2018 NFL Draft Profile: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
Will LVE be a first-rounder?
What team do you think is the best fit for Vander Esch?
Everyone has heard the stories about Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch which include him being from a small town in Riggins, Idaho, a small player out of high school where he played eight-man football and his family bus that travels to road games.
When he arrived on Boise State’s campus he was hardly from imposing as he was a 195-pound freshman who was to play linebacker. The coaches saw potential in his athleticism each year he added more and more weight. It started with 20 pounds after his first year and flash forward to the 2018 NFL Combine where he weighed in at an imposing 256 pounds.
He was the leagues defensive player of the year and had too many big plays to count and in big spots to help Boise State win a Mountain West title where he had 16 tackles and picked off Fresno State’s Marcus McMarion to seal not only the league championship but get revenge over the loss to the Bulldogs a week prior. Then in the Las Vegas Bowl, he was just as dominant with 12 tackles, three for loss, a sack, plus a forced fumble.
His stats are one thing but he just makes big play after big play with his ability to find the ball and then attacks to either be the main player in the play or following through until the end of the play by being the fifth or sixth defender taking down a ball carrier.
Duh. He makes big plays.
Everyone is an athlete if they are even in consideration to be picked anywhere in the seven rounds of the NFL Draft, let alone a likely first-rounder. Vander Esch played basketball in high school and that skill set of speed and directional change is a key reason he is one of the best linebackers in this group. That ability helps him in coverage when he his tasked with guarding a tight end or running back, and he seems to always keep his eyes glued to the quarterback and whatever area of the field he is responsible for.
He looks like he runs slow, he does not as he had 4.65-second 40, but he has long legs and big strides to cover the field. He also has just enough speed to beat a tackle or tight end off the edge and get behind the line of scrimmage to break up plays.
Actual game time is an issue as he was mostly a special teams player in 2016, only played six games due to injury in 2016, but he played every game in 2017. This is probably nitpicking but NFL personnel want to make sure the players they draft are not a one-year wonder.
He sometimes can get too excited and over pursue plays which can lead him to be fooled on misdirection plays.
He can actually still benefit to put on another 10-15 pounds.
Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL Comparison: Karlos Dansby
Round Projection: 1st round