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How Anthony McFarland’s injured ankle makes him a gem for the Steelers

Did the Steelers find a diamond in the rough with 4th round pick Anthony McFarland?

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

There is always so much more to a player than where/when they were drafted. There are underlying circumstances to a player dropping, or rising, on teams’ draft boards. A bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, a bad interview or even people thinking you are immature can cause a prospect who could have been drafted on Day 1 or 2 fall to a Day 3 selection.

It doesn’t take away from their overall talent, but it means they are things teams need to consider before pulling the trigger on the selection.

Former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. would certainly fall into this category. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and many considered the selection to be a “reach”.

After all, McFarland was labeled as “childish” and “immature” by scouts, not to mention his numbers in 2019 took a dip from his 2018 stats.

But what if, just for a minute, we change our thinking on this player.

When McFarland, who played for Matt Canada at Maryland, labeled Canada as a “father figure” you have to wonder about how he will respond to coaching in the NFL with a man he knows in the system. On top of that, he was plagued with an ankle injury throughout the 2019 season, which hindered his stats.

Just look at what was said in his overview of his NFL Draft Profile:

“A high-ankle sprain may have been at the root of his unimpressive 2019 tape, as he showed a little better burst and tackle-breaking ability in 2018, but in both seasons he needed either clear points of entry or to be operating in open space to get it going.”

Translation: An injury in 2019 made him less explosive, but the player has a lot of potential. How much potential? Just watch his highlights from the game in 2018 vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes.

So, let’s bring this full circle. What made McFarland drop to Day 3 of the draft process? Lack of production his last year in college? Off-field concerns?

Well, if Canada can speak of his character, and the team drafted him anyway, you have to think they know what they are getting with the pick. McFarland said he is fully healed from the ankle injury which hobbled him in 2019, so you have to wonder if the Steelers will be getting the 2018 McFarland.

In other words, the Steelers could have gotten a diamond in the rough in McFarland. His 2020 season might be as more of a change-of-pace back, but when you watch him run all over teams, like in the Ohio State film above, you see a player bursting with potential. For a 4th round pick, McFarland has a ton of upside, which is just what the Steelers need at the running back position.

What are your thoughts on McFarland as a prospect/player? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.