School: Arkansas (2022), Alabama (2020-2021)
The Good: Drew Sanders started his college career at Alabama as a big-time EDGE recruit, but he transferred to Arkansas and transitioned to linebacker. Still, those pass rush chops didn’t go anywhere. Sanders posted a crazy high pressure rate on his pure pass rush snaps, and he finished a good deal of those rushes too – 9.5 sacks in 2022. He probably is too lean to play EDGE full-time in the NFL though, so he made the right move for his future in moving to LB. Sanders will immediately become one of the taller off-ball LBs in the NFL at 6’4”, and he maximizes his length and plays with great instincts. He’s a plus athlete with good spatial awareness in coverage; Sanders consistently keeps his eyes on the QB without losing his place on the field. He makes clean breaks on the ball and can lay the wood.
The Bad: Whenever a prospect is described as a “work in progress” in a certain phase of the game, that typically means he currently isn’t very good at it – and that’s true when it comes to Sanders against the run. He needs to get better at taking on contact and standing his ground on runs right at him up the middle, and he isn’t particularly quick to shed blocks either. His background as a pass rusher also bites him in the ass at times now that he plays a position that requires patience; Sanders sometimes bites too heavily on play action and abandons his zone coverage in pursuit of receivers. Though an otherwise plus athlete, Sanders’ play speed is more fine than good, and he needs to clean up his tackling too.
The Bottom Line: Drew Sanders is such a fun prospect, and it’s hard not to get excited about what he could become with his pedigree and only one full year of experience at linebacker. Though his game still has holes in it, you observe growth in Sanders’ game when you watch his 2022 film sequentially; he was much better vs. the run in Arkansas’ game against Alabama. Even if Sanders develops into a decent run defender, he should be a positive presence in coverage and one of the better pass rushing LBs in the NFL. You can argue all you want about the positional value of off-ball linebacker, but if Sanders clicks then he could become one of the more impactful players in this class at any position.
Grade: Late First Round / Early Second Round
Pro Comp: Derrick Johnson
- Cincinnati 2022
- South Carolina 2022
- Texas A&M 2022
- Alabama 2022
- BYU 2022