With the 2022-23 season officially in the books, organizations are already looking toward 2023 and beyond. It will all start with the 2023 NFL Draft, which will happen in late April in Kansas City, Missouri. Among the top prospects of the class, Will Anderson Jr. should be one of the first players off the board in the event.
The outside linebacker is a two-time unanimous All-American and two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented to the best defender in college regardless of position. He also earned back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
In three years under Nick Saban at Alabama, Anderson totaled 204 tackles with 114 being solo, four pass deflections, one forced fumble, and a pick-six. Most notably, he recorded 34.5 sacks, leading the country with 17.5 in 2021. That same year, he also had a nation-best 34.5 tackles for loss.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Chicago Bears and what they will do with the No. 1 pick, Anderson's situation is also up in the air. Regardless of what happens behind the scenes, he should be a top-10 selection. With that being said, here are the three best destinations for Will Anderson Jr. in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Seattle Seahawks had one of the most surprising campaigns in 2022. After trading away longtime starting quarterback Russell Wilson, many projected them to be at the bottom of the rankings. Thanks to a big comeback year from Geno Smith, Seattle managed to qualify for the postseason despite all the changes.
However, the Seahawks still need to address some areas. Perhaps the biggest one is the defensive unit. They allowed 23.6 points per game, which ranked No. 25 in the league. Seattle also allowed opponents to complete 62.7% of their passes, which placed it in the bottom 10 in the category.
Notably, six of the team's eight losses in the regular season were by one score. This means that things could have gone Seattle's way with a better defense.
Adding a pass rusher like Anderson could be a solution for the Seahawks. He showed in college that he can apply pressure and force bad throws.
Also, in Seattle, Anderson would start his NFL career under Pete Carroll. The head coach has a Super Bowl title under his belt and served as a defensive coordinator for many years before his time with the Seahawks. Carroll could be a mentor to Anderson, giving him a good place to develop.
The Seahawks have the No. 5 pick in the draft, so they have a real shot at selecting the Alabama product.
Another franchise that could use Anderson's services is the Arizona Cardinals. They had the second-worst scoring defense in the league, allowing 26.4 points per contest. For comparison, in 2021, they had the 11th-best at 21.5 points. They also had the worst-passing defense, with opponent quarterbacks having a 69.8% completion rate. As a result, Arizona missed the playoffs with a 4-13 record.
To make matters worse, three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner J.J. Watt announced his retirement. Without him, the Cardinals should consider addressing the team's defensive holes in the draft. This means that Will Anderson Jr emerges as a possibility.
The Cardinals currently hold the No. 3 pick. In a perfect scenario, the Bears would trade down, so then two quarterbacks would likely go with the top-two selections. Since Arizona already has Kyler Murray, it could choose the best defensive player available, which some consider Anderson.
The linebacker could immediately make an impact on the field. With him plus Murray healthy, the Cardinals could return to the playoffs after just one year absent.
1. Chicago Bears
One possible landing spot for Anderson in the draft is the Chicago Bears. The team currently holds the No. 1 pick but since the top prospect is Anderson's Alabama teammate in quarterback Bryce Young, Chicago could go in a different direction.
The Bears could trade down and gain more assets and still select a good prospect. Another option is to stay at No. 1 and choose one of the top defenders. Either way, Anderson could be the answer for them.
In 2022, Chicago's defense allowed quarterbacks to complete 67.2% of their passes, placing the team in the bottom five. The Bears also had just the No. 31 rushing defense with 2,674 yards allowed. Additionally, they allowed 31 touchdowns on the ground, the worst mark in the league.
With an arrest warrant issued for Georgia's Jalen Carter on Wednesday, the Bulldog's draft stock could go down. Because of that, Anderson's chances of being the first defender off the board have significantly increased.
If the Bears decide to go with Anderson, they have a lot of flexibility to bring him plus other assets in a potential trade. In Chicago, the young linebacker could learn from head coach Matt Eberflus, who was a linebackers coach for multiple NFL franchises.
All things considered, the Bears are perhaps the top destination for Anderson in the 2023 NFL Draft.