PRO 2020 Rookie Spotlight: Anthony McFarland, RB Maryland

Anthony McFarland, RB Maryland

Height: 5’8 1/8″
Weight: 208
Hand: 8 7/8″
Arm: 30 3/8″
40-yard dash: 4.44
NFL Comparison: Darrell Henderson, Deandre Washington, Isaiah Pead

– legit breakaway speed; runs even faster than he tests
– compact, tightly wound body that does not present much surface area to defenders
– gets small through the hole; hard for linebackers to identify for pursuit angles
– has shown monster upside against great opponents (see Ohio State 2018)

– concerning injury history dating back to high school
– tested horribly outside the 40 at the combine
– only and 18th percentile SPARQ athlete
– production dipped from 2018 to 2019
– can lack patience to let run lanes develop in zone scheme
– despite great production (esp. in 2018), still gets bad grades from PFF
– can pitter-patter feet in outside zone behind LOS prior to cut
– not quite the factor in the receiving game you’d like as a projected satellite back-plus-type

2019 Team Market Share Numbers

27% rush attempts
10% receptions
18% total offensive yards
23% offensive TDs

Scouting Evaluation: If you were to watch Anthony McFarland versus Ohio State in 2018, you’d think he could be the next Jamaal Charles. He’s a “small” back that can shed some contact and generate a lot of steam for big runs thanks to his excellent long speed. He’s got a tight and compact body that is hard to hone in on as a defender as he navigates through traffic. It’s exhilarating to see him pop out into space and begin to pick up steam for a game-breaking play. But, as you watch more of McFarland, especially through the 2019 season, you don’t see him pop and flash as often as you’d like. His production dipped from 2018 to 2019, something that McFarland attributes to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the second game of the year versus Temple. He played through it, along the way receiving a sub-par rushing grade from Pro Football Focus. What’s undeniable is that McFarland is fun as hell to watch and flashes tremendous electricity at times. It makes his horrible measurements in the vertical (4th percentile) and broad jump (34th percentile) all the more head-scratching. If nothing else, McFarland certainly does appear explosive a lot of the time.

McFarland did not test in the agility portions of the combine drills like the short shuttle or the 3-cone, but we could only guess he likely would not have been the best in these categories, either as he dances a little behind the line in outside-zone concepts and is not the most natural in getting up to speed after making his initial cut upfield. The pitter-patter nature of his gait pre-cut leads you to feel like he’s either indecisive or uncomfortable with the explosiveness of his stop-start ability. More of a glider than a one-cut, change-of-direction slasher. In an outside-zone scheme, this gliding nature reminds you somewhat of Darrell Henderson at Memphis.

Like Henderson, he’s a productive collegiate runner who probably profiles best as a satellite back-plus at the NFL level. The only problem in this is that McFarland wasn’t utilized in quite the way you would like in the receiving game during his time at Maryland.

Fantasy Outlook: McFarland is unlikely to go before Round 3 of your rookie draft unless he lands in the ultimate landing spot, which, in the case of McFarland, would likely be someone like the Bucs or the Chiefs if either of those teams believe McFarland can bring his big-play ability to the receiving game. There are dozens of scenarios where we could see him being fantasy viable in the relative near-term, but there is also room for failure within the profile all things considered. He could be Darrell Henderson or he could be Isaiah Pead. We are generally fans and are on the more optimistic side of the spectrum with McFarland, and we certainly see value in coming away from your rookie draft this year with him in tow as one of your later-round, developmental targets with upside.

