Connect with us


Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas | NFL Draft Scouting Report



The 2023 NFL Draft linebacker class has been regarded by many as weaker than usual. On the surface, that appears to be the case, but there is upside present with prospects like Arkansas LB Drew Sanders. Sanders has his flaws, but he also has the kind of dynamic upside that’s unmatched in the class and the kind of upside that perfectly fits the modern NFL.

Drew Sanders NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Linebacker
  • School: Arkansas
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’4″, 235 pounds
  • Length: 32 1/8″
  • Hand: 9 3/4″

Sanders didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere in 2022. He was a five-star recruit in the 2020 class and an immediate contributor with the Alabama Crimson Tide. People knew who Sanders was when he transferred to Arkansas, but no one knew just how good he would be with a change of scenery.

Alabama wasn’t a bad place for Sanders. He saw playing time as a rotational defender and a quality special teamer in 2020, logging 25 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a sack in 2021. But it soon became clear that the rotation was too deep for Sanders to make a dent, so he sought out a new opportunity and found it with head coach Sam Pittman in Arkansas.

MORE: 100% Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator

At Arkansas, Sanders was moved off-ball after largely playing on-ball for Alabama. The Razorbacks didn’t stubbornly stick to that label, however. They moved Sanders around and indulged his versatility. The results were eye-opening.

In 12 games across the 2022 campaign, Sanders accrued 103 total tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, a pick, five pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. His season not only earned him first-team All-SEC honors but also revitalized his stock as an NFL draft prospect.

Drew Sanders Scouting Report

Sanders struck while the iron was hot, announcing his declaration ahead of bowl season. Does he deserve a place in the conversation as the best LB prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft?


If you were to go to a Build-A-Linebacker store and construct the ideal modern LB, it would come out looking a lot like Sanders. Of course, it’s not just the idea of Sanders that’s appealing. Turn on the tape, and you’ll see he has the film to back up his raw talent and measurements.

The eye test is the first one that Sanders passes. At his size, the former five-star recruit has a long, lean frame with excellent overall reach. He’s also a borderline elite athlete for his size.

Sanders displays excellent initial burst and long-track explosiveness when triggering on plays. He can cover ground extremely quickly and close gaps from behind when pursuing laterally. Additionally, he offers a bristling first step as a pass rusher and can stress tackles to the apex with ease. When approaching contact, he brings a searing closing burst.

In space, Sanders shows off exceptional range. The Arkansas LB can track plays across the field and close ground with long-strider speed. As a QB spy, he’s able to run down passers roaming to the sideline.

Sanders’ straight-line burst and speed for his size invoke excitement, but he’s not merely a linear mover. The Arkansas LB is a spry lateral athlete with exceptional twitch and quickness on the horizontal plane. He’s a smooth, efficient mover with easy change-of-direction ability for his size.

Sanders has the throttle freedom to effortlessly sift through congestion and flow to the sideline when tracking plays. Moreover, he can use his smooth lateral agility to sidestep blocks and reposition himself, and swiftly traverse gaps and close off runners diverting outside.

As an athlete, Sanders is quick, fluid, and agile. As a processor, similar words come to mind. Routinely on tape, Sanders shows off good eyes, discipline, and recognition ability. He’s patient and composed when reading plays, and he doesn’t come downhill with too much haste, instead waiting until he’s properly diagnosed what’s in front of him to engage.

MORE: 2023 PFN Consensus Big Board

That discipline is valuable for Sanders, but he doesn’t freeze, either. He flashes an incredibly quick trigger and impressive instincts on crucial downs, and can quickly recognize play directions based on blocking schemes. In run defense, Sanders has good gap discipline — showing both patience and adaptability at the second level.

In the passing game, Sanders identifies route concepts and quickly diagnoses plays before closing downhill. He’ll also quickly recognize screens and work to get ahead of plays. Against both screens and runs, he smartly engages blocks in space. At times, he’ll peek outside blockers and draw ball carriers inside, then swim around with his lateral quickness and wall them off.

Athleticism and instincts aside, linebackers always need to be able to finish when in position. Sanders shows promise here as well. While he could improve his play strength, he’s a fairly solid form tackler who uses his length to wrap up and envelop opponents. He’ll authoritatively wrap and wrench runners down with his length and reach. And with his short-area athleticism, Sanders can adjust tackling angles with little notice and re-center himself.

