2020 NFL Draft | Darius Anderson: Perfect for a Zone Run Scheme


When we look at the players of the 2020 NFL Draft, sometimes it’s easier to place players in tiers rather than in specific ranks. For example, you could say that CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are in the top tier for the wide receivers and guys like Henry Ruggs and Tee Higgins are in the second tier. The running back position is no different. When you look at the consensus top four running backs, it’s a list that consists of Zack Moss, J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, and DeAndre Swift. Rightfully so, all four of those running backs are really talented, and on my board they would be in the first tier of running backs.

What about the second tier of running backs? You could make a case for a player like Cam Akers or Lamical Perine, but there’s one name that hasn’t garnered as much attention. However, that should start changing. Darius Anderson from TCU should be a name that you start taking notes on.

He graduated from George Ranch High School in Richmond, Texas and was ranked as a three-star recruit from 24/7 Sports. He had offers from plenty of schools across the country. That list included Alabama, Missouri, and Texas, but he chose TCU. One of those reasons was that he wanted to play for former offensive assistant coach at TCU, Curtis Luper (coached RBs and WRs, and was co-offensive coordinator). In fact, Luper compared Anderson to former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas. He said, “both guys always get yards when they touch the football; Darius always gets yards.”

With such praise, let’s see what Darius Anderson brought to the table for the TCU Horned Frogs and what he’ll bring to the table as he prepares to be drafted during the 2020 NFL Draft!

Always Getting Yards 

It’s only fitting that we start in the area where Anderson’s former coach gave him praise — making something out of nothing and always getting yards. According to Sports Info Solutions (SIS), he had 41 broken tackles on 153 carries this season. That’s good for a 26.8-percent broken tackle rate.

The example above isn’t an ideal example of Anderson being some type of bruising running back. However, the play above does show what he can do in the short areas of the field. He does get met by plenty of defenders at the line of scrimmage, but he jukes a potential first-round linebacker, Kenneth Murray, out of his shoes. All was going right for him until that safety came downhill to deliver a shot. Either way, it looks promising when you see Anderson have this type of shiftiness and willingness to put up a fight, regardless of how many hits he takes.

As for a better example of Anderson breaking tackles, look no further than the play above. The play looks over before it even gets started. He’s met in the backfield by the defensive tackle that defeats the reach block from the left tackle, but Anderson runs through the arm tackle and continues up-field for a positive gain of five yards. This type of determination can help a running back survive on a Sunday afternoon.

Even though I wouldn’t specify Anderson as a bruising runner, he puts it on display here. He’s met in the A-gap with a linebacker (LB 46) that stops his feet and waits for him at the hole. As you can see, Anderson shows some short-area burst to get around the linebacker and get up-field. Once he starts to get downhill and is met by the safety, he lowers his shoulder and continues to churn out yardage; he never stops his feet.

Out of the videos I’ve shown so far, this is the one that shows what type of runner Anderson really is. For starters, you see him getting the positive yardage and running through every tackler possible until he can’t anymore. Outside of that, watch him find a hole and cut through it to bounce off plenty of contact and gain positive yardage.

Great Understanding of how Outside Zone Works 

This is what caught my attention whenever I watched Darius Anderson run the football. His ability to diagnose where to go on an outside zone run makes him the perfect fit for a zone run offense. He looks so comfortable when he gets the football, and his entire offensive line is reach blocking in front of him. His knowledge and comfort to either bounce the run, bend back towards the weak-side, or bang through the open rushing lane is superb.

The play above is a perfect example of Anderson displaying patience and good vision downfield. He reads this outside zone perfectly, too. He makes the defense think he’s going to bounce the run to the outside, but he sees an opening and trusts his skill-set to bang into the open rushing lane. Even though his cut is a bit rounded, he explodes up-field and does a good job running through an arm tackle.

On the next play, you can see similarities with some of the previous runs by Anderson. He makes it look like he’s going to bounce the run, but once the opportunity presents itself to bang through the opening, he takes it. Once he sees the opening this time, he puts on the jets and gets a monster gain for a first down. Even though this is a great job by the talented senior running back, plenty of credit needs to be given to the offensive line on this play, too. They all do a terrific job staying square on their blocks with great hand placement, and the right guard does a nice job kicking out the linebacker at the second level.

Lastly, the play above is a perfect example of Anderson showing his ability to bend back to the weak side. His quickness gets put on display with this run, as he eases his way through and around traffic to gain a big first down. If you haven’t noticed, Anderson has a natural feel for these types of runs, and he’ll get a chance at the next level to prove what he can do against some of the league’s fastest defenders.

Final Thoughts

Coming off of his best season at TCU with 151 carries for 823 yards and six touchdowns, it’s clear that Anderson is getting better every time he steps onto a football field. He also added 22 receptions for 128 yards this year. The 5’11” and 212-pound running back had a chance to put his skills on display at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama a few weeks ago, and he didn’t disappoint.

During the practices he had a couple of nice runs, but it felt like he had more to prove. He did that during the game. He finished the game with seven carries for 43 yards and added two receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. As you can tell from everything shown above, Anderson runs well with good burst and has shown that he can create in space. The knowledge that is shown on just about every zone run (especially outside zone) will be key to what teams focus on. He ended up with a fourth-round grade on my grading scale, and I feel confident that he will emerge as a consistent contributor to a zone run offense. For a team like that, he’s the perfect fit.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.