In a year’s time, Drew Sanders has gone from sparsely used Alabama contributor to a first-round prospect following a transfer to Arkansas. After one season as a full-time starter, the junior linebacker will head to the pros.
A breakthrough season led Sanders to declare for the 2023 draft, Pete Thamel of ESPN.com notes. Ranked as Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 1 inside linebacker prospect, Sanders will pass on the Razorbacks’ Liberty Bowl matchup against Kansas. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s initial 2022 mock draft slots Sanders as the No. 24 overall pick, placing him just behind Clemson’s Trenton Simpson as the top draft-eligible linebacker.
“Football isn’t a lifetime sport; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sport,” Sanders said, via Thamel. “I’ve enjoyed playing in college. It’s always been a dream for me to play in the NFL, ever since I can remember. There’s an opportunity for me to take, and I want to take it.
“… To me, the only way to get better at football is playing football. I’ve never doubted my skills. Arkansas has given me an opportunity for me to show my skills and get better by playing and providing the opportunity to be versatile.”
After starting three games for the Crimson Tide from 2020-21, Sanders transferred within the SEC and put together a breakthrough season. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound linebacker paired 103 tackles with 9.5 sacks, being used as both a middle ‘backer and a pass rusher in Barry Odom’s defense. Sanders ranked 10th in Division I-FBS in sacks, and his 103 tackles ranked third in the SEC. Sanders also totaled 13.5 tackles for loss during his lone Arkansas season.