From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a small-school linebacker prospect that turned heads down in Mobile, but his true position in the pros remains a topic up for debate.
#15 Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State (R-Sr.) – 6034, 243 lbs.
Senior Bowl/Combine Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Troy Andersen||6034/243||9 1/4″||32 1/8″||77 5/8″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Great size with a long frame for the position
— Highly athletic player, having been an all-conference linebacker and quarterback at the FCS level
— Extremely versatile on both sides of the football, having played running back and safety in high school, has spent time at QB, RB, and LB during his time in college
— Has the open field speed and acceleration to pursue the ballcarrier and close ground quickly to the ball
— Has the burst to trigger downfield against the run, being effective at shooting gaps
— High motor defender whether it be playing against the run, covering the pass, or chasing down the QB
— At his best when freed up to run-and-chase sideline to sideline
— Has the ability to play in the box as well as an overhang defender in coverage
— Coverage skill set has improved throughout the year and into Senior Bowl week, having the ability to run with backs and TEs over the middle of the field and up the seam
— Has the experience and skill set to play in packages as a wildcat QB, H-Back, or even at potentially TE
— Will be a special teams demon immediately running down kicks and punts
— High-character individual who excels as a leader in the locker room, in the classroom, and off the field with his service work
— Athletic traits don’t always matchup with his actual play speed
— Seems to be slow to read and diagnose at times, leaving his eyes in the backfield a little too long as the play develops
— Tends to overrun his pursuit angles against the run
— Will run into blockers willingly rather than working through trash around the LOS, question his change of direction skills
— Struggles at shedding blocks when contacted by blockers who get to the second level, immediately giving up ground
— Consistency in pursuit needs to be improved with quicker processing and taking less false steps
— Lateral movement skills come into question when keeping shoulders square to LOS against the run or when tasked with coverage over the middle of the field
— Still growing in terms of anticipation and breaking on the football against the pass
— Could be classified as a position less player that is good at several things but isn’t exceptional in any one category
— More of a Swiss Army Knife-type of player who is used in certain packages rather than in a full-time role?
— Still very raw on the technical aspect of the game and will need to get coached up to adjust to the play speed at the next level
— Redshirt Senior prospect from Dillon, MT
— His father played basketball at Eastern Oregon, while sister Holly ran track at MSU
— All-State quarterback as a junior and senior in HS along with being All-USA Montana First Team Safety and Defensive Player of the Year
— Multi-Sport athlete, having competed for the track and field and basketball teams
— Big Sky Freshman of the Year in 2018, having started games at both running back and linebacker where he gained 515 yards on the ground and five TDs, seven receptions for 45 yards, and nine total tackles, one for a loss
— First Team All-Big Sky quarterback as a sophomore where he started at QB in 11 of MSU’s 13 games and completed 115-of-208 pass attempts (55.3%) for 1,195 yards and three TDs to seven INTs while rushing 206 times for 1,412 yards (6.9 YPC) and 21 TDs on the ground while splitting time at running back and on defense where he recorded a sack and a singular reception for 32 yards
— Named First Team All-Big Sky at linebacker in 2019 where he played in ten games with 11.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks and two hurries and intercepted a pass and broke up five others, rushed for 336 yards and seven touchdowns while starting three games on both sides of the ball, completed both his pass attempts for five yards and a TD
— Served as team captain during MSU’s Covid season in 2020, in which the team did not play a game
— Named FCS ADA National Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 along with Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year as inside linebacker where he recorded 147 total stops (83 solo), 14 TFLs, two sacks, a fumble recovery, seven PBUs, and two INTs, one being returned for a TD
— Broke a bone in his hand during the opener in 2018, and played a limited role on defense and at running back in the next two games
— Class Valedictorian and 4.0 GPA student in high school
—Ag Business major, National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete for 2021, member of the MSU Dean’s List every year in college with appearance on the President’s List,
— Humanitarian having volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Poland in spring 2018, and in Livingston, Montanan, spring 2019 and has regularly volunteered in the Bozeman public schools 2017-20 and has coached youth and high school football camps during summers.
Troy Andersen from Montana State is an intriguing film study for a variety of reasons during this draft process. He was Mr. Do-It-All in high school, starring at QB and S in high school and originally came to Bozeman as an RB and played LB in his first season on campus. He then moved to QB as a sophomore and tore up the FCS on the ground as a dual threat, running for over 1,400 yards and 21 TDs while still playing some defense for the Bobcats. His size, athleticism, and ability to accelerate in the open field led him to become a First Team All-Big Sky Conference selection at QB in 2018.
However, Andersen ended up becoming a focal point on the defensive side of the football for Montana State in 2019 as a junior, making plays all over the place while still contributing on offense as a runner with his legs. His ability to run in the open field proved to be a good transition to linebacker when tasked with chasing down ball carriers in pursuit. On this play, we see Andersen run down the QB on the read option keeper, keeping his outside leg and arm free and manages to run across the blocker’s face and make a play on the QB for no gain.