In spite of his lighter frame, Sanders brings visible physicality to the fold. He’s willing to hit receivers with force when closing on routes downhill, and he’ll jar opponents at the catch point to minimize RAC. He proactively uses his length to engage blockers in space, shave off blocks in congestion, and keep his frame clean.

As you might expect from a former five-star athlete with an OLB background, Sanders has definite chops as a pass rusher and can be an elite threat as an extra attacker. Especially in the modern NFL — where chess-piece linebackers with pass-rushing utility are growing more and more valuable — Sanders can be that kind of player.

Sanders is a high-energy pass rusher with natural ability rushing on-ball. He has a quick swim move off the line with his twitch and length, and he fights through blocks with successive moves. Sanders can also use his quick swim as an interior blitzer and rip through lingering blocks with his length.

Even with his lighter frame, Sanders generates impressive power for his size with explosiveness and length. He also has legitimate apex-winning speed, as well as excellent bend and ankle flexion. He corners easily around tackles with dip-and-rip moves, and he’s able to breach the pocket at tight angles. At that point, Sanders proactively uses his length to impact the quarterback.

Playing the MIKE for Arkansas in 2022, Sanders saw his highest snap count in coverage yet. Refreshingly, he brings plenty to like there as well. He has fluid hips and good footwork in space and has shown to transition downhill quickly out of his backpedal after anticipating and identifying underneath routes.

Off the line, Sanders is able to square up and jam receivers as an overhang defender before rotating his hips and resetting — disrupting and passing off receivers in succession. He remains keyed in on the QB’s eyes and can recognize intent while managing space.

With his range and length, Sanders can easily track down and wrangle running backs out of the backfield on swing and wheel routes. At the catch point, he uses his length to pry the ball free through the catch process.

Areas for Improvement

Sanders’ profile as a linebacker is surprisingly complete, especially for a third-year junior. That’s incredibly exciting, seeing how valuable versatile linebackers can be in the modern NFL. Even so, he’s not a perfect prospect.

Sanders’ biggest issue is play strength. His frame is very light relative to his height and length, which contributes to lacking play strength. He can be easily outmuscled by roaming offensive linemen in space and frequently struggles to deconstruct blocks.

Sanders will often experience delays when fighting through congestion to track plays laterally. Blocks can obstruct his path, delay his pursuit, and ultimately render him out of position.

Sanders’ lacking play strength noticeably impacts his consistency as a finisher, both when working through blocks and when attempting to secure tackles. He’ll sometimes lack the strength to finish tackles after flowing to the ball successfully. In essence, that lacking play strength can render Sanders’ plus athleticism and processing obsolete.

Sanders does have good form as a tackler, which invites optimism for his projection once he’s able to add mass to his frame. Yet, even then, there are times when Sanders could be a bit more controlled approaching the tackle point. He sometimes flips his hips into tackling angles too early and allows cutback opportunities for runners.

Sanders is occasionally too hasty off the snap, playing himself out of position when responding to misdirections. He’ll also occasionally lose track of RBs on passing downs when there’s a lot of clutter. And his long speed, while very good, is not elite.

Current Draft Projection for Arkansas LB Drew Sanders

Personally, I don’t have any first-round grades in the 2023 NFL Draft LB class, but Sanders is the closest to that distinction. He’s my LB1 and carries a top-50 grade as a prospect. Because of that positional scarcity early on, he’s a potential first-round selection and a priority prospect in the Day 2 range.

The 2023 NFL Draft LB class isn’t short on athleticism early, but beyond athleticism, there’s a reason Sanders might be the first linebacker taken. He’s incredibly explosive and agile for his 6’4″, 235-pound frame, to be sure. His ease of motion, burst, and suddenness allow him to both play in space and attack downhill.

All this being said, Sanders is much more than a raw athlete. His OLB background grants him immense pass-rushing utility out of the gate, with an already-established arsenal of pass-rushing moves. In his time at Arkansas, Sanders showed great promise as a read-and-react linebacker with MIKE capabilities, showing off the processing speed, reaction quickness, play recognition, and range to dominate the second level.

MORE: Updated NFL Draft Order

Sanders is instinctive and disciplined in space, reliable and rangy flowing to the football, fluid in coverage, and a proactive playmaker when in position. He’ll need to keep getting stronger, as he may experience bumps in the road with his lighter frame at the next level. Even there, his length does help him counteract to a degree, and his athleticism is very translatable in all phases of the game.

