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2023 NFL Draft Preview: Scouting report on Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders

The Seahawks could use some linebacker depth.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Arkansas at Mississippi State Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seahawks have a need for overall impact players in the front seven. Uchenna Nwosu and (late in the season) Darrell Taylor were playmakers for Clint Hurtt last season, however as the roster currently stands constructed it is bold to assume anyone else will make that impact for Seattle in 2023. Jordyn Brooks, the only other player with that type of potential for Seattle, could miss at least some of the upcoming season due to a torn ACL he suffered in Week 17.

As a result of their lack of dynamic players in the front seven, John Schneider will have to target one in either free agency or in the first two rounds of the draft in order for this defense to take the next step forward. Luckily for him this class carries a very unique player who can play the edge and as a MIKE linebacker in Arkansas Drew Sanders.

Height - 6 foot 5 - Weight - 232

Games watched - 2022 Texas A&M, Alabama, Cincinnati, South Carolina


  • His go-to move is his bullrush, where he converts speed into power when lined up in a two-point stance and strikes the lineman square in the chest with his hands. He is able to routinely set blockers back at the point of contact with this move in additional to being difficult to anchor down against as he drives through his lower half throughout the rush.
  • Sanders’ second most utilized move is a tight swim move where he is able to quickly get his hand over the lineman’s head and beat them to their inside shoulder. This was a move he used far more against interior offensive lineman compared to tackles, although it is a good enough move to where he can use it on the outside.
  • Has the athleticism and necessary tools to use moves like rips, speeds, and dips.
  • When Sanders was stood up, he did not have any kind of counter move to go to nor did he try to replace his hands.
  • When playing zone, he does a good job of reading the eyes of the quarterback rather than staying stationary in one spot or flowing to the closest receiver.
  • He understood the depth at which he had to drop to when playing a hook zone, getting deeper and deeper as the play went on as long as there were no short routes near him.
  • His best attribute against the run is his athleticism and sideline to sideline quickness which allows him to run plays down from behind.
  • Sanders has the eyes and athleticism necessary to sift through that traffic.


  • Sanders is not overly refined as a pass rusher.
  • His eye discipline as a MIKE linebacker needs a bit of work at the beginning of the play, as there are too many instances where he flows with the play-action pass rather than staying to his zone assignment.
  • As a flat zone defender Sanders struggled. Rather than sitting in that zone, carrying any receiver that runs to the flat and then handing them off to the next zone defender he has a tendency to travel too much with them and get himself lost.
  • Sanders showed little ability to stack and shed offensive linemen in the running game as once they got his hands on him, he was unable to disengage and more often than not they were able to turn his shoulders so they could seal off the gap.
  • Sanders is a bit overly aggressive in trying to shoot gaps; he is not very gap sound as a MIKE linebacker which creates bigger holes for running backs to hit and it takes him out of too many plays entirely.
  • Sanders is a sufficient (5 on a scale of 1-9) tackler, although there are multiple plays in which ball carriers are able to bounce off of him whether that be because he over pursues them which also them to juke him creating poor contact on Sanders’ part or he tries to lay them out resulting in Sanders slipping off of them.
  • Sanders does take some very poor angles to ball carriers, which results in him overpursuing and making it very easy for them to cut off of him, meaning he is unable to make zero play on them.

Floor/ceiling - Sanders’ bullrush, rapid first step, versatility, power in his hands and range give him the ceiling of a high-end impact edge defender. However his inconsistent and at times below the line tackling, questionable angles, over pursuit and inability to shed off of lineman in the running game give him the floor of a backup.

Grade - 6.3 Low end starter on first day of second season - Round - Late first/early second

Grade explanation - When watching Sanders, I saw shades of Micah Parsons when he was at Penn State. An amazing athlete who simply hadn’t put it all together yet. PSU used Parsons similarly to how Arkansas used Sanders, as they used him all over the front seven, either standing up somewhere on the line of scrimmage or as a MIKE linebacker who made plays because he was one of the most athletic players on the field every snap. When Parsons got to the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys effectively let him become a playmaker, but mainly on the line of scrimmage. Due to that usage, he picked up 13 sacks in his rookie season en route to winning the DROY and being named an All Pro. I’m not saying Sanders is going to walk in and do the same exact thing as Parsons. However, it is not something that can be ruled out either, Sanders is a fantastic athlete and at times looks like the best player on the field. For him it is simply going to come down to being on a team who will use him right and let him further refine his game.

Schematic fit - Sanders projects best as an edge in a 3-4 system where he is standing up. He could potentially be a 4-3 edge, although he got zero hand in the dirt reps in college, so it is difficult to project him there. He offers a great amount of versatility being able to play both sides of the line as well as standing up inside and being a MIKE linebacker. He needs to refine some things in both the passing game and running game to be a MIKE at the NFL level, although the traits are there.

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