competitive toughness and urgent play style. Anderson will likely make plays in practice, camp, and preseason due to his agility, explosiveness, and flat-out refusal to give up on them. He’s an easy player to root for, and that should allow him to force his way onto a roster, even without prototypical measurables.
Anderson’s greatest upside will likely be for a defense that uses an active front 7 rotation and is willing to scheme pressure. His experience as an EDGE in nickel packages, as well as his ability to quickly drop in coverage, would be an asset for a “multiple” defense. They could allow a creative (and aggressive) defensive coordinator to create pressure from unexpected angles.
Nick Anderson may never, and likely won’t ever, be an every-down starter for a defense. But he has the potential to be the kind of player you shouldn’t bet against. He could become one of those players that has fans, and teams, asking how they missed him a couple years down the line.