Leighton Vander Esch- LB Boise

6-4, 256, (U) 4.66-4.67, (O) 4.65 ,

20 Reps, 39.5 Vert! 10'4" Broad, 

6.88 3-C! 4.15 SS! 11.57 60-YS!

Not An Edge Guy. 

By TOM

He is a tough prospect to judge. Like Tremaine Edwards, he is built like an Edgerusher, but he is an ILB. He started off fast this last season, but then slowed down a ton in the second half. So if you watched him in the wrong games, he looked like Just A Guy. He looked a dime a dozen ILB, which the NFL doesn't value. 

He also looked like an OLB, but he is not. He only had three sacks on the season. He is a run stuffer, with freakish athleticism. His best game was against Washington State, where he had 2 of his 3 Sacks, and 16 tackles. That was his second game of the season, and didn't have a Sack again until the Bowl game against Oregon.  

He had double figure tackles in 8 of 14 games this season. He also had 2 INTs. He is a great athlete who will get over drafted, but he is not a difference maker in the rush.  He is a good leader. He made the check and calls on the defense. He can cover RBs, TEs, and sometimes even WRs. 

He was named defensive MVP of their Bowl Game against Oregon. "When I was 240, I looked like I was 230. I’m 255 and I look like I’m 240," he said. "I think it’s only going to benefit me on the field, I’ve always wanted to be around there. I had no doubt I’d be just as fast, as explosive." He is at his best in the run game.

He is a long tall ILB, who looks like a 3-4 OLB. "I think I put myself in a good position to be a high pick, heard I was moving up draft boards," he said. "It’s not like I was expecting it, but I knew if I was working as hard as I can, I could be in that position." But he doesn't have that knack for hitting the quarterback. 

If you are wondering why the Pats are interested, just look at the freakish 6.88 3-Cone for a 256-pound LB. "I think I performed really well, was consistent in all my drills," Kyle Vander Esch said. "I was up there in all my drills, wasn’t top two or five in one or two, it was pretty much every single one of them. It was a very successful day for me." The good news is that his elite athleticism comes through in the passing game. 

He dominates OLs in the run game. He can punch them back, and make them miss with quickness. He is one pf the best I've seen moving through traffic to find the RB behind the O-line. He has great quicks, burst, and explosion moving forward in run defense. He does a good job reading the QB, and figuring out where he is going. He has the athleticism to be a good edgerusher, but he has not shown that skill. At Boise he was an up the gut rusher primarily, but he did rush outside sometimes. He is an elite athlete, but I just don't see him as a 1st.

Though I do think that BB could take him at 31, because he has a lot of traits that BB likes. Though he has that knack for snagging those guys as Undrafted Rookie Free Agents and developing them into a Ninkovich. But Vander Esch is not Ninkovich. Though I think that is a great comparison to him. Only Ninkovich is an edge guy, and Vander Esch is an ILB. But they are very similar in size, athleticism, and toughness.

Additional Notes:

Nevada: He sets up the D, and makes the checks and calls. He looks like just another LB to me. Great job finding the ball in traffic. He is much better moving forwards than backwards. They line to line up right next to the OC, and let him blitz up the gut. He can fight through the double team to help the RB to the ground, but he will get knocked back to the 2nd level sometimes. 

Wyoming: Nice job covering the TE in the Box. Nice job flowing down the line to the RB. He has some snap in his hips. Plays behind his eyes well. He can beat the OG to his inside shoulder, and ride him to the RB. Good inside blitzer. He can use his hands to shift past the RB in pass pro, and get his hands on the QB. 

Washington State: He can really move on the field. He is truly a freak athlete, but he does not play up to his athleticism. Except in coverage. He really shows his athleticism in coverage. He can swivel his hips to turn and chase like a DB. He has the speed to run with the speed WR inside. He can be great covering the RB out of the backfield. He has great instincts in the run game. He is a great blitzer up the gut. 

Vander Esch Vs Oregon:

You can see here that he is not lined up on the edge like you would except. He is ILB, and ends up as the Mike (:01). He made the check, as an ILB. He takes a false step, but recovered quickly, and got in front of him down field (:11). This is what he does (:20). He catches the big OLT with his shoulder on the zone run. He powered through the big block, and found the RB in traffic. He stopped him short on 3rd and 1. 

Nice view of him dropping while eyeing the QB. Then he spots the little slot guy breaking over the middle. So he bails and picks him up (:35). Here he is at OLB (:54). Back at ILB where he looks more natural. He follows the RB outside in coverage. Then watch the burst to the RB swinging out of the backfield (1:02). He not only got the TFL, but he forced the fumble as well. He stuck his helmet right into the ball with a perfect form tackle.

Watch the patience as he waits for the RB to some to him. Then the subtle shift to make the OL miss. Then he holds onto the RB until a teammate can help (1:34). Watch the explosion to the left as he is faked by the play action. Then the burst and COD to turn up field and run down the Seam with the WR (1:43). He made his first mistake in the run game (1:54). Watch him slide to the outside, and get in front of the RB (2:04). Then the nice hit that sent the RB clean off his feet.

