Sanders will have a top-30 visit with the Lions, and their interest might be more than a pre-draft smokescreen.
As much as the Lions appear to like their current group of linebackers, only Malcolm Rodriguez should be locked into a role looking beyond 2023. Alex Anzalone signed a three-year deal to come back in free agency, but it’s a two-year commitment and his hold on a starting job should not be necessarily be set in stone.
Sanders started his college career as an edge rusher at Alabama, before transferring to Arkansas in 2022 and moving inside. He proved to be a nice fit for a new position, denting the stat sheet across the board (103 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups).
Sanders has the versatility the Lions value and covet on the defensive side of the ball. Setting aside the most urgent need, taking the best player available here was pretty easy.
Defensive tackle is the Lions’ top need right now, driving the idea they’d take the risk on Jalen Carter with the sixth overall pick. But here in the second round, the position takes some priority to target.
Dexter (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) is more a nose tackle than a three-technique, but he may have some strenghs that project to untapped upside as a pass rusher.
"-NFL-ready frame with size to entice. -Has two-gapping qualities to build on. -Able to stay square to the line and mind his gap. -Upper-body twitch for sudden block sheds. -Slides through gaps with upper-body turn. -Size and length help open protection edges. -Easy transition from bull rush to swim as rusher"
The knocks on Dexter start with being slow off the ball and lacking good hand usage, things that could be developed as a pro. The Lions add an interesting piece to their interior defensive line.
The Lions need to inject some talent into their tight end depth chart and a lot of mock drafters can’t let go of the idea they should take one in the first round. While James Mitchell is an intriguing young player, Brock Wright and Shane Zystlra are not it in terms of being anything close to the TE1 on a good team.
LaPorta topped 50 receptions and 11 yards per catch in each of last two seasons as a Hawkeye, which is something when you consider how awful Iowa’s offense was. He had a nice showing at the Combine, with a memorable meeting with the Lions that he recounted. According to Pro Football Focus, his 20 broken tackles last season were the fifth-most they’ve ever charted for a tight end in nine years of grading.
LaPorta could become the Lions’ No.1 tight end immediately, and he should have every chance to do so.