Bucs fans rejoiced when long time star linebacker Lavonte Daivid returned to the team on a one year deal after hitting the open market. David’s return means that the Bucs do not have an immediate need for an inside linebacker with he and Devin White holding down the fort for 2023, but what about after that? Both White and David are scheduled to be free agents after this season and even if White returns, which is likely at this point, David could very sign with another team or hang up the cleats leaving the Bucs to find a long term solution.
That is where Drew Sanders could come into play in 2023 and beyond.
Drew Sanders’ Collegiate Career
Sanders was originally at the University of Alabama for his freshman and sophomore seasons but after receiving little playing time, transferred to Arkansas where he racked up 103 total tackles including 40 solo tackles in his first year as a full time starter in 2022.
That 2022 season was one to remember as he also paired all of those tackles up with 9.5 sacks, proving to be a very versatile option for the Razorbacks. Sanders has an excellent, but lean build for a linebacker as well as he is 6’5, 230 pounds which is about the same weight as Lavonte David and Devin White, but Sanders is a much taller player than both as they are 6’1 and 6’0 respectively.
Pro Day and NFL Scouting Combine
Sanders did not do much at the combine due to a hamstring injury he was nursing. He was however able to participate in his pro day a few days ago and did well, running a 4.55 40 yard dash as well as showcasing a 37 inch vertical jump. His pro day certainly makes up for his tough break at the combine.
What Sanders Can Do For the Bucs in 2023
Honestly, from an off ball linebacker standpoint, probably not much as Devin White and Lavonte David are firmly entrenched in their roles in Todd Bowles’ defense. However, Sanders would give them legit linebacker depth that they have not had in a long time. Lavonte David was very durable in 2022, starting all 17 games but the year prior he missed five games and is now a year older, so that depth may come in handy.
Where the Bucs could actually get their value for Sanders is in the pass rushing department. He is a Swiss army knife when it comes to where he can line up and what roles he can play. Need him to drop back and play coverage? No problem. Need him as a guy to rush the passer on a third and long? He can do that too. In 2023, he likely sees most of his production and snaps from pass rushing situations if he is selected by Tampa Bay.
Look, Lavonte David is not going to play football forever and the odds of him still playing football and playing for the Buccaneers in three years are unlikely. While Sanders may not be the starter for Tampa Bay in 2023, he would almost be a shoe in for a starting role in 2024 if David and/or White don’t return.
Make no mistake, while Sanders is very talented, he is also still an extremely raw player that should not be thrown to the wolves immediately. But the upside he possesses in three years' time is quite tempting. If he hits, an NFL team could be getting a jack of all trades type leader in the middle of their defense. If he is picked by the Bucs, expect him to be a starter in this defense sooner rather than later, even if it isn’t day one.
There have been some mock drafts that have had Sanders in round one. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah even had him mocked to the Bucs at 19th overall earlier in the offseason, but the consensus is that Sanders is likely a late first/early second kind of prospect.
He may not even be available when the Bucs pick in the second round at 50th overall so it would be a huge shock if he were to make it out of round two. If he isn’t picked on day one, he won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called on day two.
On The Clock...
Let’s hear it Bucs fans. What do you think of Drew Sanders as a possible draft pick by Tampa Bay? Vote in the poll below and discuss in the comment section!
The Buccaneers Should Target Drew Sanders in the NFL Draft...
This poll is closed
As Projected (Late 1st round/early 2nd round)
Early (19th overall)
Late (See if he slips to the 3rd)
Never. He shouldn’t be on their draft board