The 2023 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in Kansas City and several Arkansas football players are hoping to hear their name called over the three-day event.
Linebacker Drew Sanders is the Razorbacks’ biggest prospect and the only one who could potentially hear his name called in the first round, which features only 31 picks, but a few others could get selected as one of the 228 other picks over the next two days.
Day 1 is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network. Those channels will also carry Rounds 2-3 beginning at 6 p.m. CT Friday and the final four rounds (Rounds 4-7) beginning at 11 a.m. CT Saturday.
In addition to Sanders, who spent one season in Fayetteville, the only other Arkansas football player widely considered to be a lock to get drafted is center Ricky Stromberg, a four-year starter for the Razorbacks.
They will continue Arkansas’ run of having at least one player selected in every NFL Draft since 1996. The 27-year streak is the fourth-longest active streak in the SEC, trailing only Florida (71), Georgia (30) and LSU (29).
Wide receivers Matt Landers and Jadon Haselwood could potentially get selected, as they do appear in some seven-round mock drafts, but they are far from guaranteed draft picks.
Players like linebacker Bumper Pool, offensive tackle Dalton Wagner, defensive back Latavious Brini and others will likely get their professional opportunities as undrafted free agents.
Here’s a look at the best- (and worst-)case scenarios for each of the four Razorbacks who could hear their name called in the 2023 NFL Draft, using seven-round mock drafts from six reputable outlets: ESPN, The Athletic, NFL.com, CBS Sports, The Sporting News and Pro Football Focus.
NFL Draft Locks from Arkansas Football
Drew Sanders – Linebacker
Best-case scenario: 1st round, 27th overall to the Buffalo Bills (The Athletic/The Sporting News)
Worst-case scenario: 2nd round, 59th overall to the Buffalo Bills (NFL.com)
Half of the seven-round mock drafts examined by Best of Arkansas Sports have Drew Sanders being selected by the Bills. That makes sense because Buffalo is in the market for a middle linebacker after losing Tremaine Edmunds to the Bears in free agency.
“With his traits and ability to rush the passer, Sanders has the ingredients of a first-round pick,” wrote Dane Brugler for The Athletic. “Buffalo isn’t in a position where it has to replace Tremaine Edmunds here, but the chance to add a talent like Sanders on defense would have to be appealing.”
Of course, two of the projections have Sanders going in the first round – where no Arkansas linebacker has been selected since Billy Ray Smith Jr. went fifth overall in 1983 – and the other has him slipping to the Bills late in the second round. Assuming he’s scooped up within the first 63 picks, he’d become the Razorbacks’ first linebacker taken in the top two rounds since Quinton Caver in 2001.
The other three mock drafts slotted Sanders in the top half of the second round, highlighted by ESPN’s Matt Miller projecting him to be the second pick in the round at No. 33 overall to the Texans.
“Watching him in an early-September practice last year, I was blown away by his sheer size (6-4, 235 pounds) and mobility in space,” Miller wrote. “Coach DeMeco Ryans – a pretty good linebacker in his own right – would have a field day scheming up ways to get Sanders involved against the run and passing games.”
Pro Football Focus has him going 39th overall to the Panthers, while CBS Sports has him going 45th to the Packers.
Ricky Stromberg – Center
Best-case scenario: 4th round, 105th overall to the Arizona Cardinals (The Athletic)
Worst-case scenario: 7th round, 218th overall to the Chicago Bears (NFL.com)
Although he’s widely considered one of the better center prospects in this year’s NFL Draft, Ricky Stromberg is likely to go in the middle rounds because that position doesn’t typically have a lot of players selected. Last year, the fourth center wasn’t taken until late in the fifth round.
Most of this year’s mock drafts have Stromberg in the fourth round, with four of the seven-round projections slotting him within a span of 21 picks.
The Athletic has him going the highest, at pick No. 105 to the Cardinals, but CBS Sports has him going to spots later to the Patriots. That seems like a pretty common landing spot for Stromberg, as ESPN has New England using the 117th pick (also fourth round) on him and Pro Football Focus has him slipping to the sixth round before being scooped up by Bill Belichick at No. 210 overall.
The Sporting News has the Browns taking him later in the first round, at pick No. 126, while NFL.com has him falling all the way to the seventh round – but then being taken with the first pick of the round by the Bears. That might be a good spot for him if he wants early playing time and Chicago fans have apparently zeroed in on him as one of their favorites in the later rounds.
Razorbacks on the Bubble
Matt Landers – Wide Receiver
Best-case scenario: 6th round, 183rd overall to the Detroit Lions (NFL.com)
Worst-case scenario: Undrafted
Outside of Arkansas football fans who watched him rack up 901 receiving yards this season and perhaps some Georgia and Toledo fans who keep up with former players, no one really knew who Matt Landers was – until he showed up at the NFL Draft Combine. He burst onto the scene with a blazing 4.37-second 40-yard dash.
However, it’s likely that speed will only give Landers a shot to hear his name near the end of the draft, if at all. Only two of the six seven-round mocks examined by Best of Arkansas Sports have him getting picked at all. In addition to NFL.com having him going to the Lions – where he’d join fellow former Razorbacks Frank Ragnow and Jerry Jacobs (Dan Skipper is a free agent) – in the sixth round, Pro Football Focus projected him to the Raiders at No. 220 overall, which is in the seventh and final round.
Even if he doesn’t get picked, it’s probably safe to assume Landers will be a coveted undrafted free agent and have plenty of options.
Jadon Haselwood – Wide Receiver
Best-case scenario: 6th round, 203rd overall to the Houston Texans (CBS Sports)
Worst-case scenario: Undrafted
Once considered one of the best overall players in his class, Jadon Haselwood is in danger of becoming a rare former five-star recruit who goes undrafted. His lack of explosiveness and experience on special teams could make it tough for him to hear his name called.
That said, CBS Sports does project him to be taken in the sixth round by the Texans. The other five seven-round mocks have him going undrafted, but there are a few other lesser-known mock drafts that have Haselwood in the sixth- to seventh-round range.
More coverage of Arkansas football and the NFL Draft from BoAS…