Defensive players rarely get the glory offensive players receive but one is a preseason favorite for the Heisman this season. Will Anderson might be the best defensive player in the country and he is the star of the Alabama defense. Mock drafts have already started projecting him to be a high first round pick with some analysts picking him to be the number one overall pick. The hype around Anderson is one of the reasons why he is the subject of today’s 99 Things.
The sophomore linebacker had one of the best defensive seasons in the country last year. Anderson finished with 101 tackles, 31.0 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. He had nine more tackles for loss than the second closest player (Utah’s Devin Lloyd had 22.0). Anderson also led the country in sacks by 2.0. He had one of the most dominating defensive seasons in recent memory but still finished in fifth place of Heisman voting. Anderson was only know by die hards and Alabama fans entering the 2021 season but this fall he will be a house hold name.
Anderson is a naturally athletic linebacker who possesses incredible speed off the edge. His quickness allows him to get into the backfield and break up plays. He can bend off the edge but can also use his strength to get off blocks. Anderson has been compared to Jason Taylor, Derrick Thomas and Von Miller. Scouts have found very few weaknesses in Anderson’s game but his coach said he needs to work on pass coverage. Finding a dominate edge rusher is important but depending on the scheme in the NFL he may need to drop back into coverage. He registered three passes defended last year. If Anderson can also turn into a threat in pass coverage, send prayers to the rest of the SEC.
One reason Anderson may not get as much consideration for the Heisman is because of his team and his fellow teammates. His quarterback, Bryce Young, won the award last year and is one of the favorites to win it again. The Heisman is a quarterback driven award dropping Anderson down the list immediately. We have also seen voters drop players because of the team they play on. The talent surrounding Anderson is clearly better than most other teams in the country. Do I think it is fair to drop someone because of their teammates? Absolutely not. The best player should win the award and if Anderson somehow manages to have an even better season in 2022, he should be in New York with serious consideration to win the Heisman.