Falcons land versatile defender Drew Sanders in Lance Zierlein mock draft

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It’s mock draft season for many in the NFL world, and I’ve tried to cover every single one that mentions a new prospect landing in Atlanta. And Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has the Falcons taking a player that I haven’t even seen mentioned in the first ten picks — Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders:

Have I got good news for Falcons fans. You need linebacker help and a pass rusher, and it just so happens that this monster can do both!

Sanders began his collegiate career at Alabama as a rotational edge defender and special teamer under Nick Saban. He won a National Championship in 2020 while producing 24 tackles in a reserve role. Then, an opportunity arose. Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool were leaving a massive hole in Fayetville, which paved the way for Sanders to transfer to Arkansas.

He was a highly touted outside linebacker recruit coming out of high school but primarily played off-ball linebacker at Arkansas and still led the team with 9.5 sacks. Sanders also led the team in tackles (103) and tackles for loss (13.5). He became the first defender since Khalil Mack to put up at least 100 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and three forced fumbles.

I remember watching the Arkansas and South Carolina game thinking Drew Sanders was the best player on the field. He helped lead the Razorbacks to a 44-30 victory over the Gamecocks, ending the contest with 11 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and one pass defended.

He’s among the most athletic prospects in the draft, regardless of position. He could possess the size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and versatility to assume roles similar to Khalil Mack or Micah Parsons.

His motor is relentless as a pass rusher, regularly displaying effective speed to power moves. As a Mike linebacker, Sanders showed elite recognition and burst to give him sideline-to-sideline pursuit ability. Sanders’ versatility should pique the front office and coaching staff’s interest. But will they be interested with their first-round pick?

At first glance, you’d think that’s a ridiculous scenario. But we’ve seen this regime make Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in league history, then follow it up by making Drake London the highest-drafted receiver in that draft cycle. There’s no telling what the Falcons will do. They need impactful defenders, though.
Photographer: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire
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