According to multiple reports, a few NFL organizations believe Drew Sanders is one of the “best” off-ball linebackers in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Sanders spent his entire college career inside the SEC with his last season starting for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2022. After dealing with a nagging injury during the 2021 season at Alabama, Sanders was passed by Dallas Harris and Will Anderson on their way to being runners-up in the College Football Playoff championship game.
As a recruit:
The Texas native stands at 6’4 230 pounds and was the 22nd overall recruit in the 2020 class, according to 247sports.com.
Recruiting analyst, Gabe Brooks, had this to say about Sanders’ coming out of high school:
‘Big-framed jumbo athlete who could play high-major football on either side of the line of scrimmage in multiple spots. Owns outstanding height and frame length with a ton of space to add bulk. Physical profile fits edge defender and tight end. Playing experience at QB, tight end, receiver, and multiple spots on defense.
Possesses size and athleticism to play traditional in-line tight end or a predominantly flex role. Shows good body control as a receiver. Adjusts well to the ball when needed. Encouraging consistency as a hands catcher. Owns a large catch radius.
Motor runs high and physical style suggests high ceiling as a blocker. Will face adjustment to playing one position full-time after multiple roles in high school. Honing route-running precision and overall technique as a receiver will be keys in college. Great frame but must fill it out with proper bulk and strength. Can improve pad level and leverage consistency. Should become an impact Power 5 starter with the potential to reach an early-round NFL Draft projection.”
As a collegiate
It was obvious that from his high school tape alone that Sanders would have a high ceiling. He is a violent tackler and put that on display plenty of times as he forced three fumbles in his lone season at Arkansas.
With elite balance, Sanders is able to recover quickly when fighting off initial blocks from offensive lineman. He is also capable of falling back in pass coverage with seven pass deflections in 2022.
During his time with Alabama he was known solely as an edge rushing linebacker out of a 3-4 defensive scheme. In one season, Sanders was able to mold himself into a complete linebacker. In one year under former Arkansas defensive coordinator, Barry Odom, Sanders showed the ability to play multiple positions at the second level.
Coming out of high school, Sanders was considered an athlete in the 2020 recruiting class with the ability to play multiple positions in college. His length and athleticism make him more ‘twitchy’ and able to make plays in tight spaces. He also boasts adequate speed that coaches liked to rave about. It was definitely on display during fall camp and didn’t disappoint throughout his college career. It was mentioned during man press conferences that Sanders would specialize in chasing down speedy running backs or quarterbacks out of the backfield with ease. Which made scouts realize he has underrated lateral speed.
In 2022, the Razorbacks made an emphasis on rushing the quarterback and Sanders was a catalyst for their success. Sanders helped the Razorbacks become a top five unit nationally when it came to sacking the quarterback as he finished with 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
What they’re saying
Several scouts believe Sanders could sneak into the late first round based off his performance last season and during the combine in March. However, it is believed he is a for sure second round pick.
Sources have told me that the Lions and Cowboys have shown the most interest as both organizations have met with the former Razorback.
Sanders finished his Arkansas career with a solid performance racking up 103 tackles in 2022. His 16 tackles for loss was good enough for 10th most in a single season. The 10.5 sacks was good enough for sixth most in a season.