Chance to Become NFL Starter
How We Grade
Saunders is a St. Louis native who showed FBS-level talent as soon as he hit the field as a redshirt freshman. He posted 27 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks in 13 games as a reserve in 2015. He started all 11 games as a sophomore, posting 48 stops, five for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two pass breakups. Missouri Valley Football coaches named him first-team all-conference in 2017, as he started all 12 games and accumulated 57 tackles, 12 for loss, a team-high 7.5 sacks, and three pass breakups. In 2018 he was named AP FCS second-team All-American.
By Lance Zierlein
OverviewActive defensive lineman with an impressive combination of agility and athletic ability. Saunders might need to find his fit as a one-gap nose tackle in a 4-3 defense as his lack of consistent, in-line anchor could be a concern on the next level. He has been a disruptive force against a lower level of competition but flashed some of that same disruption during Senior Bowl practice week and an elevated level of competition. If he can improve his conditioning to become more disruptive for longer stretches, he'll have a chance to become a solid rotational defender and eventual starter.
- Quick, strong slaps to displace blocker's hands and separate from the block
- Potential to become above average hand-fighter if he plays faster
- Above average feel for side-stepping or clubbing lateral blocks
- Able to split double teams when he's allowed to work the A-gap
- Slap-swim is go-to as quick-win move off the snap
- Better athletic ability than expected with tight-quarter twitch
- Bounding feet to make sudden attacks to blocker's edge or spin out of blocks.
- Lacks sustained effort throughout game due to conditioning
- Needs greater urgency to get off blocks more consistently
- Squatty frame with short arms
- Can be engulfed by size and power
- Gets walked out of his gap against down blocks
- Unlikely to control point of attack in the pros Lacks desired pass-rush attributes to transfer college sack production to NFL.
Pro Bowl-caliber player
Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
Should become instant starter
Chance to become NFL starter
NFL backup or special teams potential
Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
Should be in an NFL training camp
Chance to be in an NFL training camp
Likely needs time in developmental league