How Shedeur Sanders’ Record-Breaking Colorado Debut Affects 2024 NFL Draft Stock

    Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders broke school records in his Week 1 debut. Here's how he showed Trevor Lawrence-esque talent and will rise up 2024 NFL Draft boards.

    Week 1 of the college football season wasn’t the most loaded slate of the year, but it did feature several notable performances. During the noon kickoff slate, Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes took down the TCU Horned Frogs. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders shattered school records in his debut.

    We’re looking at how Sanders’ stellar play immediately affects his 2024 NFL Draft stock and what must happen next for the junior.

    Shedeur Sanders’ 2024 NFL Draft Stock

    Entering the 2023 season after transferring from Jackson State to Colorado — along with his father and head coach — Sanders already earned a draftable grade from PFN. Throwing for 3,752 yards, 40 touchdowns, only six interceptions, and adding another 174 rushing yards and six scores, Sanders was dominant at a lower level of competition.

    It’s easy to be skeptical about that. In addition to Sanders, Travis Hunter, and a few other players, Colorado also brought offensive coordinator Sean Lewis from Kent State.

    Lewis has designed an impressive offense that evolved in Week 1’s program debut. Sanders often saw simple but advantageous vertical passing lanes at Jackson State that allowed him to show off his impressive arm but not necessarily his processing ability.

    Moving up to a Power Five school is a big jump. We had a mid-round grade on Sanders largely due to his impressive physical traits and plus accuracy despite a bit of an elongated passing motion. Our two biggest questions were about his baseline processing ability, pre- and post-snap, and whether his passing motion could be more efficient.

    His accuracy was a difficult topic. As someone who has charted every pass of almost every drafted quarterback over the last decade and has seen many different passing motions and degrees of what constitutes accurate, Sanders fell into an ambiguous spot. He’s consistently delivering well-placed passes over defenders or leads his receivers upfield.

    But his motion doesn’t look like any of the top passers in the NFL, and fixing this isn’t a guarantee; ask Trey Lance. Sanders showed the ability to make throws on the run without a clean throwing platform and arm flexibility. Combined with the positives of being a great athlete, Sanders was, at worst, worth considering drafting by the end of the fourth round.

    Sanders Against TCU

    As Sanders showed against TCU, throwing for 510 yards and four touchdowns on 38 completions, he was ready to make the leap from JSU to Colorado. It’s not an accident he was the best player in the nation in Week 1 against a defense that boasts its own set of NFL draft prospects and was in the national title game last year.

    The impressive part began with the fact that Sanders already showed mastery of Lewis’ offense. To know exactly where to go in his first game with Lewis, even while hurried throughout the day, is a testament to Sanders’ IQ, work ethic, and potential.

    This backside throw off the play-action look is a good example of Sanders’ operational prowess. He reads the muddied middle of the field with TCU’s three safeties, sees the man coverage, and creates a passing angle to a man he knows will be open once the underneath linebacker moves along with the tight end. This is masterful manipulation, even if he invited pressure from the blitzer.

    There were many examples of Sanders’ mind being three steps ahead of the defense. Simply looking off a deep defender isn’t especially notable, but it’s more impressive considering Colorado’s situation. Sanders was not only on point with his precision, but he consistently created the opportunities he wanted.

    The Buffaloes dropped several deep passes. Had they been caught, Sanders likely would’ve had a 600-yard day. His consistency was brilliant, and it was as clean of a game as I’ve seen since Trevor Lawrence came out of Clemson.

    Like Lawrence, Sanders challenged every level of the field and peppered the defense with next-level playmaking, trust in his leverage reads, and confidence he’d execute despite pressure coming.

    His passing motion was cleaner, as well. The play below highlights his arm flexibility and natural accuracy despite being off-balance and hurried. He rifles this pass directly to his receiver’s chest, briefly squaring his upper body before launching.

    Not having to be perfectly aligned and still throwing catchable passes matters arguably more than anything else in the NFL besides the mental capacity to generally know what to expect before and after the snap. Sanders repeatedly showed this capability in Week 1, an astounding display of mental and physical readiness for a bigger stage.

    What’s Next for Sanders?

    And now, the question becomes what his draft stock becomes. We can’t overreact to one game, but there’s a reason why scouts often look at a player’s best game. If a player can do it once, they can do it more frequently with better coaching, support, and other perks that the NFL offers.

    Putting Sanders in the first round after this game is defensible, which I’d rarely say as someone who is more cautious when regrading prospects. Considering this performance wasn’t different from what he did at JSU and the noticeable improvement in Sanders’ mechanics, there is a pathway for him to rise into the top-three quarterback discussion.

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    For now, it’s about consistency. Sanders doesn’t need to do this weekly, but replicating this high level of play another handful of times likely puts him into the first-round discussion.

    Remember, we never saw Zach Wilson, Lance, or numerous other first-rounders even play as well as Sanders did against TCU, let alone build a résumé of improvement over the years that culminated in this explosion.

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