NFL Analysis


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2025 NFL Draft QB Study: Can Shedeur Sanders Take Another Leap to Become the No. 1 Pick?

The NFL Draft process is usually an exhausting experience, even for casual fans. The absurdity of takes grows more extreme until late April arrives and the dust is settled. Adding an explosive, controversial presence like Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders will only increase the lengths to which criticisms go. 

While Shedeur Sanders' social media presence and flashy post-play celebrations draw attention, they will not define his 2025 NFL Draft stock. His on-field performance and ability to compete will ultimately shape his draft outlook and potential to be the top pick in his class.

Shedeur Sanders 2025 NFL Draft Outlook

To best understand Sanders' future, we have to know his past. Everyone knows he's the coach's son, and Deion Sanders' presence is as debated as we've seen in college football. However, what's not debatable is that Shedeur Sanders' trajectory has included significant improvement. 

In scouting his Jackson State film as a freshman and sophomore, Jackson displayed an elongated throwing motion and an inconsistent alignment in his base when releasing the ball. It was an ugly motion but didn't impact his throwing accuracy. The ball ended up where in a spot for his playmakers to make a play at the catch point.

That's fairly uncommon, as precision passers are usually technically sound or power throwers. NFL quarterbacks such as Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have overcome loose footwork with legendary arm talent. Arm and shoulder flexibility allows passers to deliver pinpoint throws while the rest of their body is moving or misaligned.

Sanders doesn't have that same throwing power. He has a good arm, but not a great one that can deliver lasers to all levels of the field. What he does have is the flexibility required to be a savant outside of the pocket and under pressure.

When he arrived at Colorado, he immediately showed an improved throwing motion. The hitch had disappeared between his last snap at Jackson State and his first snap at Colorado. Passes came out quicker from a better launch angle, and his consistent accuracy improved. 

Sanders 2025 NFL Draft Comparison

His 69.3 percent completion rate and 8.5 average yards per attempt reflect his sound mechanics and raw talent. He's not a physical powerhouse or freak athlete, though.

Instead, at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he resembles someone like Geno Smith, rather than Allen's monstrous build and running ability. Sanders has to be an excellent pocket passer and thrive under pressure to project as a top-10 NFL quarterback.

Obviously, Sanders can't improve his size or speed, but the rest of his game is predicated on his high football IQ. Last season presented Sanders with a challenging scenario. The Buffaloes completely overhauled their roster and brought in Sean Lewis as the offensive coordinator with whom Sanders could collaborate.

Sanders exceeded expectations from the get-go, quickly mastering the new offensive playbook by the conclusion of his initial game.

This was a testament to his remarkable smarts. One of the uncertainties about Sanders heading into the season was his ability to adapt to a new system at a higher level. The vertical RPO scheme at Jackson State required him to make difficult throws, yet these didn’t necessarily prepare him for the complexities of NFL defenses.

However, this concern was alleviated under Lewis, who implemented a layered vertical passing strategy. Sanders ranked among the top NCAA quarterbacks in passing yards and efficiency despite injuries affecting him, his key receiver and his offensive line.

Yet, Lewis' reluctance to tweak his game plan against stronger teams led to a change in the offensive play-calling role after Week 10.

Critics who had not observed Sanders struggling behind his line, enduring hits from defenses that managed to exert pressure with just four rushers, questioned this move.

Nevertheless, Sanders stayed resilient, maintaining his composure and avoiding critical errors. Still, highlight-reel plays became scarce in matchups against teams such as Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State.

This wasn't an indictment of Sanders' abilities. His performance remained consistent even as his efficiency waned due to receivers struggling to break free. The lack of star power among the transferred players he was working with and the evident gap in talent prompted Sanders to elevate his game.

His self-improvement, passing efficiency, clutch playmaking and ability to extend outside of the pocket without making mistakes define his game. Those are first-round-caliber traits and skills. However, the key to Sanders' 2025 outlook will be improving his clear weaknesses. 

Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders
Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders (2) reacts during a spring game event at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

How Sanders Can Become the No. 1 Pick

Even knowing the context, some of Sanders' advanced numbers are concerning, if not terrifying, for a potential No. 1 pick.

We know Travis Hunter was the lone other star on his team, but Sanders struggled to thrive within the offense's timing and put more pressure on his offensive line than almost any other quarterback in the country. 2024 No. 1 pick Caleb Williams did the same but was even more explosive, efficient and gifted than Sanders. 

Only Payton Thorne and Luke Altmyer had worse pressure to sacks and sacks per dropback rates in 2023. Sanders' struggles to get the ball out quickly are somewhat due to his teammates, but it also was the same concern for Justin Fields.

Sometimes, great passers just have to throw their guy open or attempt contested passes without overstraining the offense by extending every play.

Maybe it was due to a lack of trust in his teammates or a natural part of the developmental curve. Coming from a vertical RPO offense, 2023 was his first real season reading leverage and making decisions.

He threw only three interceptions, so he effectively avoided bad plays, but making tight window throws within a few seconds is key for an NFL offense to sustain drives consistently.

Here's where Colorado hopes its new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, will help Sanders' development. Shurmur runs a West Coast offense with moments of success in the NFL throughout his 13-year stint as a head coach and coordinator.

It's not a cutting-edge scheme that will give Sanders a ton of layups, but it will push Sanders to master another set of more complex reads, terminology and timing.

Suppose Sanders is even moderately successful, given that Colorado has again revamped its roster and lacks clearcut stars besides Hunter. In that case, he'll at least have the chance to earn consideration for the top pick in interviews.

From there, a projection as an above-average NFL quarterback is certainly viable if his play within the pocket continues to improve.