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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.

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Packers Enter the Race While 49ers, Cowboys, Dolphins Stand Strong




The NFL playoff picture is in heavy contention, and Week 12 put an exclamation point on that. In the AFC, the playoff picture is as tight as ever while the NFC leaders are extending their leads.

Below is the entire NFL playoff picture following Week 12’s action.

AFC Playoff Picture:

  1. Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3)
  4. Miami Dolphins (8-3)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
  6. Cleveland Browns (7-4)
  7. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

In the hunt: Houston Texans (6-5), Buffalo Bills (6-6), Denver Broncos (6-5), Las Vegas Raiders (5-7), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), Los Angeles Chargers (4-7), Tennessee Titans (4-7), New York Jets (4-7), New England Patriots (2-9)

The Jaguars’ victory over the red-hot Texans pushed them into first place in the AFC and cemented a two-game lead inside the AFC South. The game was a battle to the finish, with the 24-21 win coming off of a Matt Ammendola missed 58-yard field goal. The Texans’ loss, however, dropped them out of the playoffs and behind Indianapolis.

Pittsburgh moved into the fifth seed thanks to a divisional victory over the Burrow-less Bengals. The win keeps Pittsburgh’s AFC North hopes alive and keeps them safely in the playoffs for another week.

The Ravens will head into their bye week atop the AFC. They defeated the Los Angeles Chargers thanks to a plethora of turnovers. The loss drops the Chargers all the way down to 13th in the AFC, giving them an unlikely chance to make the playoffs.

The Colts kept their playoff hopes alive in Week 12, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The win pushed them into the seventh seed and gave them life heading into the final stretch.

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The Dolphins’ victory on Black Friday kept their one-seed aspirations alive. They beat up a struggling Jets team, led by backup Tim Boyle. The Jets’ loss pushed them further down the seeding and made their playoff hopes significantly slimmer.

The Cleveland Browns dropped to the Denver Broncos, dropping back to the sixth seed. In the loss, they got more beat up. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson went down with a concussion and superstar defensive end Myles Garrett was seen in a sling post-game. The Broncos, however, continued to stay hot with their fifth win in a row.

The Steelers earned another gritty division win over the Bengals, who are without Joe Burrow for the rest of the season. The win kept them in the AFC North race and kept them in the playoffs for another week. The Bengals’ loss drops them even further back in the standings.

NFC Playoff Picture:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
  2. San Francisco 49ers (8-3)
  3. Detroit Lions (8-3)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
  6. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
  7. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

In the hunt: Green Bay Packers (5-6), New Orleans Saints (5-6), Los Angeles Rams (5-6), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7), New York Giants (4-8), Washington Commanders (4-8), Chicago Bears (4-8), Arizona Cardinals (2-10), Carolina Panthers (1-10)

The 49ers continued their season of dominance when they ran all over the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. The 18-point win moved them into the NFC’s second seed, thanks to a Lions loss. Additionally, the loss pushed Seattle down to the bottom seed.

The Eagles made it to 10-1 in comeback fashion. After being down 24-14 with 1:40 left in the third, the Eagles rallied back and earned a 37-34 win in overtime over the Bills. The Rams also defeated the Cardinals in dominant fashion, 37-14, to keep their playoff hopes alive, sitting in the nine seed.

The Packers started Thanksgiving with a major victory, defeating the Lions 29-22. The win extended their win streak to three and kept their playoff aspirations alive. They’re the first team out of the playoffs. They’ll face Kansas City next.

The Falcons earned arguably their biggest game of the season in Week 12. They took down the previously division-leading Saints, 24-15. With the win, they moved into first place in the NFC South and sit as the fourth seed. The Buccaneers and Panthers both lost, setting up for a Falcons and Saints race to the finish.

The Cowboys kept their foot on the gas, defeating the Commanders in dominating fashion on Thanksgiving afternoon. The win led to the firing of the Commanders’ defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio. Additionally, the win kept the Cowboys within range of the Eagles for the NFC East and kept them in the driver’s seat for the fifth seed.

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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Should I Pick Up Bears RB This Week?




Many fantasy football managers expected Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert to be the team’s leading back once he returned from injured reserve in Week 11. However, in a game where D’Onta Foreman was inactive, it was rookie RB Roschon Johnson who saw the most work in the Chicago backfield by a wide margin against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

How aggressively should you target Johnson on your waiver wire in Week 13?

Should Roschon Johnson Be a Fantasy Waiver Wire Add in Week 13?

The Bears’ backfield has been tough to predict on a weekly basis throughout the majority of the 2023 season. Need proof? Here is the highest-scoring fantasy back in Chicago through their first 12 games of the season in PPR formats.