From the Maryland Athletic Department:


Third in Maryland history, averaging 6.7 yards per carry
Ninth in Maryland history with six 100-yard games
21st in Maryland history with 1,648 rushing yards
2019 Maxwell Award Watch List
2019 Preseason Phil Steele Second Team All-Big Ten
2019 Preseason Athlon Sports Second Team All-Big Ten
2018 Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Freshman All-American
2018 Second Team All-Big Ten (Media)
2018 Third Team All-Big Ten (Coaches)
2018 Associated Press Second Team All-Big Ten
2018 Phil Steele Second Team All-Big Ten
Big Ten Freshman of the Week (9/24/18, 11/19/18)
Set the Maryland record for single-season rushing yards by a freshman (1,034)

Quotable from the Combine:

How did Big Ten prepare you for NFL?: “I feel like the Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the country, so each week you just always had to be prepared to play the best, no matter who it was. It could’ve been the worst team in the Big Ten, no matter who it is. You got to bring your A game every week. I feel like it’s going to be the same thing at the next level. Nobody is a slouch. Everybody’s good and everybody is going to big, fast, strong and have athletic ability. It just always comes down to competing, competing with the next man. Just competing, man. That’s what I learned in the Big 10. I learned how to compete.”
Times you’re looking to post in testing: “I’m looking for 4.4 or under. Definitely 4.4 and try to go under. At the end of the day, I just want to compete, man. Compete with the other great running backs who are here with me and try and make my way.”

Developing toughness to run inside: “A lot of guys see me as a speed guy, but I feel like that’s not the only thing to my game. I feel like I’m very tough in between the tackles and I never really let one man bring me down. Just me being a decisive runner and making one cut and making a decision. Those are the things I have in my attributes as being a running back. When people look at me, I just don’t want people to look at me being explosive. I mean that is a thing, a number one thing when you think about me as a running back, I think as myself. But at the end of the day I got a lot of stuff that to my game and I feel like one of those things is toughness.”

Biggest area of growth since HS: “I’d say pass protection. Pass protection is something that I really had to work on. I’ve been playing football my whole life and it’s something I really harped on. It’s something that my coaches always told me I had to work on for the next level. When I first got in college, it wasn’t really that well, but I learned it. Just to work on it and practice on it, I feel like me leaving college, I got way better than I was coming in.”

How much of that is knowing who to block?: “It’s just all about knowing your assignment, knowing what your doing, knowing the blitz pickups, knowing whose coming, knowing whose not, knowing when to get out on your routes. All of that comes together. There were things like that that were confusing me. It would be like sometimes I’ll have a block and he wouldn’t come. And then I’ll stay in. It’s just little things like that, being a student of the game.”

How much did your ankle injury hamper you this past year?: “It hindered me a lot. Getting injured in the second week against Temple and just trying to play out through the whole season, it hindered me a lot. I wasn’t able to move like I wanted to. I wasn’t able to make explosive cuts and big plays like I wanted to. But like I said, it’s part of the game. Things happen. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.”

What’s this process been like?: “It’s been a tough process, but I embrace it. I love the process. This is somewhere I want to be. I’ve been thinking about being in this moment, being here as a kid. At the end of the day, it’s a blessing to be here, to be with all these running backs and just competing.”

Difficulty to turn pro despite not having a great final college season: “It was difficult. I feel like it was very difficult. But at the end of the day, I just had to think about. … Talking to God at night, asking what I really wanted to do and what was the best decision for me. I feel like this was the best decision for me to take my talent to the next level.”

How trying was this past season for the Terps?: “It was tough. I feel like we went through a lot of adversity. Just a lot of adversity since I’ve been there. But the relationships I gained, the good people I gained, my brothers, I feel like I’m going to have that relationship with them for life. Other than that, man, it was just tough sledding overall. But at the end of the day, that’s the game we play.”

How much trust do you have in Mike Locksley to get Maryland turned around?: “I trust him. I feel like he’s in the right direction. He’s a good recruiter, a good coach. I feel like he’s in the right direction to bring the program where it’s supposed to be.”

How many teams have you met with?: “I met with two teams so far. Formals. The Rams and the Broncos.”

Full schedule the rest of the way?: “Yeah. I know Thursday, I have like eight meetings. I don’t know who yet, but I got eight meetings.”

Who is a guy in the pros you try to emulate?: “One of my favorite running backs is Dalvin Cook. I tried to emulate him a lot when he was at Florida State. I like Devonta Freeman. I like Christian McCaffrey. Versatile guy. I like Alvin Kamara. I just like those guys. I kind of look at their game and try to take some of the things that they do and add it to my game.”

