Early in his career at South Carolina, Rory Anderson played like a high NFL draft pick.
He was big, fluid and flashed excellent hands while playing in all 26 games as a freshman and sophomore and catching eight touchdown passes. But he might not hear his name called during the NFL draft, set for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
The former McEachern High standout didn’t have a touchdown catch as a junior, but entered his senior season on the John Mackey Award watch list. He caught 22 passes for 260 yards and one touchdown as he battled through multiple injuries.
He was invited to the NFL combine, but was still recovering from triceps surgery. Once he recovered, he injured a hamstring two days before South Carolina’s Pro Day and couldn’t perform for the NFL scouts.
“Everybody wants to be a first-round guy, but I know with my situation being what it is, I’m just hoping for the best,” said Anderson, who’s 6-foot-4 1/2 and 246 pounds.
He appeared to be in good spirits while he watched his teammates go through their workouts.
“It’s always frustrating sitting on the sidelines and not being able to participate,” Anderson said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old. It’s something that I love to do. Anytime that you miss time, it’s always disappointing.”
Anderson had been working to lower his 40-yard dash time.
“There were a lot of guys running 40s up at the combine, and I thought that was something that would give me a boost,” Anderson said. “Just route-running, I wanted that to be pretty good.”
He’s recovered from two surgeries for triceps injuries that marred his senior season.
“Both of them were like 20 percent tears,” Anderson said. “No complete tears in my triceps. They were easy to bounce back from, especially going through it the second time.”
Anderson believes he can be a strong blocker in the NFL, which is becoming a lost art for the position.
“It’s something that I’m pretty good at,” Anderson said. “It’s something that I work at. I wasn’t a heavier guy. I wasn’t a big-time blocker here, but I felt like I gave a lot of effort.”
Anderson likes how the Falcons utilized Tony Gonzalez and the Saints played Jimmy Graham, who was traded to Seattle this offseason.
“I think they did a pretty good job of getting those guys the ball,” Anderson said. “I haven’t really look too much into where I want to play. I’m just trying to get into somebody’s camp and show them what I’ve got.”
Several of the draft analysts have said this is a weak group of tight ends.
“There is not, that I can find, a true blocking tight end in this draft,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “There is not a Jason Witten in this draft. Not on tape. … It’s getting tough.”
Minnesota’s Maxx Williams is considered the top tight end.
“I have a really good grade on him in terms of tangibles,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “Everyone that I’ve talked to around the program (tell me that) he knows what it takes to be a pro. Good work ethic. He comes from a good family.”
Williams ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds at the combine.
“He wasn’t exceptional as far as his workout numbers,” McShay said. “On tape, I don’t think he’s an exceptional playmaker. … His unique trait is his ball skills. He attacks the ball with his hands. Very confident pass catcher. Long arms. Big catching radius.
“I don’t think he’s going to consistently be a down-the-seam 20-, 30-yard playmaker, but I do think he can occasionally provide that. I think … he’s going to develop into a good route runner and become a really solid starter in the league. As his blocking continues to improve, that will probably get him on the field more and more as his career progresses.”
After Williams and Miami tight end Clive Walford, there is a drop-off at the position.
That’s where Anderson hopes he can fit in.
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