Demonstrates good physicality after the catch, uses a nasty stiff arm to shrug off defenders and is a load to bring down in the open field. However, isn’t a real natural receiver, lets the ball routinely get into his body, doesn’t look comfortable extending his arms and isn’t a real natural plucker. But, he possesses a pretty good feel in coverage, can sit down underneath and works well to find throwing lanes/soft spots vs. zone. Will battle in jump ball situations and aggressively go up and make a play at the highest point.
Isn’t a real impressive short-area route runner at this stage, tends to start to drift into his routes early and too often uses his speed to simply run away from coverage. But, doesn’t exhibit the type of short-area quickness to suddenly/cleanly separate in a tight areas and adjust to the throw.
Possesses good size as a blocker, but doesn’t generate a real burst off the football, gets high into blocks and doesn’t generate much movement off the snap. Displays good balance through the play and consistently is able to extend his arms into contact, but isn’t the type of dominant blocker his frame would indicate.
Impression: A gifted size/speed athlete who has a lot of upside in all areas of the game. Now, he isn’t a real polished short-area route runner and doesn’t block with great leverage, but the skill set is there for him to make plays in the pass game both on the line and split out at the next level."
Positives: Rare combination of size and receiving ability for the position and can be a true matchup nightmare. Can lock on and drive defenders out of a play as a blocker when motivated. Looks for someone to hit downfield. A natural receiver with soft, reliable hands. Capable of making the reception with defenders draped over him and is a security blanket for quarterbacks going over the middle. Can track the ball over either shoulder and shows better body control than one would expect for a player his size. Can adjust to poorly thrown passes and has a large catch radius due to his large frame and long arms. Surprising leaping ability for jump-ball situations. Possesses good power and is tough to bring down one-on-one. Lowers his shoulder into defenders and relies on his size and physicality to generate extra yardage.
Negatives: Lacks suddenness off the snap. A one-speed player. Lacks the straight-line speed to challenge defenders deep and doesn't show the quick feet or agility to consistently gain separation underneath. Lazy route-runner. Rounds off routes, showing little explosiveness out of his breaks. Limited run-after-the-catch ability. Lumbers downfield and doesn't show the acceleration to run away from defenders or the agility to make them miss. Inconsistent effort as a blocker. Was suspended for the entire 2010 season and kicked off the team after an NCAA investigation determined that he'd accepted improper benefits from an agent."
Positive: Massive tight end prospect who does a solid job catching the ball. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, comes back to the ball out of breaks, and makes himself an available target. Uses his large frame as an advantage and out-muscles defenders. Flashes athleticism and gets vertical over opponents to grab the high throw. Big enough and strong enough to control defenders at the point of attack as a blocker.
Negative: Displays minimal quickness in his game. Really nothing more than a short-range pass-catching target. Not light on his feet.
Analysis: Saunders was a solid tight end for South Carolina and is effective as a receiver and blocker. He has the size and skills to get consideration as a developmental tackle as well, but his a year away from football will hurt his draft stock and now clouds his career at the next level."
Negatives: Lacks any real suddenness... Struggles to create separation... Rounds off some routes... Lacks good change of direction agility in space... Plays smaller than his frame would indicate... Can be a little slow and doesn't fire out off the snap, allows defenders to make first contact... Inconsistent, has all the tools but struggles to put it all together... Undisciplined... A lot of red flags... Character concerns... Was suspended indefinitely for missing team meetings in January, was under NCAA scrutiny for possible dealings with agents... Violated team rules in August and was kicked off team in September... Might take some time to adjust to the NFL after being out of the college game for a year."
Still, there is no denying the tight end's skill level. He is a huge target, especially in the red zone, at 6'5'' and 270 pounds. Saunders has been clocked as fast as 4.72 in the 40-yard dash, and he will really have to display those talents at the NFL combine due to the fact that he was invisible this entire season. Saunders looked like a third-round selection who could have played his way into a more favorable draft spot, but now he looks like a third-rounder at best."
His upside is IMMENSE. He's raw, but he's got all the athletic skills, combined with a perfect frame, to become an All Pro Tight End, Wing End, or, optimally, Wing Back.
His downside, however, is ENORMOUS.
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