Fourth Round, 101st Pick
Many NFL draft prospects get overlooked, but don't let Ace Sanders' smaller stature be the reason you don't see his pro potential.
This kid has plenty of skills that general managers will love.
First and foremost, Sanders is a top-tier punt returner. He has the vision to see where seams will be while weaving through multiple defenders.
Additionally, he's tough to bring down as his low center of gravity gives him great balance to match his agility. His hesitation move constantly leaves defenders picking up their undergarments.
Lastly, he is a bona fide receiver with excellent hands.
Sanders doesn't possess a prototypical—or even typical—wide receiver build. His lack of height will scare off more than a few teams, which will have concerns about his ability to fight off NFL cornerbacks. And they’ll also question whether he can stand up to the physical punishment he'll encounter in the NFL.
Also, for a guy without the size, his 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine definitely hurt his stock, despite the productivity evident on the tape. That combine time easily cost him a round or two.
Nothing came up in his background that reflects negatively on Sanders. His father played in the league and should be a valuable asset in avoiding future pitfalls.
Sanders stands just 5'7" and weighs 173 pounds with 29.5" arms and 8.875" hands.
Release off the Line
His size means he'll have a hard time shaking off jams. However, he's so quick that it'll be tough for defensive backs to get their hands on him.
Sanders has A-plus hands. He does not drop the ball. Ever. I could go on arguing this case, but I'll lean on John Pollard's twitpic to get the job done (@JPSTATS).
John Pollard @JPSTATS
Back on the grid. Top prospect WRs ranked by best (lowest) Drop %. Min 40 Pass Targets in 2012. http://t.co/VNE2IHgATn3/29/2013, 3:53:47 AM
In addition to his outstanding hands, Sanders adjusts well to the ball in air. Regardless of whether a pass was tipped or thrown behind him, Sanders finds the ball.
Sanders' agility and ability to make sharp cuts create a difficult proposition for the poor guy who has to cover him. He changes direction so quickly that it's impossible for a cornerback to instantly contain him, giving the short receiver the separation he needs to bring in the ball.
What he lacks in speed he makes up for with a very quick burst, which forces defenders to chase him.
After the Catch
It turns out that great punt returners also do well after they catch a pass. He's a poor man's Devin Hester who can make all the catches (see above).
Sanders lined up in the slot and on the outside at South Carolina, while excelling as a returner.
He'll be a tremendous returner from the outset. He could also make an immediate impact as a slot receiver.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4/98)
Minnesota Vikings (4/102)
Tennessee Titans (4/107)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4/112)
Dallas Cowboys (4/114)