Name: Drew Sanders
Ht/Wt: 6-4, 235
40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds (pro day)
Bench: Did not bench
Vertical: 37.0 inches (pro day)
Broad: 9-foot-10 (pro day)
3-cone: 7.15 seconds (pro day)
20-yard shuttle: 4.38 seconds (pro day)
View photos of NFL prospect Drew Sanders.
How he fits: An Alabama transfer who finished out his college career at Arkansas last season, Sanders moved from a primarily outside linebacker pass-rushing role with the Crimson Tide to the MIKE linebacker in Arkansas. He racked up 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles and five passes defended for the Razorbacks.
Sanders' size and skillset could allow him to be a Swiss Army Knife player for a defense at the NFL level. He's got the size, speed and experience to play all three linebacker spots with some pass-rushing prowess to go with it. That certainly comes in handy for a team like Detroit, who had the seventh highest blitz percentage (31.2 percent) in the NFL last season.
Sanders has to become a more consistent tackler, however. He had three-plus missed tackles in five games in 2022, per The Athletic.
The Lions re-signed veteran Alex Anzalone and also added veteran Jalen Reeves-Maybin in free agency, and they like the development of third-year linebacker Derrick Barnes and second-year Malcolm Rodriguez, but Sanders is a player who could contribute right away on special teams and work himself into the defense in a lot of different roles and packages.
Key observations: Sanders had seven games last season with at least five tackles and a sack.
What they had to say about him: "Unique linebacker prospect with the physical traits, athleticism and skill set to be deployed as an inside linebacker or a stand-up edge rusher. The former five-star Alabama signee transferred to Arkansas for the 2022 season and posted eye-catching production with the Razorbacks. He plays with good technique in take-ons and has plenty of pursuit range, but he's still finding his footing with his run fits and tackle consistency.
"He's a tough out for interior protection as a blitzing linebacker and has natural rush talent to hunt quarterbacks off the edge. Sanders' athletic gifts, versatility and toughness could help him become a highly impactful playmaker with Pro Bowl upside." – Lance Zierlein, NFL Analyst
View photos of the top linebacker prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
How he stacks up: Sanders is widely considered the top interior linebacker prospect in the class. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks lists him as the No. 1 linebacker in the class.
"Sanders is a throwback linebacker with the size, strength and awareness to control the middle. With the Alabama/Arkansas product also displaying disruptive pass-rush skills, defensive coordinators will salivate over his potential as an impactful second-level defender," Brooks wrote.
Sanders comes in at No. 31 on Dane Brugler's Big Board for The Athletic, No. 54 on Pro Football Focus' Big Board and is listed at No. 42 on CBS Sports' ranking of the Top 400 prospects in the class.
What he had to say: "I played outside linebacker two years and played inside linebacker one year and I'm pretty raw at both spots," Sanders said at the Combine. "There's a lot to improve on. But the versatility part, I feel pretty comfortable I can cover a pass, get after the quarterback and stop the run."