Mel Kiper projects Drew Sanders to go in Round 1

By Otis Kirk
on 2023-03-02 07:18 AM

FAYETTEVILLE — ESPN’s Mel Kiper has released a new 2023 NFL Mock Draft for Round 1 and he has Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders going to the Detroit Lions with the 18th pick.

Sanders played at Arkansas one season, 2022, after transferring in from Alabama. Sanders was named to various All-America teams. He topped the Hogs with 103 tackles, 40 solo, 13.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, an interception, five pass breakups, six quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles recovering one.

Kiper projects Sanders to be the first inside linebacker drafted. He has Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. being picked No. 3 by the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s what Kiper wrote about Sanders.

“Back to the Lions, to whom I projected a cornerback with the No. 6 pick. They should double dip on defense in Round 1, and Sanders, my top-ranked inside linebacker, would really help them. Again, this defense ranked near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories, so the Lions could go with the best defender left on their board. Sanders, a transfer from Alabama, stuffed the stat sheet in his lone season at Arkansas — 111 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. His pass-rush upside means he could move around the defense and make plays, and he should be a three-down defender.

“I thought about tight end for Detroit because it’s a talented class at the top, and there’s a hole after the TJ Hockenson trade, but the team likely could address the position on Day 2. It should use Day 1 to focus on defense.”

If Sanders goes in the first round he would be the second Razorback linebacker ever chosen there. In 1983, San Diego drafted Billy Ray Smith Jr. with the No. 5-overall pick as a linebacker.

The last linebacker drafted from Arkansas was Dre Greenlaw in 2019 when San Francisco took him in the fifth round with the No. 148 pick. Greenlaw has been outstanding with the 49ers.

The draft will be held Thursday, April 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo. Sanders and other draft hopefuls are at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., that started Monday and concludes on March 6.

Last year the Razorbacks had three former players drafted included wide receiver Treylon Burks to Tennessee in Round 1 also with the 18th-overall pick. Defensive tackle John Ridgeway went to Dallas in Round 5 and defensive back Montaric Brown to Jacksonville in the seventh round.

(Last updated: 2023-03-02 07:18 AM)