Anderson is the best pure edge rusher Alabama has produced in the 21st century. And yes, that's a slightly loaded compliment.
Alabama produces lots of excellent off-ball linebacker prospects such as C.J. Mosley and Rashaan Evans, as well as lots of all-purpose defensive line prospects such as Jonathan Allen. But their speedy, undersized, stand-up, wide-9 type rushers tend to be second-tier prospects such as Terrell Lewis or Ryan Anderson: toolsy former five-star recruits better suited to the middle rounds of the draft. Anderson is the first Crimson Tide defender of his type to combine tools, tape, and production in a long, long time.
Anderson is the complete package as an edge rusher. He's so explosive in his first three steps that he can almost intercept the snap if left unblocked. His lateral quickness is outstanding. His pass-rushing moves are economical and effective: he can disengage from pass-protectors with a quick swipe of his arm and a step to his left.
Anderson's awareness and play-recognition skills supplement his pass-rushing ability well. He'll step back and leap for a deflection when he anticipates a short pass (three batted/deflected passes in 2021). He reads screens and disrupts misdirection plays. Anderson weaves through traffic fluidly on stunts and knows his role when eating up blockers for a teammate.
As for run defense, well, Anderson played at around 245 pounds, and bigger/better blockers can latch on and move Anderson when the play is coming right at him.
If Anderson were about 10 pounds of meaningful playing weight stouter, he might be the best edge-rush prospect from ANY program of this century. At the risk of dooming a prospect with a Hall of Fame comparison: Anderson has Von Miller-like measurables and film. He's that athletic, explosive, and unique. He'll likely enter the NFL as a prohibitive Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite, and he should have double-digit sack impact right away.
Stat Note: Anderson's 81 pass pressures in 2021 was the second-highest figure in the entire Sports Info Solution database, dating back to 2016; Sutton Smith of Northern Illinois recorded 86 pressures in 2017.
Anderson's 53 pressures ranked third in the nation behind Laiatu Latu (UCLA, 61) and Jonah Tavai (San Diego State, 56) in 2022.