The Pair of Exclusive Lists Drew Sanders Joined Despite Slipping in NFL Draft

Drew Sanders, Arkansas football, NFL Draft
photo credit: Nick Wenger

Drew Sanders slipped further than expected on Day 2, but still made history Friday night by becoming one of the highest-drafted linebackers the Arkansas football program has ever produced.

The Denver Broncos took him with the 67th overall pick, which was part of the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City.

That makes Sanders the highest-drafted Arkansas linebacker since Quinton Caver was pick No. 55 to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2001. He is the Razorbacks’ third-highest drafted player at that position in the modern NFL Draft era (since 1970), behind only Caver and Billy Ray Smith Jr., who went fifth overall in 1983.

It caps what has been a meteoric rise for Sanders. A former five-star recruit, he originally signed with Alabama and played some for the Crimson Tide, but ultimately decided to enter the transfer portal after the 2021 season.

That proved to be a great decision, as the Denton, Texas, native immediately asserted himself as a starter for the Razorbacks and got to showcase his skills as a middle linebacker — opposed to the outside linebacker, edge rusher position he played at Alabama.

Those skills helped him rack up 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, the latter of which ranked second in the SEC.

The Associated Press named him a first-team All-American, making him the first Arkansas linebacker to earn that honor since Ronnie Caveness in 1964, while all of the other major All-America teams tabbed him as a second-teamer. Sanders was also one of three finalists for the Butkus Award.

Arkansas has now had a player taken in every NFL Draft since 1996. The 28-year streak is the fourth-longest active streak in the SEC, trailing only Florida (71), Georgia (30) and LSU (29) – whose streaks either already have been or will be extended this year.

Center Ricky Stromberg is likely to hear his name called at some point during the event, as well, while wide receivers Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers also have a chance to be picked.

Transfers Taken in NFL Draft

On top of being a third-round pick, Drew Sanders also joins a pretty exclusive list of Arkansas football players who transferred in from another four-year institution and went on to be selected in the NFL Draft.

It’s actually the second straight year it’s happened for the Razorbacks, as Illinois State transfer John Ridgeway was taken by the Cowboys in last year’s draft. The only other time such a player was taken in back-to-back drafts was 1980-81, as seen in the list below.

You have to go back to the World War II era to find one who was drafted higher than Sanders, as the legendary Clyde “Smackover” Scott began his career at Navy before transferring home after the war and being the eighth overall pick in 1948.

PlayerPOSYearRound, PickNFL TeamFormer School
Clyde ScottRB19481st / 8thEaglesNavy
Kevin ScanlonQB198012th / 332ndRamsNorth Carolina State
Steve CoxP19815th / 134thBrownsTulsa
Jessie ClarkRB19837th / 188thPackersLouisiana Tech
Ryan MallettQB20113rd / 74thPatriotsMichigan
David WilliamsRB20187th / 226thBroncosSouth Carolina
John RidgewayDT20225th / 178thCowboysIllinois State

Arkansas Linebackers Drafted in SEC Era

The linebacker position at Arkansas has enjoyed a resurgence under head coach Sam Pittman, as Grant Morgan earned All-America recognition and Bumper Pool was a multi-time All-SEC honoree, but Drew Sanders is the first to parlay his college success into an NFL Draft selection.

He is the Razorbacks’ first linebacker draftee since Dre Greenlaw in 2019 and just their eight since joining the SEC in 1992.

PlayerYearRoundPickNFL Team
Anthony Hicks19975th160thPackers
Quinton Caver20012nd55thEagles
Caleb Miller20043rd80thBengals
Tony Bua20045th160thDolphins
Jeb Huckeba20055th159thSeahawks
Martrell Spaight20155th141stRedskins
Dre Greenlaw20195th148th49ers


One of the Razorbacks’ previous linebacker draftees, Quinton Caver, was from Alabama – an area that Sam Pittman has begun recruiting again with some notable success:


More coverage of Arkansas football and the NFL Draft from BoAS…

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