Myjai Sanders is an edge rusher from Cincinnati and a prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Sanders played for two high schools early in his career, moving from Georgia to Florida halfway through. He earned all-conference honors at both schools and was a consensus three-star recruit. Sanders earned scholarship offers from over 20 schools across the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, AAC, and C-USA.
Sanders played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2018, only logging 49 snaps on defense. But in his second season with the Bearcats, he started all 14 games and finished second on the team in sacks. Sanders started 10 games in 2020, earning All-AAC 1st-Team and finishing second in the conference in sacks. He started all 14 games in 2021 and earned All-AAC 1st-Team honors again.
In Cincinnati’s defense, Sanders had to play somewhat out of position. He is very tall, long, and relatively skinny, but the defense asked him to play over the tackle and two-gap to defend against the run. Sanders is built to rush the passer off the edge, not hold up and skirmish with offensive tackles. With that being said, he is still very competent there and displays excellent versatility. Let’s dive into the Myjai Sanders scouting report.
Career Stats: 48 GP, 38 GS, 119 tackles (60 solos), 25 TFLs, 12 passes defensed, 140 pressures (107 hurries, 14 QB hits, 13.5 sacks), 2 forced fumbles, 29 penalties.
2021 Stats: 14 GP/GS, 41 tackles (17 solos), 7.5 TFLs, 5 passes defensed, 62 pressures (54 hurries, 3 QB hits, 2.5 sacks), 1 forced fumble, 13 penalties
2021 PFF Grades (20% snap minimum): 80.2 Defense (t-47th), 75.8 Run Defense (t-67th), 48.6 Tackling (t-419th), 87.3 Pass Rush (t-30th), 73.5 Coverage (t-30th).
Myjai Sanders Scouting Report
- Good burst, coming out of stance well and in a hurry; flashes ability to time snap count and get the jump on the tackle.
- Solid athletic ability: good agility, explosiveness, and change of direction. Good foot speed in the open field and has displayed the ability to jump the snap to win the edge.
- Good against the run: diagnoses run very well, identifying blocking schemes and pullers; holds up against single blocks in Gap and Zone schemes and sheds blocks with great timing to meet ballcarrier.
- Good hand usage: good timing to use hands to attack or deflect, possessing the strength to remove and shed from the opponent; has a few pass rush moves to win both inside and out.
- Displayed the ability to win in a variety of ways in college. Exceptionally long arms allow him to keep OTs at a distance and deflect passes.
- Fills numerous roles for defense; played anywhere from 3T-9T, and in 2, 3, and 4-point stances. 1- and 2-gapped against the run, rushed from between and outside the tackles, and can drop into coverage from linebacker alignments/stances.
- His body is not ideally constructed; his hips are very high and somewhat tight, preventing him from getting lower in his stance and limiting his ability to bend around the edge.
- Mediocre balance and flexibility allow him to be pushed over. Length and tightness lead to occasional issues with maintaining low pad level and consistent leverage.
- Lack of weight/strength/power is apparent in pass rush, as he rarely wins using a bull rush to collapse the pocket. Run blocking double teams frequently move him with ease.
- Needs to add more pass rush moves to arsenal; primarily won with length, speed, and agility in college, not relying on technique as much. Rarely has a backup plan if initially stymied and QB does not leave the pocket.
- Struggled with missed tackles last two seasons; tightness limits his ability to break down and get wide to swallow ballcarrier, who can out-juke in him the open field.
- Penalties (offsides) were an issue in college (29 in career, 13 in 2021); less-gimmicky NFL offenses may mitigate the issue but is something to monitor.
Myjai Sanders’ scouting report paints the picture of an unorthodox prospect. He was a productive and effective starter in college. But a few critical flaws in his game limit his potential. Sanders’ build is the root cause of those issues. He is high-hipped with long legs; generally, he is somewhat stiff, especially in his hips and ankles. These physical issues limit Sanders’ ability to bend, causing problems when turning the corner and when breaking down to make tackles in the open field.
Overall, Sanders is a well-rounded edge rusher. He has good burst and athletic ability to get off at the snap and threaten the outside edge. He also defends the run surprisingly well for a sub-250 pound edge defender. Sanders has the strength to hold up against most tackles against the run and the power to shock and push them back when rushing the passer. He is aided by his length, allowing him to long-arm offensive linemen. In addition, Sanders uses his hands well against the run and the pass.
However, besides the aforementioned physical issues, Sanders is still far from a perfect prospect. While he is well-rounded, he also lacks a tremendous or elite trait to fall back on. Combined with his build, Sanders struggles to reduce the distance and angle needed to reach the quarterback, whether by speed, bend, or power. Additionally, he may experience difficulties defeating NFL offensive tackles without a go-to ability.
In the NFL, Myjai Sanders projects best as a strong-side on-ball linebacker. He is a dependable run defender that can execute a variety of techniques. In addition, he offers valuable pass-rush upside, as he can defeat linemen in diverse ways.
However, given some of his physical limitations, he needs to work with an experienced, creative coach to teach him more ways to win against NFL linemen. Sanders should see the field right away but will most likely not be an every-down defender as a rookie. With these flaws in mind, he should be a Day-2 selection.
Grade: 6.5 / 10
Comparison: Derek Rivers (2017, R3 #83, New England Patriots)