Bears should eye Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders in 2023 NFL Draft

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Players That Bear Watching: Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Surprise! Surprise! The Bears earned (or fell into, backslid or luckily acquired) the first overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.

Conventional wisdom suggests Chicago will trade down in order to acquire additional draft capital and quite possibly continue trading down for additional picks. It’s important that the Bears obtain several picks within the top 100 selections, because the kind of talent deficiency facing them currently will not be solved by only taking the first player in the draft.

Economized selections of players with position versatility and varied skills will also play a significant part in rebuilding this charter franchise. Drew Sanders is the type of multifaceted athlete Chicago may want to consider drafting for a reconstruction of its defense.

Name: Drew Sanders

Position: Linebacker/Defensive End

School (Year): Arkansas (Jr.)

Measurables: 6’5”, 240 lbs / 4.53 40-Time / 34.9” Vertical Jump

Career Notes: [2022] First-Team All-American (AP); [2022] Second-Team All-American (AFAC, FWAA, Sporting News, Walter Camp); [2022] First-Team All-SEC (AP, Coaches); [2022] Butkus Award Finalist

Best Game: Sanders' best game occurred during the early part of the past season in a September showdown with South Carolina. Sanders helped lead his team to a solid victory 44-30 over the Gamecocks. The Razorbacks defense took over the contest, forcing three turnovers and limiting the Gamecocks to just 40 rushing yards on 29 carries. Sanders' play that day was instrumental in dictating the outcome, but individually, it spearheaded his emergence as a defensive game changer on draft boards.

Sanders ended the contest with 11 total tackles (8 solo), 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks with 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass defended.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears meet Alabama's Will Anderson at No. 1 overall

What he says about himself: “To me, the only way to get better at football is playing football. I’ve never doubted my skills. Arkansas has given me an opportunity for me to show my skills and get better by playing and providing the opportunity to be versatile.”  - Drew Sanders

Skill Set: Sanders is an extremely athletic and diversely skilled player that can line up and be effective at several defensive positions. He possesses the size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and versatility to play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end, or survey the offense as a middle linebacker.

Never undeterred, Sander's tenacity and aggression layer a skill set that is equal parts pass rusher and run defender. As a pass rusher, he effortlessly transitions speed to power when pressuring the passer. Conversely, when positioned at the “Mike” (middle linebacker) position he assesses the opposing offense decisively, demonstrating NFL caliber sideline-to sideline pursuit ability. What makes Sanders special and a potential day one selection is his competent coverage skills, something necessary for a three-down linebacker. Sanders’ elite athleticism is evident when covering tight ends and running backs or zoning off areas with deep drops in the middle of the field.

Why Chicago? Yes, the Bears need to address their offensive and defensive lines with dogged conviction, while simultaneously finding a primary receiving target for embattled signal caller, Justin Fields. However, after trading Pro-Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith to Baltimore, Chicago is devoid of an impactful game changer for its second unit. Initially, Sanders was an edge rushing 5-star recruit for Alabama, but after transferring to Arkansas for the 2022 season, he transitioned into the Razorbacks’ starting middle linebacker and led the team in tackles (103), sacks (9.5), and tackles for loss (13.5), while helping Arkansas lead the SEC conference in quarterback takedowns (39).

By season’s end, Sanders became just the second FBS defender since Khalil Mack (Buffalo, 2013) to register at least 100 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Even in SEC games rife with NFL talent, he appeared at times to be the best player on the field. Sanders' versatility at being an effective edge rushing down lineman, or an instinctive off-ball, defending linebacker should peak Chicago’s front office and coaching staff. Easily a three-down defender whose skill set appropriately suits Chicago’s 4-3 defensive schemes, one might suggest Sanders is a poor man’s Brian Urlacher, who could immediately improve Chicago’s fortunes and long term successes. 

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Download

Download MyTeams Today!