Since the inception of the College Football Playoffs in 2014-2015, the Green Bay Packers have never used a first-round pick on a player that played in the four-team playoff.
That could come to an end in the 2022 NFL draft. There will be plenty of first-round talent on display on Friday, Dec. 31, when Alabama squares off against Cincinnati and when Georgia plays Michigan.
A player that Brian Gutekunst could target late in the first round that will be playing on Friday, is Cincinnati edge rusher Myjai Sanders.
The numbers are not eye-popping this season for the three-year starter. In 13 games this season, Sanders has recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and four pass deflections.
Don’t let those numbers fool you, Sanders is a driving force for one of the best defenses in college football. The dynamic edge rusher faced constant double teams. With opposing teams focused on slowing down Sanders, his running mate Darrian Beavers excelled.
At 6-5 and 255 pounds, Sanders has the ideal NFL frame and length. He wins with a quick first step and pure athleticism to blow by opposing offensive lineman. He has long strides and quickly closes on the quarterback once he wins the edge.
“Myjai’s greatest strength is his athleticism,” Nick Price the AAC Scout for Blue Chip Scouting said. “He can cut on a dime and cross face with ease, and I think he’s gonna test out of his gourd. As a pass rusher, he offers elite get-off and athleticism. I still think he needs to work on his pass rush plan but he has a nasty rip move.”
That athleticism landed Sanders on Bruce Feldman’s Annual Freak’s List. The Bearcat edge rusher was No. 20 on the Freak list.
A big force in the Bearcats’ nasty defense, Sanders came through with 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks in 2020, when he earned first-team All-AAC honors. The 6-5, 259-pounder from Jacksonville ran a 4.56 40 this offseason and an even more impressive 4.10 in the shuttle. Sanders also broad jumped 10-2 and had a vertical of 35 inches.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler currently has Sanders ranked as the 10th best edge rusher in what’s a loaded pass-rushing class.
Sanders isn’t a powerful defensive end and you want to see him fill out his frame in the NFL. But he is a fighter with the first-step quickness to win the corner or slip past blockers.
Sanders has first-round talent, with his length and twitchy athleticism. With the Packers possibly looking to find Rashan Gary a long-term running mate, the Packers could select Sanders in the backend of the first round. A pass-rushing duo of Sanders and Gary would give the Packers a pair of athletic freaks coming off the edge.
When the Bearcats take the field on Friday, Sanders will have a great shot to bolster his draft stock when he squares off against Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. The Alabama offensive tackle is a lock to go in the Top 10 in the 2022 NFL Draft. If Sanders has a strong showing, it could go a long way in helping the Bearcats upset Alabama and help the dynamic edge rusher move up draft boards.