FAYETTEVILLE — ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Arkansas inside linebacker Drew Sanders rated No. 1 at his position most of the season, but recently dropped him to second.

However, Sanders remains Kiper’s favorite inside linebacker in this class. Sanders ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and recorded a 37-inch vertical jump for the pro scouts. Sanders, 6-4, 235, only played one year at Arkansas and previously with Alabama.

Kiper has released his favorite player at each position as next week’s NFL Draft draws nearer.

“Sanders played 269 defensive snaps as a rotation player at Alabama in 2021, but he looked like a star after transferring to Arkansas last season. He stuffed the stat sheet with 111 total tackles, 16 total tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pick. He has a great size-speed combination, and at 6-4, 235 pounds, his length means he can be used as a third-down blitzer. He’s a three-down player.

Sanders has a little bit of tightness in his hips in coverage, which is why I just moved Trenton Simpson (Clemson) above him in my linebacker rankings.”

Projection from Kiper: Some teams see Sanders as the best off-ball linebacker in this class, but those kinds of players just don’t have top-20 value these days. Sanders is likely to go somewhere in the top 50, potentially late in Round 1.

The draft will begin Thursday, April 27, with Round 1. It will continue on April 28 with Rounds 2-3. The final four rounds will be on Saturday, April 29.