A media member compared Troy Andersen to a “comic book character” during the Atlanta Falcons’ press conference Friday night following the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft.
The comment drew smiles from Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith.
“I’m sure that’s a compliment, right?” Smith replied.
Another reporter chimed in, saying Andersen was like “a superhero.”
“Let’s not do that to Troy yet,” Smith said.
Hyperbole is common when people talk about Andersen. Few college football players line up at multiple positions in their careers, let alone star in different roles like Andersen did at Montana State. Andersen excelled at running back, outside linebacker and quarterback before moving to inside linebacker last season.
The Falcons drafted Andersen with the 26th pick of the second round (No. 58 overall) on Friday night. He intends to play inside linebacker, and his new team has no plans to move him. But his comic book-conjuring path at MSU played a role in Atlanta’s decision to draft him.
“He’s a rare athlete,” Smith said during Friday’s press conference. “The guy’s got great instincts, played multiple spots, he’s got great spacial awareness. Certainly his measurables are off the charts, but you don’t take guys just on measurables. The guy can play.”
Andersen was a consensus top-100 prospect by draft experts going into Friday, mostly in the 60-100 range. Mock drafts from ESPN and The Athletic had Andersen going to the Falcons at No. 58, so the selection was not a surprise, and almost no analysts called it a reach.
“Andersen can be a special player for Atlanta,” Pro Football Focus wrote. “He’s a freaky athlete who is still learning the position, but he has as high a ceiling as any of the off-ball linebackers in the 2022 class.”
The Score called Andersen “one of the most athletic linebacker prospects we’ve ever seen.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. wrote that Andersen and fellow Falcons second-rounder Arnold Ebiketie “could be foundational defenders.”
Andersen’s ability was evident throughout his fabled MSU career. He was named Big Sky freshman of the year as a running back and outside linebacker in 2017, received all-conference and All-America honors as a quarterback a year later and collected the same accolades in 2019 (as an outside linebacker who appeared often on offense) and in 2021 (as an inside linebacker who lined up on offense for four total plays).
He received Big Sky and multiple national defensive player of the year awards last season and led the Bobcats to the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
Andersen confirmed his athleticism at the NFL combine, where he outran every linebacker with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and posted good marks in the vertical leap (36 inches) and the broad jump (10 feet, 8 inches). At MSU’s Pro Day, he ran elite times in the 20-yard shuttle (around four seconds) and the three-cone drill (under 6.8 seconds).
“Excited about that player,” Fontenot said Friday. “Size, speed, athleticism, and he obviously has a unique background and high football IQ. The things he brings to this defense, we couldn’t be more excited” about.
In that press conference, a reporter asked Fontenot and Smith about Andersen’s role with the Falcons.
“Is he the type of player where you look at him and you’re like, ‘Oh man, there’s so much I theoretically can do with him here,’ or do you see him strictly as a linebacker?” the reporter asked.
“Why do you say ‘strictly’?” Smith responded with a smile. “Are you asking if we’re going to use him at quarterback?”
“They said that on TV,” Fontenot said to Smith.
Smith noted that Falcons running back coach Michael Pitre coached Andersen, in the same position at MSU from 2014-17.
Smith wasn’t implying that Andersen will move back to his first position with the Bobcats. He was drafted to play inside linebacker for the Falcons, who lost NFC-leading tackler Foye Oluokun in free agency. Atlanta’s current first-string middle linebackers are Rashaan Evans and Deion Jones, both of whom PFF considers replaceable.
“He’s got to go out here and prove it in the National Football League, but it gives you a lot of comfort in that you kind of know the character you’re getting,” Smith said of Andersen. “He’s got the right makeup. He’s been consistent in his life.”