7. Drafting LB Drew Sanders
I will be the first to admit that my heart sank a little bit when the Denver Broncos drafted a linebacker early on in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. It has/had nothing to do with Drew Sanders, specifically, and everything to do with the positional value.
The Broncos seemingly had already figured out the linebacker spot. Even with Josey Jewell entering a contract year, they just re-signed Alex Singleton in free agency and brought back Jonas Griffith as an exclusive rights free agent. Griffith is eligible for restricted free agent status after this season, while Jewell could seemingly be easily re-signed.
The idea of drafting Sanders was not on pretty much anyone's radar, but that's largely due to the fact that he was projected to go early in the second round, if not in the first round. As a prospect, Sanders was a late bloomer. He was a backup off the edge at Alabama (behind 3rd overall pick Will Anderson Jr.) for two seasons before he transferred to Arkansas.
He became an overnight success for the Razorbacks, earning All-American honors as a junior before bolting for the NFL. Why has this pick been growing on me? Why do I consider it underrated? I think there's more here than meets the eye.
I think the Broncos knew they had the linebacker position in good hands already, and I think there's a year-one plan for Drew Sanders that we may not expect. One of the terms Sean Payton used to describe him at the time of the NFL Draft was "pressure player", meaning Sanders can get heat on the quarterback. And he can do it from a variety of alignments.
There's potential here for this to be one of the Broncos' most significant moves of the offseason, even if we don't see the returns until later in 2023.