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Chargers 90-in-90: TE Stephen Anderson

Anderson is once again stuck in a deep tight end room.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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.

Due to some injuries to the position group, Anderson earned three starts and saw time in eight other contests. He ended the year with 106 yards on eight catches, seven of which went for first downs.

Basic Info

Height: 6’3
Weight: 230
College: California
Experience: 5
Years with team: 2

Contract Status

“Stephen Anderson signed a 1 year, $920,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $920,000. In 2021, Anderson will earn a base salary of $920,000, while carrying a cap hit of $920,000.” - Spotrac.com

The Good

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.

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.

In 2020, Anderson showed a propensity to fight for yards after the catch and had multiple catch-and-runs where he churned out extra yardage while bowling through would-be tacklers. His play was a small spark for the Chargers during the latter parts of the season and I believe that played a part in getting him re-signed by the team earlier this year.

The Bad

In last year’s profile on Anderson, I mentioned that he’d be fighting an uphill battle to be a contributor in the Chargers’ run-heavy offense due to his “lack of prowess” as a run blocker. One year later, I’m retracting that statement due to what he showed us in 2020. While being undersized, he improved in this area tremendously this past season.

But what can be seen as negative about his game now? Well, to be fair, I think the “bad” in his situation actually revolves more about the position group around him as opposed to his lack of skills. There’s a penciled-in starter, a 6’8 potential monster, and a third-round rookie looking to be ahead of him on the depth chart. His skillset, while being good for a backup player, isn’t anything outstanding to the point where the Bolts will feel pressured to keep him if it doesn’t work out cleanly come roster cuts.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2021?

With a new coaching staff, I’m not so sure just how many tight ends they will want to keep on the active roster at a time, but the Bolts have three other players that warrant a spot on the final-53. Jared Cook is your bonafide starter with Donald Parham seemingly being the backup at this stage of the offseason. Rookie Tre’ McKitty was a third-round pick which tells me he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So as it stands, I believe Anderson is on the active roster if they keep four. If they do not, he may be finding a job elsewhere.