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2020 NFL Draft: Scouting roundup on Steelers RB Anthony McFarland Jr.

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Looking at the pre-draft buzz for the Steelers 4th round pick.

Syracuse v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

With the 124th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Steelers selected Anthony McFarland Jr., a RB from Maryland. Here’s what was being said about him before the draft.

First off, Anthony McFarland Jr. is not related to Booger McFarland. Just in case you didn’t know.


CBS sports scouting report

The Good

Holds up well in pass protection
Wasn’t asked to catch passes often, but looks capable
Really explosive, capable on taking it home any given play

The Bad

Runs high, which limits output between the tackles
Elite straight line speed but agility is a question mark


Dane Brugler’s 2020 NFL Draft Guide (Free here if you have a subscription to the Athletic)

The Good

Built low to the ground with quality run balance…leaves linebackers grasping for air with his cutback skills and vision…shot out of a cannon once he commits north-south…accelerates into contact, allowing him to brush off weak or arm tackles.

The Bad

Marginal run power as an inside runner…tends to get bounce happy…wasn’t asked to carry a full load and was kept on a pitch count……usually solid hands, but dropped four passes in 2019…inconsistent productivity and upside in pass protection…struggled to stay healthy over his career.

The Verdict

Overall, McFarland comes with questions regarding his blocking, workload and durability, but the Dalvin Cook flashes make him worth the gamble at some point on day three of the draft.

Brugler’s draft guide is a great resource, it has a lot more on McFarland and all the draft picks, worth signing up for a 7-day free trial to read.


Max Owens of Buffalo Rumblings

The Good

Gets to his top speed in a hurry
Shows ability to get skinny through small seams
Has burst to beat linebackers and safeties to the edge
Elite speed in the open field as a straight-line runner
Shows ability to stack cuts in the backfield to find holes/elude defenders
Runs through arm tackles consistently
Low amount of tread with just 245 carries over the span of his college career

The Bad

Lacks any sort of patience to wait for blocks to develop
Slow to see cutback lanes when the first hole is plugged
Slow processor to make proper cuts to find seams outside the tackles
Had a lot of big holes to run through with tons of space to work with
Lacks significant creativity for such a speedy player
Pass protection is a liability with lack of effort and ability due to a small frame

The Verdict

McFarland offers the potential of a perfect change up to a starting-caliber running back at the next level. He is likely never to be an RB1 in the NFL but certainly possesses plenty of traits for RB2 ability.


Addressing the character concerns

Bob McGinn for The Athletic (subscription required)

In McGinn’s article called “Scouts on top running backs” he quotes anonymous scouts talking about Anthony McFarland. There was some good and some character concerns brought up that. as far as I can tell, hadn’t been publicized before.

“He looks like Dalvin Cook. He’s a little smaller but he has that type of speed. If you can give him a crease in a one-cut scheme I think he could be effective. Dalvin’s a more complete player, especially when you factor in the off-the-field stuff.”

And there was this

“We took him off the board because his football character is absolutely atrocious,” said another scout. “He’s like a child. Really high maintenance. Every week there’s going to be something with this guy. Now, talent-wise, whew. He’s a weapon.”

I looked for off the field problems involving him, and couldn’t find anything. His commitment to Maryland was over the top, you can follow the snap chat saga in this SBNation article from 2017.

That’s all I could find about Anthony McFarland Jr. But then there’s a lot of stuff that colleges don’t publicize. But after the Athletic article draft analysts started dropping his stock.

The Steelers took him right where he was predicted to go before that article came out. I think it is important to note the insider connections that the Steelers have with Anthony McFarland that may have impacted their decision to take him.

First off, Mike Tomlin’s son was a team mate of Anthony McFarland, and as a WR would have interacted with the starting RB in meetings. I’m sure Mike Tomlin had a chance to get an anonymous statement from a team mate of McFarland’s if he was a locker room problem.

Second, Matt Canada, the Steelers QB coach, was McFarland’s coach at Maryland in 2018, both as offensive coordinator and interim head coach.

Third, Scottie Montgomery, former Steelers WR coach and friend of Mike Tomlin (check out this SBnation article from Testudo Times for more insight there) was McFarland’s offensive coordinator in 2019.

That’s three connections to Anthony McFarland the Steelers had available to mine for info about his character. I think it is safe to say the Steelers had more insight on that side of McFarland than the scouts who were anonymously quoted in The Athletic.