Drew Sanders DRAFT PROFILE – 2023 NFL DRAFT
Drew Sanders NFL DRAFT SCOUTING REPORT INTRODUCTION
Drew Sanders is a promising linebacker from Arkansas who is being touted as a viable three-down player in the NFL. The most surprising thing about Sanders is his fluidity, which is remarkable for a player of his size. It enables him to play a dynamic brand of football, covering depth in the middle of the field and defending laterally against horizontal speed.
Sanders started his football career at Ryan High School in Denton, Texas, where he was a multi-position athlete, playing snaps at QB, TE, WR, and multiple spots on defense. He then committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he played as an EDGE defender in a special teams and rotational role during his freshman year.
He started on the edge for several games in 2021 but was limited by an injury, which ultimately led him to transfer to Arkansas, where he converted from an EDGE defender to an off-ball linebacker.
Drew Sanders DRAFT PROFILE
Sanders has a lot of desirable qualities for playing linebacker in the NFL. His fluidity is evident when he’s filling and fitting gaps in the run game or when he’s opening to gain depth and take away throwing windows in the middle of the field.
Sanders can be walked up on the line of scrimmage or stacked behind linemen, and he’s effective against either outside runs or zone coverage. His length is also an advantage, giving him a notable area of influence and allowing him to make a significant number of plays. He has sideline to sideline speed. He has a lot of talent as a coverage inside linebacker and he can play on the line and be a situational rusher of the quarterback.
Drew Sanders 40 yard dash- 4.48 SECONDS
NFL DRAFT PLAYER COMPARISON- Anthony Barr
SCOUTING REPORT- STRENGTHS
In addition to his fluidity, Sanders is explosive and has potent explosiveness, making him a formidable player in both run and passing situations. His initial read step and conversion to pursuit give him the pace to beat blockers in space to the football, and his prior experience at Alabama has enabled him to gain ground and threaten vertically off the edge.
Sanders is willing to slow play reps to ensure he’s dialed in on the action before triggering and greets ball carriers at an effective pace. He’s explosive as a tackler and offers potent hitting power when he catches ball carriers at a flush set of pads. He also has the length and reach to extend and play outside of his tackle radius.
Drew Sanders shows great potential at the NFL level. Although he is undersized, Sanders is flexible and twitchy, allowing him to demonstrate an explosive first step and the ability to dip and bend around blockers. He is at his best when he is in the pass rush, as his quick change-of-direction ability enables him to handle misdirection with ease. When there is an open lane, Sanders quickly comes downhill against the run.
Sanders also has excellent sideline-to-sideline range due to his ability to anticipate plays. He is determined to disengage when he needs to, and his long arms and heavy hands enable him to shed blocks with ease. Despite his size, Sanders is surprisingly tough between the tackles, and his fluid and quick drop into the zone makes him an excellent fit “MIKE” linebacker. He covers enough ground to be effective in this role and knows where the markers are, making him a valuable asset to any team.
One of the most impressive aspects of Sanders’ skill set is his straight-up edge burning ability. He is one of the best in his draft class and has the kind of skill set that NFL teams are looking for in an edge rusher on passing downs. He flashes incredible closing speed and agility, allowing him to reach passers from the blind side or up the middle before they can escape. He’s versatile enough to split gaps and stop runner or get after quarterbacks in the passing game. To become a consistent pass rusher of the QB, he would need to develop more with reps and hopefully starting experience.
Overall, Sanders’ unique set of skills make him an excellent candidate for any NFL team looking for a dynamic edge rusher who can also contribute to run defense and coverage. Despite his size, Sanders has proven that he can handle misdirection and is a tough player to bring down.
With his range and ability to anticipate plays, he has the potential to become a valuable player in any team’s defensive lineup. His ability to shed blocks and cover ground in the zone also make him an excellent fit as a “MIKE” linebacker in the Tampa-2 scheme. Sanders’ straight-up edge burning ability is unmatched in his draft class, making him a highly coveted player for NFL teams.
SCOUTING REPORT- Weaknesses
Despite his strengths, there’s still room for Sanders to grow. His undersized frame could present leverage challenges if he were to live on the edge, and his size as an interior stack linebacker could present leverage challenges to stay under blockers who climb up into his lap.
Sanders will need to prove himself as an athlete with a frame and sustained athleticism with some more density to offer a more vast menu of options to NFL teams. His processing on run plays can continue to expedite as well, as this is understandable given his lack of playing time off the ball at the SEC level beyond 2022.
As a fit player in the box, Sanders will need to show more separation and block deconstruction in high-traffic areas to see him uncover and make more tackles off of contact.
Drew Sanders NFL DRAFT SUMMARY
Sanders’ lack of playing experience on the second level means that expectations should be tempered early. However, his athleticism is highly enticing, and he could become a staple on the depth chart for years to come.
As he continues to grow in his role and becomes a more well-rounded player against the run, he has the potential to become a dynamic athlete that NFL teams seek to cover the middle of the field.
- Natural instincts and ball skills. Can locate passes and makes plays downfield
- Great in press coverage, but solid in zone as well
- Solid speed. Good feet, balance, and hips mobility when reading receivers
- Needs more discipline and physicality making tackles
- Needs more weight to his frame
- Needs more patience and not commit penalties
In terms of athletic ability, the Arkansas LB Drew Sanders might be the perfect prospect. He will need to showcase his athleticism, talent, length, change of direction quickness during the NFL combine.
We have Drew Sanders ranked as the 26th overall prospect on our draft big board and 2nd at the linebacker position. He’s the 1st ranked inside linebacker, but we had outside linebacker Andre Carter II ranked in front of him.