Importance of being patient as a RB?: “You just got to know every play is not a big play. I’m OK with making tough runs. I feel like I’m not just a home run hitter. I’m known for that, but I’ve got a lot of power to me. I can get some tough five yards, tough 10 yards and go downhill and a big play will happen soon.”

Cool to be here with Terps RB Javon Leake: “Yeah, that was my college roommate. My best friend. It’s an honor to be here with him. I feel like, no matter where we go in life, it’s something that we’re going to be talking about for the rest of our lives. Being here through this process and journey together.”

What is most underrated part of your game?: “I would say my power. Me being tough. I feel like everybody just sees me as a speed guy, but people don’t really know that I’m a tough runner. I’m tough between the tackles. I feel like I’m versatile. I can line up in the slot and do a lot of things. People never really saw me do it in college but I feel like that’s why it’s an underrated thing I have in my game. I feel like I can do all those things.”

How much is running between tackles about heart?: “It’s something that’s not really hard for me. I feel like that’s something you just have to have. You’ve gotta have heart running between the tackles. I feel like, me being 5-9, that’s what I’ve got to have. That’s what comes with the game. I’ve got to have heart or I’ll get exposed out there. At the end of the day, whenever I’m running between the tackles or just out there playing football, I just try and have a lot of heart.”

What was going right in that Ohio State game when you had 298 yards?: “It was just clicking, man. The offensive line was doing their job. Everything was just clicking. I could say that game, I was hot. At the end of the day, they just were feeding me the ball.”

What stood out to you about Matt Canada?: “He was a player’s coach. He cared about us a lot. That made us want to play for him even more. How he took over that job, I knew it was tough for him, deep down inside, but the way he handled it, I always got respect for Matt Canada. I always got love for him. I actually just saw him the other night and gave him a big hug. That’s the type of love I got for him, just because of what we went through together in college and how he stepped in and became the interim head coach and just how he showed how he cared for us as players. I always have love for Matt Canada. He’s a great coach.”

Did you meet with the Steelers?: “I didn’t meet with them yet.”

Will his schemes work in the NFL?: “Well, I know he’s a quarterbacks coach, but I feel like his schemes are going to translate good. It’s hard to stop. You saw it against Ohio State. It was a hard scheme to stop really. I feel like that can translate a little bit in the NFL?”

Does it get confusing being named Anthony McFarland and playing FB when you’re not Booger?: “I get that a lot. A lot of people think that’s my Dad. I always have to tell people that’s not my Dad. … I have to make my own name.”

Relationship with Ty Johnson?: “My relationship was good with Ty Johnson. Ty Johnson was one of the people that took me under his wing when I first came in, like with the playbook, just learning stuff, what to do and what not to do on the field. He was always a good leader. There could be a lot of people when you come in and they really don’t try to steer you the right way and they brush you off. But Ty was one of the dudes when I came in, he took me under his swing and showed me the way.”

What did he tell you about the NFL life?: “He said coming in, I’m going to hit a wall, a rookie wall. But he said at the end of the day, you’ve just got to be tough mentally and physically and he said everything will take care of itself. Football is football.”

Any thoughts on what Ty Johnson can be in the future?: “Yeah, I saw him play last year, him getting a starting role. What he can be in the future? I feel like he can be pretty special as what he did at Maryland, catching the ball out of the backfield. He has tremendous speed when he gets the ball in his hands. All of those things are good about his game. I feel like he can be a good back in the league.”

Have you met with Steelers?: “No, I haven’t met with the Steelers yet.”

What’s your favorite blocking scheme to run behind?: “I like it all. I like inside zone, outside zone. Those were normally what I ran in college, so I kind of like running both of them.”

Do you have a favorite play?: “I think against Ohio State. I don’t remember the exact name, but one play, it was an inside zone and I just seen the D-line and the linebackers just shift over, overflow, and I just cut it back inside and broke free. That’s the thing I kind of like about inside zone. You have to have a feel of where the cutbacks are going to be. It’s not going to always be where it’s supposed to be. You have to have a feel for it.”

