In a season where quality running back production has been as scarce as ever, it’s vital to consider talent that has lurked behind the scenes. Broncos rookie C.J. Anderson is that kind of player. The former backup at Cal is getting a shot with Denver’s active roster this weekend ahead of Ronnie Hillman, who won’t dress after fumbling the ball inside the Indianapolis five last weekend.
It’s unknown whether Anderson will get a chance to see playing time. And I can’t tell you if the rookie will look as good as he did in the preseason or experience growing pains the way the Patriots wide receiving corps struggled in September. I will share that as a fantasy owner, Anderson has been sitting on a majority of my dynasty league rosters since August.
Ryan Riddle is also a big fan of Anderson’s game. Riddle, a record holder at Cal, speculated that Anderson’s role as a backup was due more to politics than talent. Based on what I studied last year, I believe there’s validity to that assertion.
Based on what I saw from Anderson this summer, I think he has the best combination of physical dimensions, agility, burst, and balance of the backs on this roster. Knowshon Moreno is a better passing down back, but I think Anderson offers more as a runner and, with more experience, he has the potential to be as good as Moreno in the passing game.
In fact, I think Anderson showed me more agility this summer in Broncos’ camp than what I saw at Cal. His impressive preseason combined with lackluster performances from Hillman and some doubts about Ball led me to hold onto Anderson where I could.
Here’s a sample of what I have on Anderson in the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
Player Comparison: Rudi Johnson due to Anderson’s thick frame, well-balanced style, and a downhill mentality. He’s an economic runner with good feet like Johnson.
Overall Assessment: Anderson is a hard runner with a good burst, skill as a pass protector, and capable of starting for a team if called upon. I think he could surprise in the NFL as a lead back in a committee and even be the full-time starter if called upon.
Profile of C.J. Anderson, Cal (5-8, 224)
Anderson is a strong runner with good lower body development that helps him explode through contact. He possesses a low center of gravity and is rarely knocked backward. Anderson runs with low pad level and hits holes hard, but he also demonstrates patience and cutback skill to press a hole to let his blocks develop. He does a good job anticipating interior blocks and working through double teams just as they develop to hit tight creases for positive gains.
He also has a good enough burst to get through fairly tight creases and beat an unblocked backside defender to the crease. Although he plays with quickness, he appears to be a one-speed runner without a lot of lateral agility once at full speed and into the secondary. A real positive of Anderson’s game is his feet, which are a lot like that of former Bengals runner Rudi Johnson who didn’t thrive with elaborate cuts, but could changed his stride to get downfield and avoid trash in the hole or make one cut. Anderson does the same thing.
The Golden Bear also demonstrates press and cut skills on zone plays. He’s more of a one-cut runner with decent feet, but I didn’t see evidence of great elusiveness. His power is a little better than functional, but not extraordinary.
The Cal back carries the ball under his outside arm (right or left) and as a receiver he catches the ball with his hands, does a good job working with his quarterback to present a good target, and he can take a hit in the act of securing the football.
Pass blocking is good and can get better. Sometimes Anderson will “catch” a defender with his hands out in pass protection rather than deliver a punch, but when he decides to strike with his hands, he displays excellent placement and power with good technique. He also displays accurate diagnosis the oncoming pressure. I think he has a chance to surprise at the NFL level because of his build, style, and smarts as a runner. I think he can be a first-line reserve back in the NFL because he does everything well enough to start, but nothing extraordinary that would warrant him an instant opportunity to compete for the job until he at least proves what he can do at the pro level in some games.
For more analysis of skill players like this post, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available April 1. Prepayment is available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.