In what was likely his last collegiate football game Myjai Sanders had a solid performance against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Sanders could be on the Chiefs’ radar headed into draft season.
No better way to bring in the new year than the College Football Playoff and all the New Years’ bowl games that come with it. While the action on the field was lackluster, and the games rather were rather predictable, there was an amazing assortment of talent across the four teams to make the final four.
The Cincinnati Bearcats magic season came to an end, losing 27-6 at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide who boasts the game’s best player Heisman Trophy Winner Bryce Young, as well as the best coach in the history of the college game Nick Sabban. Cincinnati came up short, but a diamond in the rough emerged one that will draw the intrigue of NFL scouts and one who already has.
Edge Myjai Sanders finished what will be his last game for the Bearcats with seven total tackles, a tipped pass, and five quarterback pressures. Against a less mobile quarterback, he could have had a sack or two, but there is a reason why Bryce Young is the Heisman Trophy winner.
Sanders has been a player of intrigue for a while now. He has only recorded 13.5 career sacks as a four-year player for the Bearcats, but he came in as a raw player with not much experience, and no real pass rush moves. The college game, especially in the conference he played in (AAC) relies on quick passes and spread attacks that limit what pass rushers can do production-wise. His film doesn’t match the numbers he puts up in the box score. This was on full display early in the semifinal game.
The first thing that shows up in the film is the burst and quickness that Sanders plays with. At 6’5″ and 255 pounds he has the prototypical edge rusher physique, but the way he can set up speed on the outside to an inside rush shows off tremendous change of direction ability as well as a great understanding of how to find the quickest path to the quarterback.
The other major trait that pops out for Sanders is his ability to play the run game. He takes pride in it, and that is exactly what the Chiefs are looking for in a player.
He has a great knee bend and plays with good leverage. His long arms can help him set the edge against outside zone and stretch plays while his leverage and natural power make him hard to move for inside runs or when he is on the backside. Alabama has a couple of elite offensive tackles (left tackle Evan Neal will be a top-five pick), and at times he looked to be dominating them in the run game.
Guys with his frame generally don’t generate as much power, but with his first step tackles are prepared to have to block against the outside speed rush all night. He used that to set himself up perfectly to win with powerful bull rushes, as well as some inside moves to the B gap. He is putting a lot of force into much larger men and was winning at a consistent rate.
I’m not an expert, but if Nick Sabban is using two tight ends to help block a defensive end, as well as a tackle then that shows how much respect Sanders had earned through the night. Amazingly enough, he was still able to win this rep and get a hand on the ball just as Young let it go.
This game wasn’t the first time I’ve posted about Sanders and I hope it won’t be the last. His lack of numbers in the box score from a sack standpoint this season will cause him to fall in the draft and on big boards. That being said Alabama is the gold standard of college football and at no point during the evening did he ever look outmatched, in fact, quite the opposite.
A player like Sanders could be a tremendous second or third-round selection for the Chiefs, and if paired with the right coach, right scheme, and right pass-rushing partner could be a guy that JUMPS onto the scene in the NFL. The tools are there, he has improved his pass rush ability every season, he is a tough physical run-stopper, very high motor, and he plays sound team defense.
Opportunity awaits at the next level for Sanders hopefully, the Kansas City Chiefs take notice.