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Rodney Anderson is back for the 2018 season, but it's likely his last with the Sooners.

Oklahoma mailbag: Will 2018 be running back Rodney Anderson’s final season?

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Ernie DeBernard asks: ‘Do you think Rodney Anderson will leave after next year if he has another great season?’

I don’t think it will take a great season. The bottom line is the NFL career span for running backs is steadily declining.

An ESPN report from 2014 detailed how production drops off after the age of 27. All NFL teams know this information. Elite running backs can still get second contracts, but fewer and fewer receive them during their NFL careers. Running backs know this and most want to get to the NFL as soon as they can to cash in before their late 20s.

Just to show how prevalent it is, Oklahoma hasn’t had a senior running back selected in an NFL draft since DeMarco Murray in the 2011 draft. More recently, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both left after their third years in the program in the 2017 draft.

Anderson is entering his fourth season this year. The season-ending injuries in 2015 and 2016 actually limited the wear and tear he’s endured compared to most elite running backs. But coming back for 2019 would cost him a potential NFL season’s salary he could never get back.

Here’s another reason why Anderson is highly likely to exit after the 2018 season. He graduated this semester. Players who have earned their degree usually get no argument from the coaching staff that it’s time to move on.

Anderson seriously considered moving on following the 2017 season. He didn’t, and that was the prudent move. If he has another healthy season, he could be one of the first running backs selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. And it’s not a stretch that he can develop into one of the nation’s top running backs with the potential of much individual acclaim over the season.

But returning to Oklahoma for one more season beyond 2018 just doesn’t seem like a prudent move.