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2018 NFL Scouting Report: Scouting Boise State linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch

The Boise State linebacker could be a nice addition to the Broncos front seven.

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

One prospect the Broncos are rumored to be interested in is former Boise State linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch. He is a 6’4’, 256lb linebacker who is considered one of the top linebackers in the entire 2018 NFL Draft. Vander Esch is ranked as the third-best outside linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft according to NFLDraftScout.com and is ranked as the 19th overall prospect in the entire draft.

Vander Esch played three seasons at Boise State but is coming off a breakout year that shot him up the draft boards. During his three-year career at Boise State, Vander Esch totaled 188 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 forced fumbles. This past season, he totaled 141 tackles, 8.5 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 5 pass deflections, and 4 forced fumbles.

Leighton Vander Esch’s 2017 awards and accomplishments include being named the 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, named the Mountain West Championship Game Defensive MVP, and we Burlsworth Trophy Candidate for his 2017 season.

Leighton Vander Esch, Junior, Boise State

Height: 6’4” Weight: 256lbs 40 time: 4.65 seconds

Arm Length: 33 7/8” Hands: 9 3/4”

Bench Press: 20 reps Vertical Jump: 39.5 inches Broad Jump: 124.0 inches

3-Cone Drill: 6.88 seconds 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.15 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: 11.57 seconds

Film Room:

Scouting Report:

Strengths

  • Looks the part of an NFL linebacker
  • Big, rangy, and athletic
  • Shows high-level lateral quickness and is a sideline to sideline tackling ability
  • Fluid athlete with loose hips
  • Excellent body control
  • A tackling machine with a nose for the football
  • Shows good vision and has a high football IQ
  • Reliable wrap up tackler
  • Finds the gaps when blitzing and gets in the backfield often
  • Very good coverage skills
  • Utilizes his athleticism and instincts in zone coverage
  • Has the athleticism, size, and arm length to be effective in man coverage
  • High-Motor player who doesn’t give up on the play
  • Team Captain, team leader, and a hard worker at Boise State

Weaknesses

  • A one-year wonder
  • Only one season of starting experience
  • Needs to work on his hand and footwork technique
  • Still somewhat raw and needs to clean up his game some
  • Could get stronger and add muscle to his frame
  • At times is a bit over-aggressive when pursuing a ball carrier

Quotable:

NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler on Vander Esch from his draft guide.

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Boise State, Vander Esch had a breakthrough 2017 season as the WILL linebacker in the Broncos’ hybrid 3-3-5 scheme, becoming the first player in school history to win Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a big fish in a small pond in high school and needed time to fill out his frame and adjust to major college football when he arrived in Boise, blossoming as a junior. Vander Esch competes with the athleticism, instincts and toughness that translate well to the NFL level, making plays vs. the run and in coverage. He finds himself out of control at times, leading to finishing issues, and needs to properly use his length when taking on blocks, but these flaws can be improved with more reps. Overall, Vander Esch needs to clean up his angles and break down skills to be more consistent, but he is an ascending player both mentally and physically, displaying the skill-set to be a three-down NFL starter.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah on Leighton Vander Esch who he has ranked as his 28th overall prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Vander Esch is a long, instinctive and fast inside linebacker. Against the run, he’s quick to key/read and aggressively shoot gaps. He does a good job sorting through the trash to find the ball. He flashes the ability to pop/separate from blockers, but at times, he’s too narrow and gets washed out. He has outstanding speed/range. He’s a highly productive tackler, but also produces a couple fly-by missed tackles in every game. He has ideal size/speed to mirror tight ends in coverage and he’s a productive blitzer. Vander Esch was one of the most productive players in the country this past season and should be an immediate starter at the next level.

Leighton Vander Esch’s Spider Graph:

Does Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch make sense for the Broncos in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft?:

I love this fit if they trade back into the first-round and acquire a second first-round selection.

The Broncos have been doing their due diligence at the linebacker position and have been focusing on linebackers who can cover. Well, Vander Esch has very good coverage skills and possesses three-down linebacker traits as well. He has future starter and potential Pro Bowler written all over him.

If drafted by the Broncos, I think he would see time in sub-packages early and challenge Todd Davis for base/run down packages quickly. Its possible whoever drafts him may ease him in slowly because of his lack of experience, but the talent is there.

If the Broncos want him, they will have to trade back to get him. He’s not worth the 5th overall pick and should go in the second half of the first-round. If the Broncos were to trade with the Bills and acquire their two first-round selections, I could see them using the second first-rounder on Vander Esch.