You've already read about how the Falcons decided on Drake London with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But what about the rest of the draft class? How did the Falcons find them? How did they land on them? Through conversations with area scouts and position coaches, those stories unfold. Every Tuesday for the next seven weeks, we'll attempt to tell those stories for every 2022 draft pick by the Falcons.
Arnold Ebiketie took center stage last week. This week, we spotlight the story of how the Falcons found one of the most interesting talents of this year's draft class: Troy Andersen.
By Tori McElhaney
Troy Andersen lined up in a runner's stance. Staring down at the ground before him, he took a single calming breath.
It was the 2022 NFL Combine and as Andersen slowed his breathing in preparation for his official 40-yard dash, the broadcasters listed off his resume.
Andersen: A former high school valedictorian who played three sports.
Andersen: A no-star recruit who landed at Montana State and went on to play running back... then quarterback... then linebacker for the Bobcats.
Andersen: A player who caught the eyes of the Falcons.
Falcons inside linebackers coach Frank Bush watched Andersen take that lone cleansing breath before his 40-yard dash. He watched him rise, pull his left arm back and explode forward. Bush saw the athleticism of which Andersen ran with. He saw the size, too, as Andersen stands at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds. And when Andersen's time was official - a 4.42 second run - all Bush could think was: "Wow."
"I wasn't expecting it," Bush said. "You know, everybody reports big-time speed in the press guide but when you actual see it, and he actually did it, it's just, 'Wow.'"
And after "Wow," came another thought immediately on its heels.
"Hopefully, we have a shot at that guy," Bush recalls thinking at the Combine.
As it would turn out, it was a shot they did have, as the Falcons selected Andersen with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Andersen hit Falcons area scout Joel Collier's radar around two years ago. At the time, he was Montana State's quarterback. So, when Collier first cut on film of Andersen, he saw a quarterback, not the middle linebacker the Falcons would go on to draft in 2022. More than that, however, he saw an athlete.
"Two years ago was when I had heard (about Andersen), and I thought, 'I wonder what kind of athlete he is,'" Collier said. "So, I watched his quarterback play and I thought, 'Wow.'"
There's that word again: "Wow."
It seems to follow Andersen, even when no one else did.
"He's one of those kind of guys out of a school where you don't get as much coverage, but there was a buzz about him starting at the beginning of the season," Collier said. "All it did was skyrocket, really."
Having officially moved to middle linebacker after years as a running back and quarterback, by the end of the 2021 season, Andersen was an unanimous All-American and the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year. He had accumulated 147 tackles (14 for a loss), two sacks, nine passes defender and two interceptions.
So, after putting all of this tape together and seeing Andersen dazzle at the Combine, the Falcons sent a contingent of representatives to Montana State for his pro day. Collier remembers it was a blistering cold day in Bozeman when the Falcons arrived, but what they saw from Andersen that day blazed bright enough for the Falcons to see a path for him to Atlanta.
Bush was in attendance, along with Collier. Working out with Andersen, Bush said everything he thought of the linebacker was true.
"He checked every box," Bush said. "He passed every test."
What stood out most to the Falcons in Bozeman couldn't be described in one sentence or with one attribute. When it came to Andersen, they had a list. It was a list that included the physical makeup: Andersen's size and speed and athleticism.
"It's a special quality for a guy at that position," Collier explained. "I mean, heck, Deion Jones is a fast, fast linebacker. So, there are a lot of similarities there, but Deion is obviously not as big as this kid. It's a testament to the kind of athlete he is."
That list continued, though, as the physical attributes Andersen presented were not the only things the Falcons valued. They really took notice of Andersen's football IQ. They did so because they also took notice of all the things Montana State asked him to do during his college years.
"It gives him - what I like to say - instinct at different positions. He understands the game itself. He understands how an offense sees things. He understands how a running back attacks. And he's been quarterback so he understands coverages, too," Bush said. "Now, you bring all of that to defense. Once he's had a few more reps he's going to be able to figure a few things out and get ahead of plays and anticipate things that even sometimes coaching can't give to him."
More so, he can communicate all of this to his teammates, a trait Collier was certain to add to the list.
"I think he's a great communicator," Collier said. "... He can relay the changes on defense, and obviously when he played offense, the adjustments that you had to do in the middle of the game he was very adept at doing. We're getting a football player who knows football."
Andersen joins a position group with the likes of Jones, Mykal Walker and Rashaan Evans. Bush's goal for the group is to have them be interchangeable within their defensive roles. Because of Andersen's skill set, he should fit right in.
The Falcons believe Andersen's ceiling to be quite high. They see a player who can go sideline to sideline with his speed. They see someone with the capabilities to defend the run and pass, giving him the chance to be "a special guy with a playmaking ability."
"You can't have enough of those people at the linebacker position, specifically," Collier said. "… That's what the position is for."
The Falcons hope Andersen himself is what the position is for, too.
The rookies and vets are out at Flowery Branch working together as a team for the first time.
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