The Detroit Lions are slated to have pre-draft visits with a couple top defensive prospects in this year’s draft, and Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders is now on the list.
The Detroit Lions remodeled their secondary in free agency, and they clearly have their eye on defensive lineman in the draft. Not to be left out in terms off the levels of the defense, Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press he has a top-30 visit scheduled with the Lions next week.’
"I’ve met with them at the combine and I have my 30 visit with them coming up (next Thursday), so I’m pretty excited for that,” Sanders said. “But love the coaches there so far and I’m excited to get to know them a little bit more.”"
Sanders is regarded as a top-50 player in this draft, and a possible first-round pick.
Sanders started his college career as a backup at Alabama. He transferred to Arkansas in 2022, and he was unlocked as a versatile chess piece in defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s scheme (103 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups).
Drew Sanders has the kind of versatility and upside the Lions should want in their linebacking corps
On a surface level, given the new contract they gave Alex Anzalone and with Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes around, the Lions look to be fairly well situated at linebacker. It’s also clear they like who they have, given the desire to keep people and not being willing to devote significant resources to the position.
But Sanders has a level of versatility Anzalone does not have, Rodriguez is a work in progress to have and Barnes hasn’t totally had an opportunity to show he could develop. Moving to inside linebacker at Arkansas after being an edge guy at Alabama did not diminish Sanders as a pass rushing presence.
With just that one year as an inside linebacker, Sanders noted how he can improve when he spoke at the combine.
"There’s a lot to improve on,” Sanders said at the combine. “I feel pretty comfortable that I can cover a pass, get after the quarterback and stop the run. I’ve always trusted my speed and my athleticism. Feel comfortable in space.”"
Raw tools paired with production in the SEC is a great place to start. An “only one year as a starter” thing is a stretch to apply to Sanders, since he started his college career at Alabama.
Sanders is an interesting player, and the Lions burning a top-30 visit on him might not be a pre-draft smokescreen.