LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina St.

6’2″ – 234 lbs. – 4.70

Redshirted in his first season, then enjoyed four highly productive campaigns in the starting lineup. Tall with long limbs and adequate bulk, although some teams may want him to add additional strength before giving him a significant role in the defense. Played middle linebacker behind an even defensive front in college but could also project to the outside at the next level. A pretty good athlete in terms of his fluidity and speed, with the range to play sideline to sideline. Patient with his reads and does a good job of flowing in the play direction and pursuing toward the sidelines. Length gives him a wide tackling radius, although he could do a better job of gearing down to improve his reliability. Was able to play off of blocks at the college level but might need to add additional strength in order to do that against pro offensive linemen. Could take more direct angles to the ball when playing between the tackles, as he has a tendency to take circuitous routes which lead him away from the play. Can struggle to disengage from opposing blockers once they’ve gotten into his pads. Anchor is just average. Needs to locate the ball better when engaged, but flashes the ability to make tackles in such situations. Early role at the pro level may be as a coverage specialist in sub packages. Comfortable making drops into zone coverage or working as a quarterback spy, although his backpedal can look clunky at times. Was also asked to shade over slot receivers, typically with zone coverage responsibilities. Able to get enough depth, covering a lot of ground with his shuffle. Adequate plant-and-drive skills when coming up to defend screens or pursue a fleeing quarterback. Didn’t work in man coverage against opposing tight ends during the games reviewed but has the physical and athletic attributes to potentially contribute in that role. Also has the speed to line up on the edge and rush the passer on occasion. Mature and humble off the field. A long, athletic linebacker who can play sideline to sideline or make drops into coverage, but who has reportedly struggled to keep weight on, something which could be a concern given his thin frame. Has the traits of a sub package linebacker or potential starter, so look for him to come off the board early on the third day.

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