2023 mock NFL Draft: 49ers watch NFC get significantly stronger
2023 NFL Draft, Pick No. 18: Detroit Lions – Alex Sanders, Linebacker, Arkansas
The Lions were one of the surprise packets in 2022 and continue to bolster the defense in this NFL Draft. Their linebacker corps was their big weakness this season, and one of their picks should be used to upgrade the area.
49ers fans are well aware of what good linebacking play looks like with the duo of Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw on the field every week, and Drew Sanders looks in many ways like he could be Warner’s twin. He has excellent speed and pursuit to chase down ball carriers and covers the field well, but he has an extra advantage even Warner doesn’t.
The best non-pass-rushing linebacker in the draft, that’s actually somewhat of a misnomer as Sanders is a very natural pass-rusher. Sanders had 9.5 sacks for Arkansas this season and looks like he could play in a 4-3 as a MIKE linebacker who can move to the defensive line on passing downs.
Sanders can stand to get stronger for the NFL, however, to tackle NFL-caliber offensive lines. He’s not weak by any means, but he isn’t as strong a run defender as he should be and can struggle to shed blocks.
In the NFL, Sanders looks like a good candidate to be a situational player on obvious passing downs while he gets stronger in the weight room. Once he fills out his frame, he can be a three-down linebacker who can approach double-digit sacks.