Andersen does a great job playing downhill when freed up to make plays against the run. He plays with his eyes in the backfield and is quick to trigger when he sees the ball like on this rep against South Dakota State, reading the handoff to the tailback on fourth-and-one and quickly drives on the football to tackle the runner in the backfield for a loss and to force the turnover on downs.
Here’s another example of Andersen’s ability to close ground quickly in pursuit against Northern Colorado, lining up as the overhand defender on the right side of the formation but comes downhill on the blitz once the football is snapped, chasing down the QB in a hurry and knocks him down for the sack as he attempts to escape the pocket to pass.
When it comes to coverage, Andersen has shown the athleticism and skill set to effectively run with backs and tight ends when tasked to do so. He showed well in this aspect of his game down in Mobile, using his closing speed and length to challenge passing lanes and run step-for-step with receivers. Here in the same game against Northern Colorado, we watch Andersen line up in the slot and run in-stride with the receiver in the slot, carrying him vertically on the sideline fade route and uses his length to tip the pass away from the intended target.
When it comes to zone coverage, Andersen does need to have better instincts in terms of breaking on the football when the ball is in the air and his overall lateral movement skills, but he does do a good job of getting to his drops and rallying to the ball like we see on this tackle made during the Senior Bowl. Andersen makes his zone drop but manages to redirect and tackle the receiver in the middle of the field to prevent any YAC.
While Andersen’s attributes are tantalizing at the linebacker position, he is certainly raw on the technical side of his game and has several key areas he needs to clean up before being able to roll out there as a reliable contributor on defense at the next level. Plenty of flaws were exposed in the National Championship Game against North Dakota State, specifically his inconsistency at reading and diagnosing the play in a timely manner. Watch on this TD run where Andersen sits on the outside for a prolonged period, keeping his eyes on the back who has the football, but doesn’t commit to him for fear that the QB has the keep, even though his eyes aren’t on the QB during this play.
When Andersen does trigger downhill against the run, he can be shaky at getting to his landmark with his run fits, often over pursuing the ball and allowing cutback lanes to occur like we see on this TD run where Andersen is in the right position in the gap but keeps running rather than sitting down and making the play. The offensive lineman finds him running to the outside and escorts him out of the play, giving the runner an easy walk-in TD score.
Another key aspect of Andersen’s game that he needs to clean up is his ability to stack and shed blocks against the run. If he isn’t freed up, Andersen can struggle with sifting through trash and fighting off blocks despite his athletic profile. He is another TD run in the same game where Andersen takes on the fullback in the hole but fails to work across his face or shed the block, getting cleared out of the play as the runner gets a clean running lane to the goal line where he punishes the DB for the score.
One thing that can’t be discussed is Andersen’s character both on and off the football field. He is a first-class human being that not only pushes himself to be a good football player, but also a great student and humanitarian with his service work. Here is a video of my cousin and Montana State AD Leon Costello honoring Andersen for being named one of the 13 finalists for the Campbell Trophy this season which also is often referred to as the Academic Heisman.
Overall, Andersen is a great athlete that has experience on both sides of the football, making the evaluation process tricky for teams trying to find his best fit at the next level. While he is being scouted as a LB and has the physical traits to play that position, he is fairly raw when it comes to the technical side of playing the position, lacking at instinctual awareness and consistency to make plays routinely at the next level.
This isn’t to say that Andersen can’t develop into a startable LB with that plus-athleticism to run, hit, and cover. However, when watching his previous tape on offense and the ability to be an immediate special teams contributor, my mind immediately went to Taysom Hill as a pro comparison.
Both players share similar frames, being strong, dynamic runners in the open field with the versatility to be a runner, receiver, and serve as a dual-threat QB in offensive packages. Hill has shown his skill set running down kicks and punts, and I foresee Andersen’s path to making a roster initially coming as a special teams ace. This isn’t to say Andersen can’t become a full-time LB in the league, but rather that his best overall role projects as a Swiss Army Knife-type of player that Hill has made himself in the NFL, being a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
For Pittsburgh, the value on special teams and upside at LB could be tantalizing given his measurables and athletic traits, but the team likely will look for a more seasoned player at the position rather than a project that will need a year or two to develop. They have a similar developmental athletic player in Buddy Johnson on the roster, and unless Mike Tomlin plans to deploy Andersen in a Taysom Hill-type role on offense, I personally think the Steelers may not see Andersen as a great fit.
Projection: Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.1 – Raw Traits/Upside Prospect (4th Round)
Games Watched: vs North Dakota State (2021), vs South Dakota State (2021), at Northern Colorado (2021), Senior Bowl (2021)