Mock Draft Has Vikings Trade Down from No. 23 Overall for Promising Defender

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the full spectrum of draft scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings. They’ve traded up for a QB, stayed put at No. 23, and now, the latest mock draft written by Lance Zierlein has the Vikings trade down from No. 23 overall in order to snag one of the more under-the-radar defenders in this draft class.

That defender is Arkansas LB Drew Sanders, who spent the 2022 season with the Razorbacks after transferring from Alabama. He spent two seasons with the Crimson Tide, but ultimately, he couldn’t crack the starting lineup because of outstanding depth at the position, leading to his transfer.

Vikings Take Rising Defensive Prospect in ESPN's Latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft
Sep 10, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders (42) pursues South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the second half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 44-30. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The trade that Zierlein proposes has the Vikings making a deal with the Buffalo Bills, moving down to No. 27 in the first round. Meanwhile, Buffalo trades up to snag Bijan Robinson, which would likely solve the one missing piece for the Bills offense at running back.

Earlier this week, yours truly also had the Vikings trading down to snag Sanders later in the draft, and you can check that mock draft out here. As for Zierlein, here’s what the NFL analyst had to say about the Vikings trade and selection:

Sanders spent one season at inside linebacker and absolutely filled up the stat sheet at Arkansas. He’s big and a solid athlete; he can be a capable pass rusher for Minnesota to deploy when needed.

Sanders certainly fills up a box score, and his decision to transfer was quickly proven to be the right decision as he broke out for the Razorbacks in his new role. During his time at Alabama, he was a prototypical EDGE-type of player, but at Arkansas, he made the move to the inside linebacker spot, giving him a much broader responsibility, in which he thrived.

Oct 29, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders (42) grabs Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby (4) during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

During his sole season with Arkansas, he recorded 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. His tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles all ranked among the top five in the SEC during the 2022 season.

Following the Vikings release of Eric Kendricks and some remaining uncertainty surrounding how impactful Brian Asamoah can be in a starting role, it would make sense for Minnesota to take a stab at a linebacker sometime in the 2023 Draft. Especially in a Brian Flores defense filled with blitzes, Sanders could be a player that thrives alongside Asamoah and Jordan Hicks. Mock Draft Has Vikings Trade Down from No. 23 Overall
Nov 5, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Liberty Flames running back Shedro Louis (1) rushes as Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders (42) tackles in the second half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Liberty won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

While Sanders is certainly best as a blitzer, he can certainly step back into pass coverage too, as described in our Vikings Draft Thermometer series feature on him. He is still a bit raw in this aspect of his game, but with some development, the Vikings may find their Kendricks replacement with him.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.