In a modern NFL where do-it-all second-level defenders are coveted, Sanders is one of the best young, ascending talents available. His versatility and multiphase playmaking ability make him worthy of consideration in Round 1 or a priority Day 2 pick if he lasts that long. At his maximum, Sanders is an impact starter with a special brand of two-phase versatility.

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Drew Sanders

Strengths: Alabama transfer coming off a tremendous campaign. Forceful, plays with reckless abandon, and is constantly around the ball making positive plays. Instinctive, quickly diagnoses the action and flows to the action laterally. Immediately locates the ball handler, smoothly gets into space, and drives his shoulders through opponents to bring them down at the point of attack.

Easily gets off blocks, fires to the action, and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Stays with coverage assignments. Occasionally comes out of a three-point stance, fires off the snap with a quick first step, and plays with proper pad level.

Weaknesses: Slow getting off blocks. Better making plays up the field against the run than in reverse. Doesn’t show flat-out pursuit speed.

Overall: After making minimal impact at Alabama, Sanders really jumped on the radar last season when he totaled 103 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and 9.5 sacks. He’s a forceful defender who could be used at multiple linebacker positions in a variety of schemes, and Sanders should only get better with more playing experience.

Source link


Aaron Rodgers’ Jets Jersey Ranks at the Top in Sales




With the blockbuster trade of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, it didn’t take long for jerseys to soar. In April, Rodgers’ jersey became the highest-selling one in the league, beating other big-time athletes in sales, such as Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr., Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Travis Kelce, Justin Jefferson, Micah Parsons, and Bryce Young.

Aaron Rodgers’ Jets Jersey Tops Sales

Being a four-time MVP winner is a terrific accomplishment for an NFL player. Though Rodgers only has one Super Bowl win under his belt, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why he is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Being able to make spectacular plays is Rodgers’ specialty. Becoming king of the Hail Mary pass is one of his greatest accolades. Winning two games and tying one with the Hail Mary was exhilarating to witness. Don’t ever count Rodgers out in the fourth quarter, as he is one of the best comeback players.

MORE: Sauce Gardner Gifted Custom Jessica Alba-Inspired Cleats

His playmaking ability is unreal, as he is notorious for extending plays. When it looks like he is about to get sacked, Rodgers steps away from the pocket and finds a way to extend the play to get the first down. Nobody can extend plays better than Rodgers. That’s a major part of what makes him such a valuable quarterback.

Being one of the smartest minds in the game also sets him apart with his ability to adjust plays accordingly. Outsmarting defenses with the hard count and quickly recognizing and taking advantage of 12 men on the field has brought him success. Many defenses have fallen victim to Rodgers’ brilliant mind.

Excitement for Rodgers’ New Beginning with Jets

The Jets are excited to have the four-time MVP quarterback lead their team this season. Making the playoffs for the first time since 2010 may be attainable with him under center. Though the Jets may not have a loaded team like last year’s AFC East division winners, the Buffalo Bills, the acquisition of a once-in-a-lifetime veteran quarterback will make a huge difference.

Having a solid offense to work with will make things flow easier for Rodgers. Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and Garrett Wilson will be the playmakers at wide receiver. Already establishing chemistry with Cobb and Lazard from Green Bay, Rodgers will have no problem relying on them to get the job done. Wilson will earn Rodgers’ trust as well with his outstanding playmaking ability.

What really stands out for the Jets is the offensive line. Some of Rodgers’ biggest struggles last season with Green Bay was due to the offensive line, as injuries and inexperience plagued them. This year, Rodgers will be more comfortable with a more experienced unit. The offensive line will determine Rodgers’ success, as well as the entire team’s.

This season will be the perfect opportunity for Rodgers to redeem himself from his previous mediocre outing. Despite the minor injury suffered during practice, Rodgers should be ready when the season starts. Sometimes, a change of environment is necessary.

Source link

Continue Reading


Who Will Step up at RB for the Detroit Lions?




Detroit Lions running back David Montgomery left OTA practice early with an injury, according to Tim Twentyman. Following the departure of Jamaal Williams in free agency, Montgomery is expected to play a significant role in Detroit next season. Who will step up in his absence?

What Happened to David Montgomery?

