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Jamaal Anderson: Pursue or No? Part 2: Miscast Player

I was surprised to see Jamaal Anderson go off the board at eighth overall to the Falcons in the 2007 NFL Draft. Anderson had an excellent career as a pass rusher at the University of Arkansas, but I always saw him as more of a fit at 3-4 end than 4-3. A lot of his production at Arkansas was based on his ability to overpower his opponents using his 6'6" frame and weighing in at over 280 pounds. He was very athletic with a good initial burst, which I suppose led some to envision developing his raw technique into a Julius Peppers or Mario Williams type pass rusher, but a guy that big who relied so much on strength seemed best suited for the 3-4. His quickness was more off the snap, which could give an offensive lineman problems holding the point than it was about closing to finish off a guy with the ball. Using a high pick on Anderson while running a 4-3 kind of embodied the logic used during Bobby Petrino era in Atlanta.

Anderson's career in Atlanta suggests he was in the wrong system. He never developed into much of a pass rusher at defensive end. He did, however, turn into an extremely reliable run stopper. He seldom won assignments outright but he was good at holding the point. He lined up mainly at left end, splitting time there in 2010. Football Outsiders ranked Atlanta as the tenth best team against runs to right tackle, which is where Anderson lined up. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the sixth best 4-3 defensive end against the run, which is impressive because he split snaps, and their system rates both quality and quantity of play.

The 3-4 is much more about holding the point against the run than it is about winning assignments. Anderson seems much better suited for something like that than what Atlanta had him doing.