Anderson, Stick highlight group seeking to impress pro scouts
With the NFL Draft less than one month away, 14 former North Dakota State football players are returning to Fargo for NDSU’s Pro Day.
A year ago, the Bison Pro Day attracted scouts representing 21 NFL teams, which was the largest crowd NDSU had ever drawn. The main attractions were linebacker Nick DeLuca, who ultimately settled with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and long snapper James Fisher.
That gathering may very well be eclipsed Thursday morning inside the Dakotah Field bubble thanks to the Bison’s two headliners: Bruce Anderson and Easton Stick.
For Anderson and Stick — the pair with the greatest shot of hearing their names called in the draft — the Pro Day represents the last shot to prove their draft-worthiness in front of a captive audience.
Anderson was a participant at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, though his stint was cut short due to an injury to his quadriceps. The injury was the same as the one that limited him to a decoy role in NDSU’s 38-24 victory over Eastern Washington in the FCS National Championship game.
Still, that doesn’t mean Anderson’s trip to Alabama was fruitless. According to his agent, Anderson met with around 25 NFL squads at the Senior Bowl. While the week didn’t produce the number of practice repetitions Anderson would have liked, face time with NFL scouts is equally valuable.
Anderson will have the opportunity to both demonstrate his on-field prowess and allay injury concerns at the Pro Day. The four-year running back was a valuable weapon not only out of the backfield, but also in the receiving and return game. Anderson compiled 4,704 all-purpose yards at NDSU to go along with 33 touchdowns.
With a blend of speed and power, Anderson is capable of bowling between the tackles or bouncing to the sideline. His proficiency out of the backfield and on kickoffs ought to make him a fit with a team seeking depth in either area.
The Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs are all short on depth at running back. The Bears were also the worst team in the NFL on kick returns in 2018, averaging only 19.1 yards per return. Anderson could make an immediate impact in either capacity in the Windy City.
Lance Dunn will also feature at the Pro Day. Dunn and Anderson formed an indomitable pairing when on the field together as seniors. Statistically, Dunn profiles similarly to Anderson. He rushed for 880 yards and 12 scores this past season.
Having received far less attention than Anderson, Dunn’s pro stock has more to gain Thursday. Dunn’s name was absent from any postseason all-star rosters even though he too was a four-year force for the Bison. Dunn possesses a nose for the end zone and has flashed playmaking ability when rushing lanes open. He also made a habit of turning broken plays into home runs, often bouncing to the outside for added yards.
The Pro Day’s running back group won’t be limited to NDSU graduates, however. Brady Olivera and John Santiago from the University of North Dakota will participate as well. Santiago featured in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena, California. The duo combined to make the UND’s rushing attack one of the top 20 in the country a season ago.
Meanwhile, Stick will seek to elevate his stock after a successful showing at the NFL Combine. Stick dazzled in Indianapolis, showcasing his athleticism while performing comparably to his peers in passing drills.
The key for Stick will be to show that his passing abilities mirror his athleticism. He’ll have the benefit of throwing to familiar receivers in that endeavor. Wide receivers Desmond Cain and Darrius Shepherd and tight end Nate Jenson will join him at the Pro Day.
Rounding out the group of participants from last year’s squad are cornerback Jalen Allison, defensive end Caleb Butler, left guard Colin Conner, strong safety Robbie Grimsley, defensive tackle Aaron Steidl and center Tanner Volson. Grimsley and Volson both earned AP first-team All-America honors.
Two former Bison who didn’t feature on last year’s team will also work out for scouts: linebacker Travis Beck and safety Darren Kelley. Beck’s last season in the green and yellow came in 2014. Meanwhile, it will be a story of redemption for Kelley, who was removed from the football team back in 2017. Kelley graduated in the spring of 2018 and had a minor role with the Bison.