Khalen Saunders

IDL, Western Illinois

  • Conf --
  • Jersey #99
  • Class RS Senior
  • HT 6'0"
  • DOB 08/10/1996
  • WT 318 lbs



    Run Defense - Has all of the physical ability to be a dominant penetrator and control the line of scrimmage but his technique needs an overhaul. Was able to physically dominate his level of competition with no regard for technique, which led to frequent instances where he got driven off the ball. Has a bad tendency to look beyond blocks while disregarding the need to keep his hands involved and play with leverage. When he does this, it exposes his chest and enables blockers to get into his frame. Doesn't have a feel for processing blocks and eliminating rush lanes. Must be tasked with a single gap and allow for his physical gifts to take over as he develops consistent technique and processing skills.

    Pass Rush - Was able to toss blockers out of the way in college and get after the quarterback but will need to develop technique to win in the NFL. Has unbelievable quickness and power but doesn't have the vision to read pass sets and effectively attack the pocket. Best move is a cross-swim. Has good burst but he's way late off the ball. Doesn't have a pass rush plan.

    Effort - Motor runs hot in doses but there are times where is clearly fatigued but doesn't come off the field. Works hard in pursuit and rallies to the football even when it's nowhere near him. Conditioning appears to be an issue.

    Hand Technique - Hands are heavy, violent and capable of stunning pads. Must be more deliberate about winning with first contact and developing the nuances of timing, placement and combinations to be effective disengaging from contact in the NFL. Want to see him be more committed to playing with extension and fitting his hands as a run defender.

    Flexibility - His incredible looseness doesn't make sense for his size. Has excellent closing speed and lateral mobility. Can spring back across his frame and change directions rapidly. Able to turn tight corners and carry speed through the angle.

    Play Strength - Is more than capable of anchoring and dominating at the point of attack when he's committed to playing with proper leverage but he robs himself of play strength. Has heavy hands. Can covert speed to power and put blockers on skates.

    Play Speed - Doesn't have the dynamic first step quickness and he's often late off the ball but steps 2-4 are a blur. Closing speed is rare for his size. Want to see him anticipate the snap better and be more deliberate about working into the neutral zone to fully take advantage of his rare mobility.

    Lateral Movement - Doesn't get stuck in one area and works in every direction to find the football. Has some spring in his step when working laterally down the line of scrimmage. Smooth operator with fluid change of directions skills. Has incredible range for his size.

    Versatility - Projects as a 4-3 nose tackle that should only be tasked with defending a single gap. Will need a technical overhaul but he has playmaking upside against the run and pass. Played all along the defensive front in college, including on the edge in a two-point stance. Doesn't play with extension well enough for two-gapping duties as a 3-4 nose.

    BEST TRAIT - Physical Traits

    WORST TRAIT - Technique

    RED FLAGS - None

    Saunders has some insanely dominant reps on film and he fared well for himself in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. There are times where his blend of size, power, quickness and flexibility is way more than offensive lineman can handle. With that said, his ability to dominate with physical traits was fully relied upon and Saunders needs major technical refinement to see the field in the NFL. Most notably are his vision, processing, hand technique, get off and understanding of leverage that all need work. While he is raw, Saunders has unteachable physical upside that is well worth investing in. If his responsibilities can be diminished to attacking a single gap, he can situationally step into an NFL defensive line rotation right away, but his ceiling will be defined by how much he can grow.