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Draft Coverage

2023 NFL Draft preview: 5 linebackers that could interest the Lions

Drew Sanders has been on the move from the start of his football career, but he feels like he landed in a good spot at middle linebacker in his one season at Arkansas.

Sanders transferred twice in high school and left Alabama after two seasons for Arkansas when told he could play middle linebacker.

Sanders' performance at Arkansas included 9.5 sacks. It made him the top-rated linebacker in this year's draft.

It validated his decision to transfer to Arkansas.

"They were going to allow me to be versatile and use my ability to get to the passer – as well as play middle linebacker," Sanders said in his Combine interview.

Playing middle linebacker allowed him to use his instincts, which includes rushing the passer.

"It's kind of an instinct type of thing," he said. "You know when you're about ready to take off. There's a timer in your head."

Following is a preview of the 2023 linebacker draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five prospects who could interest the Lions.

View photos of the top linebacker prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Linebacker draft strength: There is a falloff after Sanders.

Lions' position depth, draft priority: Re-signing Alex Anzalone keeps the top three linebackers together – Anzalone, Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez – but the Lions still could add depth to the position.

Five prospects who could interest the Lions:

(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)

1. Drew Sanders, Arkansas:

6-4, 235.

A three-year player – two seasons at Alabama and his final 2022 season at Arkansas. Started all 12 games at Arkansas after starting only three of 24 games played at Alabama. After posting one sack at Alabama, Sanders had 9.5 in his one season at Arkansas.

Bottom line: Sanders transferred to show what he could do with more playing time, and it paid off – 13.5 tackles for loss to go with his 9.5 sacks.

2. Trenton Simpson, Clemson:

6-2, 235. 4.43 40.

Three-year player and a starter for the last two. Played 37 games, including 12 as a freshman. Posted 81 solo tackles in his last two seasons. For the full three years he posted 23 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.

Bottom line: An athletic player who plays with a high energy level.

3. Henry To'oTo'o, Alabama:

6-1, 227. 4.64 40.

A transfer to Alabama after two seasons at Tennessee – 2019-20. Played 28 games in two years at Alabama and recorded 206 tackles with 97 solos. Also had eight tackles for loss in both seasons and 6.5 total sacks.

Bottom line: He showed consistent production.

View photos of NFL prospect Jack Campbell.

4. Jack Campbell, Iowa:

6-5, 249. 4.65 40.

A four-year player and two-year starter – 28 starts in 43 games played. Significant production in his last two seasons with 143 tackles in 2021 and 128 in 2022.

Bottom line: Showed ability to make plays – 15 passes defended and five interceptions for his career. Set his career high of eight passes defended in 2021.

5. Noah Sewell, Oregon:

6-1 1/2, 246. 4.64 40.

Three-year player, 33 games played with 26 the last two seasons. For his career, 213 tackles – 102 solos, 111 assists, and a career high of 53 solos in 2021. Showed some playmaking skills – 20.5 career tackles for loss.

Bottom line: Brother to Detroit Lions Pro Bowl tackle Penei Sewell, Noah would make an interesting addition – and a matchup to watch in training camp.

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