New Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland presents an interesting case, and for entirely on-field reasons. After a redshirt year, he broke out in 2018 under Matt Canada as interim head coach, but was forced to play through injury last season, and then declared for the 2020 NFL Draft with just two years on tape, foregoing two years of eligibility as a redshirt sophomore.
Not a lot of players who aren’t going at the top of the draft are willing to forego more than one year of college eligibility in order to enter the draft. Three of the Steelers’ six draft picks were redshirt seniors, meaning they were in school for five years.
The long and short of it is that when you watch his tape, the 2018 season is really the one you want to look at if you want to see him healthy, because he got hurt early on, and that affected him for pretty much the rest of the season.
“I’m 100 percent now”, however, he told reporters during his post-draft teleconference with the media. “I was injured the whole season. It happened in like week 2 against Temple and I didn’t get 100 percent until the end of the season, and that was at Michigan State”.
“I dealt with that the whole season, just trying to play on it”, he added. “I only missed one game, and that was the Indiana game because that’s when I got the MRI and found out it was sprained. Now, I’m 100 percent. That’s over with, and I’m ready to go”.
The Maryland product still posted a 4.44-second 40-yard dash time in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, however, showing that he was fully healthy, but even running backs coach Eddie Faulkner essentially acknowledged that they leaned on the 2018 tape in evaluating him.
“In this case, with him having some injury issues, yes, the 2018 tape did bode well for him”, said the second-year running backs coach. “Quite honestly, a guy like him, if he is healthy all last year, he probably is even a little higher as a pick. I feel fortunate that we got him. I feel that he is a steal at this point in the draft”.
The Steelers ultimately landed the Terrapin with pick number 124 in the draft, the 18th selection in the fourth round. He enters a running back group that finished the 2019 season with five players on the 53-man roster, all of whom remain with the team.
James Conner tops the list as a two-year starter and a Pro Bowler in 2018. Benny Snell, a fourth-round selection a year ago, likely figures to be the number two, with Jaylen Samuels’ spot more in jeopardy now. Kerrith Whyte, who was signed off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad late last season, has the most reason to worry.