Leighton Vander Esch, LB
School: Boise State | Conference: Mountain West
College Experience: rJr | Age: 21?
Height / Weight: 6-4 / 240 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 2nd Round
NFL Comparison: K.J. Wright
Leighton Vander Esch is from Riggins, Idaho and walked on to the Boise State football problem. Vander Esch’s development at the program could be described as astronomical. He produced at a modest level his first two seasons in limited playing time. This past year (his junior season) he was given the chance to start at weakside linebacker and never took his foot off the gas. Vander Esch did much more than load up the stat sheet. He helped put the Bronco’s in position to play in and win a bowl game (Las Vegas Bowl vs. Oregon) and he was also awarded Mountain West defensive player of the year.
Vander Esch has scouts buzzing about his skills on the field which include good athleticism, sure tackling, great instincts, tenacity, and motor, as well as impressive measurables and size. Vander Esch excels at patrolling the LOS and limiting opponents run production and impact. Scouts likely see all the physical skills at the position they covet as well as key intangibles like instincts, leadership, and vision and some versatility. Vander Esch is projected to either continue his duties as a weakside outside linebacker in the or move inside.
- Excellent size as a linebacker. Well built strong and has impressive length.
- Great instincts. Knows where the ball is and is rarely fooled by frill plays and play action more often than not gets to the right place at the right time to stop the play.
- Trusts himself and his ability. Keeps the play in front of him and operates without hesitation doesn't try and do things to overcompensate.
- A 3-down linebacker with the versatility to play both inside and outside.
- Lauded by coaches and opponents as a leader, hard worker, and relentless.
- Can fight through the scrum and make tackles coming from across the field. Does the dirty work in pursuit and rarely loses sight of the target.
- Coverage ability in deep zones should and will be questioned on tape he has let opponents slip past him past the second level around ~15 - 20 yards deep.
- Adequate athlete but not fluid. Footwork can become choppy and heavy causing him to be a step late to his assignment. This is the difference between TFLs and 2-3 gains.
- One year of production. I wonder how many scouts are sold and how many may consider him to be a flash in the pan?
- Doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher that I can see.
Let’s see his work:
Leighton Vander Esch vs Washington State has to be one of the best linebacker tapes I've seen this year. He put on an absolute clinic. Here is the exclamation point. pic.twitter.com/iLq9oskLBq— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) January 10, 2018
No linebacker in the entire 2018 NFL Draft class recorded more stops than Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch pic.twitter.com/4sOp6OOudb— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 20, 2018
Top 50 player here. Way under the radar nationally. Love his game. Didn’t expect he’d declare, but he’ll be on my next rankings update https://t.co/VDuF2fUQLF— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 21, 2017
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
Vander Esch would move to the inside linebacker position hopefully beside Zach Brown if drafted by the Redskins. Not only do I think Vander Esch is a better athlete than Spaight, Compton, Vigil, and arguably Mason Foster I think his floor is above the abilities of those players. There seems to be an endless call for the Redskins to have two ultra-athletic inside linebackers to help protect the team from seam busting TEs and running backs. Don’t get me wrong - linebackers need to have athleticism in today's NFL. However, Zach Brown is ultra-athletic for the position and having another guy beside him that can some the same things athletically is squarely in the nice to have category and ultimately speak to bigger problems the Redskins have at the safety position and overall chemistry in the secondary.
Vander Esch immediate value is patrolling the LOS and defending the run. This is an area the Redskins ranked LAST in this past year and have struggled with for years. The position requires more than pure athleticism, more than size, it requires pure instincts, solid fundamentals, and smart play all of which are qualities Vander Esch has. A duo of Brown and Vander Esch could prove to be very productive provided Vander Esch develops well and can fix his footwork issues primarily.