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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 3 Will Anderson

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on April 27 in Kansas City, so starting today Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move onto our projected No. 3 – linebacker Will Anderson of Alabama, who was a five-star in the 2020 class.

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Will Anderson
Will Anderson (

NO. 3: DE Will Anderson

Where they were ranked: After a dominant week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Anderson was moved up to five-star status and finished as the best weak-side defensive end in the class and No. 22 overall.

Recruitment: The Hampton (Ga.) Dutchtown standout started from humble beginnings in his recruitment as Kentucky, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Missouri were the four programs on his early watch list. His dream school was Georgia but the Bulldogs never pursued him hard. He also had his eyes on Clemson but that never materialized.

Anderson ended up committing to Alabama over Georgia Tech – yes, the Yellow Jackets – in the summer before his senior season with Auburn and Florida State also high on his list.

Biggest question: There aren’t many weaknesses and his production was off the charts but the biggest question would be if he can win reps immediately against NFL offensive tackles and if not, is there a counter?

Memories: William Anderson, as he’s named in the Rivals database, was not one of those 2020 prospects who did a lot of national events and was on the scene for years.

Anderson continued to develop through his junior year and into his senior campaign, and then really emerged on the five-star radar after dominating at the All-American Game in San Antonio. I remember a few 1-on-1 reps at practice where he was so violent and so aggressive that he just knocked back offensive tackles at will.

At that time, he wasn’t completely physically developed either which made that performance even more impressive. In the game, Anderson sacked quarterbacks Malik Hornsby and CJ Stroud, a glimpse of what he would become at Alabama. In college, he finished his career with 204 tackles and 34.5 sacks in three seasons.

Following that event leading into our final rankings release, we decided to move Anderson to five-star status but also be a tad conservative by putting him toward the back end at No. 22 overall. In the state of Georgia alone, Myles Murphy, Broderick Jones, Arik Gilbert and Tate Ratledge were still all ranked ahead of him.

That was a recruiting class that had Clemson signees Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee (the No. 1 overall prospect) among other five-stars and they had established themselves up to that point much more than Anderson. Looking back, though, it would’ve been prescient to move the Hampton (Ga.) Dutchtown standout even higher after his performance in San Antonio.