Steelers Player Profile: Fourth-round RB Anthony McFarland
The Steelers had a need for speed at running back and filled it with Anthony McFarland. Here is my player profile on McFarland and what he brings to the table.
When the 49th pick rolled around, many fans thought things were going to work out perfectly for the Steelers. To the surprise of many, three running backs were selected before Pittsburgh’s pick, but Ohio State star J.K. Dobbins was ripe for the picking.
However, the Steelers elected to pass on Dobbins in favor of Chase Claypool. Two rounds later, they found their running back in Maryland speedster, Anthony McFarland. McFarland isn’t the type of back Pittsburgh typically looks for, but maybe he’s the type they need. Here is my scouting report on the fourth-round running back, and what he brings to the table for the Steelers:
RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland:
- Legitimate homerun speed and a threat to go the distance on any given play
- Underrated at breaking arm tackles and maintaining balance
- Has good lateral agility to and some wiggle to make defenders miss
- Excellent at bouncing runs to the outside and picking up chunk yardage
- Runs low and accelerates quickly
- Thicker, more powerful body than most people think
- Shows some receiving ability out of the backfield
- Decisive runner who hits the hole and goes
- Tape in 2018 is better than 2019, thanks to a lingering high ankle sprain
- Not an ideal frame to carry the load (5’8”, 208 pounds)
- Played just 23 games in college, durability is a concern
- Besides his 40-yard dash, he did not test well at the NFL Combine
- Can break arm tackles, but can’t run defenders over head-on
- Often stopped at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t find a hole right away
- Flashes as a receiver, but limited experience (just 24 career receptions)
- Big plays came with big holes, vision is questionable at times
- Plays fast, but doesn’t sell fakes to make defenders miss
- Needs space to operate effectively
Anthony McFarland’s fit in Pittsburgh:
The Steelers have an unusual situation they aren’t used to seeing in their backfield. This could cause them to use a running back by committee approach. James Conner will still be the lead dog, but injuries have shortened each of his first three seasons in the league. Meanwhile, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels (assuming both make the final roster) could be in line for playing time.
For the Steelers, Anthony McFarland should begin his NFL career as a change of pace back, but he likely won’t be asked to handle third-down work until his pass protection can improve. He may never be a feature back for Pittsburgh, but if he can become more well-rounded, Pittsburgh will find a way to get him on the field often.
Pro Comparison: Darrell Henderson
As a prospect, McFarland isn’t all that different from Rams running back, Darrell Henderson – who was drafted in the 3rd round in 2019. Henderson had legitimate speed with his 4.49 40 time at the Combine, but his size (5’8 3/8”, 208 pounds) may have caused him to slip in the draft.
Like McFarland, Henderson was a very efficient college runner who possessed the ability to go the distance on any given play. Henderson didn’t have a great first season with the Rams (147 rushing yards on 3.8 yards per carry), but he could end up being a much better player down the line. Henderson could see similar usage in his rookie season.
As a fourth-round pick, we should have reasonably low expectations for McFarland in the NFL. However, his legitimate speed and ability to dismiss arm tackles could have him seeing the field early in the NFL. If all goes well, he could develop into an excellent change of pace back for the Steelers down the line.