For years, many fans have hoped the Denver Broncos would draft a linebacker during the draft and this year, they finally got their wish. In the third round, with their 67th overall selection, the Denver Broncos selected linebacker Drew Sanders.
Drew Sanders is a 6’4, 235-pound linebacker out of Arkansas who ran a 4.59 40-time during the NFL Scouting Combine. He transferred from Alabama this past year and had a breakout season. This past year, he totaled 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. A very productive season for the new member of the Denver Broncos defense.
The Athletic’s draft analyst Dane Brugler had Sanders ranked as his top linebacker in the draft and his 28th overall player in the entire draft. So, according to one of the top draft analysts in the business, the Broncos got themselves a first-round prospect in the third round
This HIT by Drew Sanders— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) February 13, 2023
The Arkansas LB is widely considered as one of the best interior LB’s in this year’s NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/mkKp4gsJCL
Now he joins a linebacker group that is headed by veteran starters Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton. Could the big and athletic rookie cut into their playing time this upcoming season?
Height: 6’4 inches
Weight: 235 pounds
Arm Length: 32.5 inches
Hands: 9 3⁄4 inches
Drew Sanders 2023 outlook
After the draft, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton was asked about Sanders’s fit on the roster. This a big question since he was transitioning from being an edge rusher while at Alabama to being an off-the-ball linebacker for Arkansas this past year. He told reporters that the team views him as an inside linebacker, a 4-core special teamer, and a player who can rush off the edge if needed.
Sean Payton on Drew Sanders: “Sanders vision (might have) varied around the league because he ... played some OLBer, played ILBer. He had a ton of pressure production last yr. Our vision for him is of an ILBer, 4-core STeams player who can step down to the outside.’’ #9sports— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) April 29, 2023
With only one year of off-the-ball linebacker under his belt, I do not think we will see him rushed into action right away. You have veterans in Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton already established as starters so you have the luxury to allow Sanders to develop. However, his skill set will be hard to keep off the field if he begins flashing as he did at Arkansas.
He is likely the most athletic linebacker on the roster and his ability to rush the passer off the edge and as a blitzer make him an intriguing chess piece. He did have 9.5 sacks last season while playing primarily as an off-the-ball linebacker, so you could get creative with a player like Sanders.
As Payton noted, Sanders will contribute as a core special teamer early on, but his role on defense remains to be seen moving forward. He is one of the more intriguing players on the Broncos roster to watch as we progress through OTA’s, minicamp, and eventually into training camp and the preseason.
Sanders was widely viewed as a first or early second-round pick by many draft analysts so hopefully, the Broncos got themselves some insane value here. I do not think we will see him play on defense very much early on, but he will contribute on special teams for sure. With that said, I think he is too talented to keep off the field for very long and I believe we will see his role on defense grow as the season progresses.
Keep in mind, veteran Josey Jewell is entering the final year of his deal with the Broncos, and the team likely views Sanders as his eventual replacement. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out as we progress through the year.
I loved this draft selection by the Broncos and I believe they got themselves a very good talent here in Drew Sanders.