Darius Leonard, LB
School: South Carolina State | Conference: MEAC
College Experience: rSr | Age: 22?
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 234 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 3rd Round
NFL Comparison: Christian Kirksey
Darius Leonard didn't receive a single offer from a power 5 school during his recruitment process. He was crushed and angry. It was his dream to play for Clemson. He is from South Carolina and his brother Anthony Waters played at Clemson from 2005 to 2006 and was a 3rd round pick of the Chargers in the 2007 draft. Darius used rejection specifically to channel his talent on the football field and was determined to let Clemson know that they missed on him. Leonard developed into a star at South Carolina State and was the MEAC defensive player of the year this past season. Leonard played both outside and inside linebacker at South Carolina State. He is a good athlete an can play with sideline to sideline range and has the ability to cover. He has quick closing burst when rushing the passer and takes good pursuit angles. Leonard has some good pass rushing ability off the edge and is aided by his long arms. He is also effective as an edge rusher on inside stunts where he can use his quickness to avoid offensive linemen. Leonard has a long lean build and while a team could move him inside he has trouble getting off the blocks of interior lineman. Leonard will need to add play strength and learn better disengage moves to help him maintain his position inside. I think he is ready on day one as a 4-3 WILL LB but if a team has interest on moving him inside in a 3-4 or otherwise there are a few areas he will have to clean up before he is really effective.
- Good size, length, and athleticism for the position.
- Has the play speed quickness and range to stick with his opponents in coverage as well as pursue downfield or sideline to sideline. Will probably need a little technique work in coverage but definitely has the length and hands to be a factor.
- High motor player that always seems to be around the ball. Has pass rush ability off the edge and uses his speed and length to slip past blockers and make sacks and tackles in the backfield.
- Reliable tackler who posted consistent and prolific production over his career. Instincts are decent in a scrum and read and react ability is there.
- Plays with a chip on his shoulder and is always looking to get better.
- He has a long lean build and needs to work on his strength as well as his ability to disengage and get turned around by blockers so a move inside (I think) isn't as clear-cut as some suggest.
- Solid tackler but have the pop or power behind his hits as some other prospects do. Sometimes he needs teammates help to get a player down.
- Offensive lineman can engulf him and obscure his vision on running plays. This can be especially dangerous if he's in the middle and cant get to his spot some long gains can be given up.
Let’s see his work:
Big week for #SCST LB Darius Leonard in Mobile. I saw too much of this on his film (balance and strength issues), but he is long and rangy, which isn’t a bad place to start for a day 3 LB prospect. pic.twitter.com/EWbr5bwvjk— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 22, 2018
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
Leonard will continue his journey to prove his doubters wrong in the NFL. As a projected mid-round pick he probably thinks he should be considered higher given his career production. The cool thing about Leonard is that he channels that energy positively on the football field and it makes him a better player. He should be able to compete and possibly start immediately for a team needing a 4-3 WILL linebacker. As far as the Redskins go Leonard is a bit too light and lacks the strength to be a 3-4 OLB though he does have the length you want on the outside. He would have to move inside and improve upon his weaknesses significantly. If this were the case I can’t see Leonard beating out Mason Foster this year and I think it will take him a solid season to improve his technique and add strength. Leonard would be an upgrade in coverage if he were forced to start but I think he could be a downgrade in the middle as far as run defense is concerned. Leonard has visited some 3-4 teams this offeseason including the Giants and the Steelers so the potential for him to work in the middle is there.