Highest Scoring Bears RB in PPR Formats

Week 1: Roschon Johnson
Week 2: Khalil Herbert
Week 3: Roschon Johnson
Week 4: Khalil Herbert
Week 5: Khalil Herbert
Week 6: D’Onta Foreman
Week 7: D’Onta Foreman
Week 8: Darrynton Evans
Week 9: D’Onta Foreman
Week 10: D’Onta Foreman
Week 11: D’Onta Foreman
Week 12: Roschon Johnson

For those of you keeping count, Foreman leads the team with five games as the highest-scoring Bears fantasy back, while both Johnson and Herbert have three games as the top scorer.

After Foreman was deemed inactive against the Vikings while dealing with both an ankle and knee injury, it was Johnson who finished with a season-high 10 carries to go with five receptions for a total of 75 yards in this contest. In comparison, Herbert finished with just six carries and two receptions for 38 total yards.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

The Bears are heading into their bye in Week 13, which should give Foreman plenty of time to get his ailing knee and ankle healthy heading into their matchup against the Detroit Lions.

This could make this entire backfield a big fantasy headache as we approach the fantasy playoffs. Here are the cumulative stats for each back through the first 12 weeks of the 2023 season.

2023 Bears RB Stats

Khalil Herbert: 87 total touches for 434 yards and a TD
Roschon Johnson: 78 total touches for 363 yards and a TD
D’Onta Foreman: 101 total touches for 436 yards and five TDs

Foreman has been the most fantasy-productive option when on the field this season, but he is on just a one-year deal with the team. Both Herbert and Johnson are under contract with the team through the 2024 season.

Could the Bears continue to feed Foreman when he returns to the lineup? Sure, it’s definitely within the range of outcomes. However, if the Bears are truly to get a closer look at who can be a big part of this offense past the final five games of the 2023 season, it would make a lot more sense for them to get a closer look at Johnson and Herbert to finish the season.

Johnson provides the most well-rounded skill set of all three players with his reliability as a pass catcher — leading the backfield with 24 receptions on the season — and pass blocker. He is intriguing as a stash in PPR leagues to see if the rookie’s role expands after the bye.

Herbert and Foreman will certainly continue to be involved in some capacity through the rest of the season, which definitely makes this a potential running back committee moving forward.

However, my money is on the rookie getting more involved after seeing a career-high 15 total touches against the Vikings in Week 12, which makes Johnson a priority waiver wire add in your league this week.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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Should You Add Latavius Murray on the Week 13 Waiver Wire?




Every year in fantasy football, there is a guy who becomes a fantasy hero in the final couple weeks of the season. A couple of years ago, Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown went crazy down the stretch, knocked people (myself included) out of the playoffs, and won championships.

Last year, Kansas City Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon had eight receiving touchdowns in the final six weeks of the season to help people win championships.

Could Buffalo Bills RB Latavius Murray be that guy this year?

Should Latavius Murray Be a Fantasy Waiver Wire Add in Week 13?

Murray has become more involved in the Buffalo offense the last three weeks, as he has had nine, 10, and nine carries the past three weeks. The Bills have been much better running the ball recently, as they are showing they can truly pound the rock late in games. That hasn’t always been the case for the Bills, but it could be a huge factor for the team if they are going to go on a nice run and make the playoffs.

With that in mind, should Murray be signed off the waiver wire and brought to your team?

While it is nice to see him put up those numbers, you shouldn’t pick him up off the waiver wire. First off, the Bills have a bye this week, so there is no point in getting him on your team. If you are signing a guy off the waiver wire, you need someone who can contribute immediately.

Right now, the Bills are in a tough situation to make the playoffs. They are currently the No. 10 seed in the AFC, and they have two difficult games coming up. After the bye, the Bills will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs and then host the Dallas Cowboys. Those are two of the best defenses in the league.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

If they are going to beat those teams, it will be because of QB Josh Allen and the passing game. If they are going to get anything from the running back in this game, it will be James Cook.

This season, Cook has 33 catches, while Murray has only 16. That versatility from the running back position will be huge in this game, and I expect Cook to be one of the most used running backs during that two-week stretch.

If you are going with a waiver wire running back right now, you are going for a Hail Mary type of situation — a guy who is capable of exploding for a 25-30 fantasy point performance in any given game with a high ceiling. That is the biggest issue with Murray right now. He is a solid running back who plays a big role on the team in real life, but his fantasy ceiling just isn’t high enough to sign him.

Trust the players you have on your roster, or look at someone other than Murray.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.

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