Are you comfortable in that area?: “It’s something that comes easy for me. Just playing running back, you just have to have a feel for everything. That’s why I said I’m comfortable running anything – inside zone, outside zone, in the gun, under center. You have to be ready for it all I did those things in college.”

Dealing with inconsistent touches?: “I take what I get, but not getting the touches that I want, I just got to know when I get the ball, I got to make the most out of it. That’s something I always tried to do. I’ve never been the primary back, just the guy. I just always say to myself, when I get the ball, I have to make something happen, make a big play.”

Is biggest myth about your game that you can’t be 20-touch guy?: “However it plays out, if a coach wants to give me 10 touches per week, I’m fine with that. IF a coach wants to give me 20 touches a week, I’m fine with that. At the end of the day, it’s all part of the game. That’s the position that I play. I have to be ready for it.”

Importance of receiving out of the backfield?: “I feel like it’s a lot. I didn’t really get to show that in college. I know that’s something I can do. At the end of the day, it’s just about proving that I can be one of those guys – a Christian McCaffrey, a Alvin Kamara, guys who can do it all – line up in space, be in spaces, mismatches, all of those things like that.”

Receiving question?: “Just locating the ball, just my hands. Not catching with my chest. I always try to catch with my hands. I feel like that’s the best way to catch a ball. That’s something I really improved on.”

Who is the greatest RB of all time: “Marshall Faulk.”

Conversations with Falcons?: “I didn’t have the formal interviews. I met the running backs coach yesterday for a little bit. … It was a good conversation. Just talking about the game, seeing what I know about ball. Just giving me some good spiel.”

Dolphins?: “Haven’t met with the Miami Dolphins yet.”

How about the Texans?: “Haven’t met with the Texans yet. I’m supposed to be meeting with them today. Formal, yes.”

Jets?: “I think I have a meeting with the New York Jets. I know Thursday, I’ve got like eight interviews. I don’t know which rooms yet, but I’ve been hearing that they want to meet with me.”

Interested in playing with the Jets?: “I’d be interested in playing anywhere. Anywhere. It don’t matter.”

Chiefs?: “Yeah, the Chiefs reached out to me. They’ve been reaching out to me a lot. I remember the first night I came here, I sat down with the offensive coordinator. I didn’t get a chance to meet with the running backs coach, but I”ll meet with him pretty shortly. Yeah, they’ve been talking to me.”

Changes to combine workouts?: “I’m excited. I’m excited to just show the versatility that I have. Me lining up anywhere, I feel like that’s something I have to prove. That’s something I have to show. At the end of the day, I’m just ready. Whatever drill it is, even if I haven’t worked on it, I’m just ready to compete.”

Route running part if your repertoire?: “Yeah, I feel like route running is important to me. The game is different now. There’s a lot of running backs now that catch out of the backfield, guys like McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. They’re kind of changing the game, making it out like how it used to be for running backs. At the end of the day, I feel like that’s something I lean towards and that’s something that I can do.”

How did you improve as a pass catcher: “Just little stuff. Having the ball in my hands. Just catching it repeatedly. Just like a quarterback. They say quarterback has good hands because he’s always taking snaps, he’s always touching the ball. That’s something I always try to do, getting on the JUGS machines, just little stuff like that. Working on not trying to catch with my chest at all. Just everything I catch, try and catch with my hands. That’s the best way to catch it.”

More to prove than other RBs here?: “I definitely have more to prove. I have to show a lot of versatility. I have to show that I can do at all.”

Packers?: “Yes, I talked to the running backs coach yesterday.”

Buccaneers?: “Yeah, I met with them yesterday. Informal.”

The next Jamaal Charles?: “I like that comparison because that’s a guy I looked up to. Him playing at Texas, what he did at the Chiefs. His explosive ability. I like how decisive he was in the NFL, just him making one cut. His speed. I like that comparison, but at the end of the day, I’d like to create my own name and be my own player.”

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