LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St.

6’4″ – 256 lbs. – 4.65

Redshirted in his first season, then rotated into the defense over twelve games the following year. Was limited to six games due to injuries as a redshirt sophomore, then enjoyed a highly productive junior campaign before declaring for the draft. Most commonly played as an inside linebacker in odd fronts; could theoretically project inside in either front or to the strongside at the next level. A smooth athlete if not a particularly fast or explosive one. Has pretty good instincts to flow toward the play side, but has some trouble navigating through trash in order to get to the ball. That’s not to suggest that he shies away from taking on blockers in the run game; however, lack of length can allow opponents to get into his pads and take him out of the play. Needs to do a better job of using his arms to stack and shed. Was a reliable hit-and-wrap tackler with some ability to help set the tone in college; length didn’t appear to impair his tackling ability, and racked up a ton of tackles this past year. Remained on the field when the team went to its sub package.  Overall footwork and balance looks good when making drops into zone coverage. Has enough quickness to get depth and pattern-match against opponents coming into his zone, but can be manipulated by opposing quarterbacks. Didn’t take as many snaps in man coverage, and may not have the raw athleticism to shade over an opposing slot receiver. Could theoretically match up against opposing tight ends, and was responsible for carrying opposing running backs out of the backfield and into the flat. Also rushed the passer on occasion, either on presented blitz looks or delayed rushes. Looks pretty good in a straight line, with good aggression and intensity, but is more of an effort rusher than a polished pass-rusher at this point, relying on his bull rush when he’s not schemed open. Injury history will make him of interest to team doctors during the Combine. An off-the-line linebacker who has impressive height and who was highly productive as an every-down player this past season, but who seems like less than the sum of his parts, struggling to play off of blocks and lacking the speed and quickness to run around them. Something of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none prospect.

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