- AProjectionRound 1
- YearRedshirt Junior
- Hand9 ¾
- Arm33 ⅞
Strong Points: Adequate ILB size. Very instinctive. Plays with strength, power and explosiveness. Very good athlete with speed, change of direction and overall body control. He does a very good job using his hands. Makes a lot of plays vs. the run and pass. Effective blitzer. When in coverage, he gets depth and has very good awareness. Excellent tackler. Never takes a bad angle to the play.
Weak Points: Because of an injury in 2016, last year was his first as a full-time starter. Missed seven games last year but played well when healthy.
The Way We See It: A fourth-year junior. There are plenty of speedy, athletic linebackers in this draft. What sets Vander Esch apart are his instincts and knowledge of how to play with leverage. This is one of the more instinctive players in the entire draft. He was credited with 129 tackles last season mainly because he was quick to find and get to the ball. Plays with strength and power and gets off blocks quickly. When used to blitz, he comes hard and understands how to use his hands as weapons. Very good in zone coverage. Gets depth with his drops and has very good receiver awareness. Overall, Leighton can play in any scheme. He can be a “Mike” or a “Will” in a 4-3 or either ILB in a 3-4. He should come in and play right away and be productive. I see him as a premium-round player.