Tight end Stephen Anderson is next up in our Chargers “90-in-90” series where I’m attempting to write a player profile on every member of the team prior to the start of the 2020 regular season.
Anderson is a native of San Jose, California and played his high school football at Piedmont High School. As a junior, Anderson caught 59 passes for 828 yards and 10 touchdowns while also collecting 101 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
As a senior, he caught 89 passes for 1,340 yards and 14 touchdowns while posting 121 tackles, five pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a blocked field goal on defense. Anderson also showed some chops in the return game, taking two of 12 total kick returns back for scores. His efforts helped lead his team to co-league title and the Central Coast Section championship.
Anderson chose to stay close to home and play at Cal, where both his parents and sister also attended. After redshirting his initial year on campus, Anderson saw time in a reserve role in four games but did not register any stats. His redshirt sophomore season saw him collect five starts in 10 games, posting 14 catches for 125 yards.
He broke out as a junior in 2015 when recorded career highs in catches (46), receiving yards (661), and the first five touchdowns of his Cal career across eight starts in 10 games. After the season he was named an Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 selection. Anderson repeated that post-season accolade after starting 12 of 13 games as a senior and catching 41 passes for 474 yards and two touchdowns.
Prior to going undrafted, Anderson showed off his excellent athleticism between the 2016 NFL Combine and Cal’s pro day. His forty time of 4.64 was right where it needed to be but his most-impressive marks may have been his 38 inches in the vertical jump and his 6.95 in the 3-cone.
Anderson was initially signed as a undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans. He spent the first two seasons there, totaling 36 catches for 435 yards and two touchdowns. In 2017, Anderson recorded the first five starts of his NFL career. Prior to the 2018 season, Anderson was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad where he spent all of the 2018 season before being signed by the Chargers in 2019. He spent most of last year on the PS but managed to spend about two weeks on the active roster before being waived and re-signed once more.
Years with team: 1
“Stephen Anderson signed a 1 year, $750,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $750,000. In 2020, Anderson will earn a base salary of $750,000, while carrying a cap hit of $750,000.” - Spotrac.com
Anderson is closer to the mold of a modern-day tight end than the traditional idea of the position. He’s undersized at 6’3 and 230 pounds but that’s what makes him built for the NFL’s obsession with wide-open offenses and pass-heavy schemes. Plenty of undersized tight ends have found success in the NFL and Anderson may just be one chance away from showing the league he’s a legit player.
His best season came in 2017 with the Texans when he was a consistent threat in short-yardage situations where he was able to take advantage of defenders with his surprising lateral agility and leaping skills.
With almost no prowess as a run blocker, Anderson will be fighting an up-hill battle. With the Chargers transitioning to a more run-heavy offense, the need for capable blockers at all positions is at an all-time high. If he can’t show that he can put his hand in the dirt and get the job done for his team, it’ll be tough to trust him out on the field.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
I think Anderson is in an even competition with the other three tight ends who are all vying for the third spot on the roster behind Hunter Henry and Virgil Green. Donald Parham, Andrew Vollert, and Jared Rice are all receiving threats at the position so it may come down to whoever can perform the best as a run blocker. His toughest competition will be former XFL star Parham and Vollert, whom the team seemed to like before he tore his ACL in a preseason game.