Anthony McFarland Roster Profile
Anthony McFarland Jnr was selected with the 18th pick in the 4th Round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played his college football at Maryland, where he was on the field for two years.
In this series we will examine:
- McFarland Jnr’s prospect profile from our Head of College and NFL Content Simon Carroll
- his productivity in college
- his potential opportunities in the NFL in the upcoming season
PRO’S: Boy oh boy is this kid fast. Give him the ball in space and he is as dangerous as they come. Elite acceleration, reaching top speed almost instantaneously. Lateral quickness impressive too, can scrape the line of scrimmage until he finds a crease. Always wins to the corner and utilises good angles to beat the initial tackler. Even when defenders get near him he proves tricky to get a hold of, his evasiveness allowing him to escape tough situations. Shows good vision, allowing lanes to develop, particularly on zone runs. Despite his speed game isn’t shy of contact and keeps his pads square to the tackle.
CON’S: Lightweight frame with distinct lack of lower body power. Struggles against a stacked box. Will be coming off the field on 3rd and 2’s or goalline situations. Surprising lack of balance for a jitterbug style of running back. Very limited football in his career so far – usually a good thing for running backs but the step up for McFarland will be steep. An unknown in the passing game, utilised very little as a receiver in Maryland. Pass protection is non-existent.
SIMON CARROLL: “McFarland is almost a faster version of Darrell Henderson from Memphis last year – an exciting, dangerous weapon with the ball in his hand but as raw as they come. Much like Henderson I expect him to be a mid-round pick who will see his snaps increase as the 2020 season rolls on. Ideally suited when selectively used in a dynamic high-speed offense”.
NFL COMPARISON: DARRELL HENDERSON
Opportunities at the next level
The Steelers picked up a decent back here at good value. McFarland Jnr has plenty of gas left in the tank, and fits well into Pittsburgh’s committee back system. With question marks over the durability of James Conner, it is smart to get a young guy in to support the RB1.
The Steelers were ravaged by injury in 2019. Conner, once touted as the eventual replacement for Le’Veon Bell, missed 6 games with injury. It makes sense to keep investing in promising young backs through the Draft.
The Steelers have selected a running back in the last four drafts. It is an exciting group with potential to grow in the league. However, the running back room is coming off a down year in 2019. Not one Steelers back achieved more than 500 yards in 2019, between them managing 1,065 yards and just 7 touchdowns. To put these numbers into context, Le’Veon Bell was openly disappointed with his solo 789 yards in New York.
McFarland Jnr is well placed to make some limited contribution to Pittsburgh’s committee system in 2020. As the youngest of a group with an average age of just 24, expect him to get some opportunities in his rookie year.
With James Conner entering a contract year, the Steelers will be keen to see if they have his long term replacement with their 2018-2020 draft picks. Concerns over Conner’s struggles with injury could see him out of the door come the next off-season. Expect McFarland Jnr to have a significant impact in his sophomore year and beyond.
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD