With their second selection of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Broncos picked a player that several analysts thought would go a bit higher. Ten days before the draft began, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler projected Drew Sanders, his top-rated linebacker, to be taken off the board at No. 27 overall; Pro Football Focus had him picked at No. 39; and a CBS Sports analyst projected him at No. 45.
And NFL.com's Chad Reuter, though he had him lower than most, still thought he'd be off the board by the time the second round ended. Instead, he lasted long enough for the Broncos to snag him with the 67th-overall pick.
Perhaps that's why, as Reuter projected the upcoming season's All-Rookie Team, he thinks Sanders will make the squad, even though Denver's expected starting inside linebacker tandem is stocked with skilled veterans.
"It may be tough for Denver to keep Sanders' speed off the field," Reuter wrote. "… The rookie could spell [Alex] Singleton or Josey Jewell inside or be an asset off the edge in subpackages, allowing him to rack up a few sacks in addition to making plays in coverage."
Sanders is one of just three players drafted in the third round or later that Reuter projected to make the team's defense.
As Head Coach Sean Payton said after Day 2 of the draft, the team has a vision for Sanders to make an impact because of his versatility.
"Interestingly enough, when he was at Alabama, he's had experience at both inside and out," Payton said. "It's up to us to start doing some things. We have a tag called pressure player, and to check it, you've got to be unique in regard to rushing the passer. Sometimes, linebackers are pressure players. In New Orleans, Demario Davis — we felt he was a pressure player because when we blitzed him, a percentage of the time, he could affect the quarterback.
"We've had a lot of linebackers that were really good players that weren't pressure players. That's not their first job description. I think this guy fits into that position where he's a pressure player. His production on the quarterback this year would suggest that. We see the 3-4 fit. We see the 3-4 [fit] inside. … I don't know, but I wouldn't have been surprised if a team who plays an under defense might have projected him as the same. We have him inside relative to our vision."