While the significance of Montgomery’s injury isn’t clear, it’s promising that he was able to walk off the field. Yet, the Lions must be concerned due to their notable investment in the 25-year-old running back.

Montgomery signed a three-year deal with Detroit worth $18 million with $11 million guaranteed. That’s a significant amount, considering Montgomery had arguably the worst statistical season of his career last year, rushing for just 801 yards in 16 starts.

MORE: Detroit Lions 2023 Schedule

It’s always interesting to see when NFL teams choose to invest heavily in a running back. But the signing of Montgomery was especially peculiar given his recent struggle with injuries. Over the last two seasons, he has missed multiple games due to ankle and knee injuries.

Not only did the Lions sign Montgomery to a decently sized contract in free agency, but they also continued to spend significant capital at the position in the 2023 NFL Draft. Detroit shocked many when they selected Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick. They could be forced to rely heavily on Gibbs if Montgomery’s injury is significant.

Who Is Next up at Running Back in Detroit?

It’s clear that Gibbs is next in line to shoulder the load at running back in Detroit. After letting Williams walk in free agency and trading D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions are ready to roll with a new group on the ground.

Gibbs is an explosive playmaker that is a threat to score every time that he touches the football. He has drawn comparisons to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara. If Montgomery is forced to miss a significant amount of time, Gibbs could push for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Craig Reynolds would be elevated to the RB2 spot in this scenario and has shown promise over the last two seasons. Reynolds is a key contributor on special teams and has flashed when asked to run the ball. Still, there is another rookie running back in Detroit that is worth watching.

Mohamed Ibrahim surprisingly went undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. Many expected him to be a mid-Day 3 selection, but the Lions were able to sign him as an undrafted free agent. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Ibrahim win a roster spot and play a role as a rookie in Detroit.

Source link

Continue Reading


5 NFL Players Who Could Be Traded in 2023




The start of the NFL preseason signals the approaching start of the regular season. Every year, players move from one city to another, sometimes via trade. Some of these trades have monumental impacts on teams’ short- and long-term fortunes. With that in mind, let’s examine five NFL players who realistically could be traded in 2023 — and the circumstances that could lead to these outcomes.

5 NFL Players To Potentially Be Traded in 2023

We’ve witnessed significant trades in recent years. Some have panned out. Others simply haven’t. Last year alone, the Jaguars’ “buy-low” acquisition of Calvin Ridley could help elevate them to legitimate Super Bowl contenders this season. The Vikings’ addition of T.J. Hockenson filled a gaping offensive hole en route to a 13-4 record.

One year earlier, the (at the time) undefeated Cardinals secured Zach Ertz, in what appeared to be the final piece of a Super Bowl run. Most notably, the 2021 Rams traded for Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Sony Michel, contributing to the franchise’s first title in more than two decades.

When it comes to NFL trades, the ends often justify the means. If it works out, it was worth it. If it doesn’t, then perhaps it was a mistake. But in real time, they can dramatically alter the NFL landscape.

The following five big-name players realistically could be dealt before the 2023 trade deadline. Here are the conditions by which they could be moved.

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Tennessee was the AFC’s No. 1 seed two years ago. But in one of the biggest collapses of the modern era, they lost their final seven contests last season, including a Week 18 loss to Jacksonville (on a “fumble-six” with less than three minutes remaining) to keep them out of the playoffs.

While the Titans’ defense can keep them competitive, they’re increasingly outmanned by the ascending Jaguars. The sheen on Ryan Tannehill has long since faded, and as the AFC has grown more competitive, Tennessee appears to have only the slimmest hopes of reaching the playoffs, with a relatively easy strength of schedule working in their favor.

MORE: What Will Derrick Henry’s Next Contract Look Like?

But here’s the plain reality. Derrick Henry will turn 30 in January. Among starting running backs, he’s the active career leader in regular-season rushing attempts with 1,750 — 37% more than No. 2, Dalvin Cook. On a team that’s in partial rebuild mode, Henry’s value has nowhere to go but down.

It would border on lunacy for Tennessee to gradually run out the clock on Henry’s contract without fetching draft capital for him. As they focus on 2024 and beyond, expect the Titans to unload their star RB — one of the best of his generation — as they retool their offense around Treylon Burks, Will Levis, and perhaps even Tyjae Spears. Henry is the past and present. They have to look to the future.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

When he entered the league, Austin Ekeler didn’t profile as a future starter, much less a future bell cow. He’s been one of the biggest offensive surprises in decades — one of the best at his position, period.

However, Ekeler probably won’t return to L.A. after this season. The Chargers don’t want to give the 28-year-old (turning 29 next offseason) a long-term contract. If Los Angeles believes they can overtake the Chiefs, then, assuredly, they’ll hold onto Ekeler. When healthy, this team proved last year and the year before that they can compete with anyone.

But if the Chargers start slow, keep an ear on the buzz surrounding this franchise. A half-dozen or more teams would love to rent Ekeler for the right price. He could be a difference-maker for a team eyeing a Super Bowl run. If the Chargers stumble through the first six weeks, they might start shopping their long-time star.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Nov 6, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) runs for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Much of what was written about Henry can be applied to Cooper Kupp, who will turn 30 in June. Kupp’s value can’t get any higher, and the Rams’ 2023 prospects can’t get much lower. They won their title. Trading their future for the present in 2021 paid off. Now they’re living with the consequences.

Kupp’s greatness aside, L.A. has major question marks at quarterback (is Stafford officially declining?), the backfield (can Cam Akers finally put it all together?), and on defense, which used to be their calling card. The Rams are also thin at receiver beyond Kupp, which was made clear last season after the all-world wideout was knocked out midseason.

MORE: Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023

Like the Titans, the Rams need to rebuild. But unlike Tennessee, they have more salary cap restraints.

Kupp is signed for four more seasons, although the team has an out after two years. Still, with the Rams treading water at best in the NFC, it would behoove them to unload one of the game’s top receivers to a team with the cap space and title prospects to warrant a “final piece of the puzzle” acquisition.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

If you think DeAndre Hopkins is nearly finished, consider his 64-717-3 receiving line in only nine games last year, with a majority of that production coming on throws from backup quarterbacks. He can still be a near-elite NFL wide receiver, at least for one more year.

The Cardinals were the last undefeated team only two years ago. Like the Titans, they appeared to be well on their way to Super Bowl contention. However, Arizona’s injury-plagued collapse (among other factors) has left them as the ultimate longshots to win the title this season.

With Kyler Murray potentially out until midseason, it’s hard to justify keeping Hopkins around. Coincidentally, they appeared close to trading him to the Titans before this year’s draft.

There’s still a market for an alpha receiver who can help elevate a passing attack. Depending on how things shake out in the first month of the season, one or more teams might find they need Hopkins more than ever. And the Cards would be all too happy to cash out.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

We could focus on the latest Dalvin Cook rumors. But with talk that he might be cut rather than traded, let’s make a far bolder prediction that’s grounded in some surprising truths. And yes, this will seem shocking. But read on.

Miami went all in last offseason when they traded for Tyreek Hill. No doubt, he delivered. And for a Super Bowl-caliber team, Hill is a must-keep WR — an offensive anchor alongside Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa. Why the heck would Miami trade him?

The problem the Fins face is three-fold. First, the AFC East is fierce. They could finish 10-7 and still wind up in last place while missing out on the postseason. The Patriots could be better. The Jets should be better. And the Bills remain the team to beat. Miami has its work cut out for it.

MORE: Tyreek Hill Retirement Talk — Will He Retire Once His Contract Is Up?

Second, the first half of the Dolphins’ schedule is brutal. Five of their opening nine games are road contests versus the Chargers, Patriots, Bills, Eagles, and Chiefs. Home tilts against the Broncos, Giants, Panthers, and Patriots might net a 3-1 record. But those road matchups realistically could leave them 4-5 at midseason, with second-half contests against the Cowboys, Ravens, and Bills looming.

Third, Hill will turn 30 next March and is owed a mammoth amount of money these next four years. While the Dolphins can abandon ship after the 2024 season, the dead-cap cost would be significant.

Miami’s acquisition of Hill was a “win-now” move while the Patriots and Jets were mired in mediocrity. There’s a distinct possibility that a sputtering Dolphins franchise could realize in mid-October that they don’t have the firepower, cap space, or draft capital to make big moves in 2024. Do they keep their core together for two or three more years and hope for a breakthrough?

The Dolphins might be forced to confront the previously unthinkable — that with no clear path to the Super Bowl, spending tens of millions each year on Hill becomes more painful than beneficial.

Source link

Continue Reading