He can get into the backfield fast, when he finds a crease like it is a run. I wonder why some guys have that knack for getting into backfield against the run or pass, but rarely both (2:10). He got into the backfield against the run game again (2:19). But he doesn't have that knack for getting into the backfield to sack the QB. It is strange, isn't it?

At the Mike making calls. He is so slick at moving through traffic to find the RB in the backfield. That is a great play (2:33). You can really see that he is an LB, and not an edge guy (2:48). He does a good job following the QBs eyes, and leaping up to try an tip the pass. 

He gets to the side of the OG to hit the RB, but then got tackled by the OG (3:09). Nice drop, and then burst forward when he sees the QB take off and made the QB slide (3:15). He is not a good blitzer against the pass (3:22). Nice lateral burst to get outside in front of the Jet Sweep (3:39). Nice job fighting off the grabbing and holding TE to stay in front of the smaller WR on another Jet Sweep (3:45). He blitzed up the middle and got to the QB (3:54). That was his 4th Sack on the season. He had three in the regular season, and that sack in the Bowl Game. But that was more like a run blitz. He has the athleticism to be a good edgerusher, but he has not shown that skill. You can really see his athleticism as he hurtled over the RB. 

He followed the RB to the side. Then he got trapped inside. But he shed the blocker, and found the RB. He is such a great player in space (4:19). Takes on the big blocker with his shoulder and finds the RB (4:33). He has stunningly elite run instincts sometimes (4:41). If he could only use those instincts in the rush, he could be a Ninkovich like OLB. He burst through the line five yards to the right of the RB, just as the RB was bursting to his left right into Vander Esch.  

He has the outside speed to be a good edgerusher (5:02). He is so good at making plays in space when the offensive player is running with the ball. He finds him like a magnet (5:20). He is terrific making plays in the run game on the edge. If you take him in the 1st it is because you think he can make plays on the edge in the rush, and I'm not sure I buy that (5:39). Almost the same play as the last, but he finds the RB (6:03). He is a bit of an oxymoron player. He has elite instincts against the run, but not against the pass. It is a mystery to me. 

He blitzes again, and the RB picks him up. If the QB was the RB, he would have tackled him for a loss. It is a mystery to me. I've seen him toss OLs a hundred pounds heavier aside in the same situation to tackle the RB (6:08). He finally gets the QB and pulls him to the ground (6:30). But it wasn't until he turned himself into a runner. It is just a mystery to me.

Excellent job covering the WR down the seam. That is one thing to justify taking him in the 1st. He can affect the passing game in coverage (6:41). You can see his athleticism as he hops down the seam in coverage, and then the great burst forward to get to the RB (6:48). He cannot shove off the OC in the rush like he does against the run (7:21). When the game turns into a pure passing game he disappears from the defense. 

Vander Esch Vs Oregon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V8dZI_HZX8

Vander Esch's Official Bio:

Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (2017) 
Mountain West Championship Game Defensive MVP (2017) 
Burlsworth Trophy Candidate (2017)
2x Mountain West All-Academic Team (2015-16)

BOISE STATE CAREER:
RS JUNIOR (2017): Had a sack among his seven tackles (six solo) against Troy (Sept. 2)...made a career-high 16 tackles (10 solo), two sacks and forced a fumble at Washington State (Sept. 9)...intercepted a pass, forced a fumble, and made 13 tackles (seven solo) against New Mexico (Sept. 14)...shared a tackle-for-loss among his 10 tackles (six solo) against Virginia (Sept. 22)...recorded his second interception of the season, returning it 36 yards, and made six tackles (five solo) at BYU (Oct. 6)...posted a game-high 11 tackles (nine solo), including one for loss, at San Diego State (Oct. 14)...for the second-straight game, posted a game-high 11 tackles (seven solo) for the Broncos vs. Wyoming (Oct. 21)...Tallied five total tackles (one solo) in the victory at Utah State (Oct. 28)...Collected seven tackles (five solo) vs. Nevada (Nov. 4)...made 13 total tackles (seven solo) with one tackle-for-loss at Colorado State (Nov. 11)...also had one forced fumble in overtime (recovered by Horton) to end the Rams' drive and the game...Made six total tackles (two solo) vs. Air Force (Nov. 18)...Collected eight tackles (six solo) in the loss at Fresno State (Nov. 25)...Won MW Championship Game Defensive MVP after tying his career-high with 16 tackles (10 solo), 10 of those in the first half, along with icing the game with an interception late in the fourth quarter in victory over Fresno State (Dec. 2). 

RS SOPHOMORE (2016): Limited to six games due to injuries throughout the year...made 27 tackles (23 solo) including 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack, also picked off a pass...recorded a sack among his five tackles (four solo) at Louisiana (Sept. 3)...shared a tackle-for-loss among his two tackles against Washington State (Sept. 10)...made three solo tackles at Oregon State (Sept. 24)...came up with his first-career interception, made 2.0 tackles-for-loss among his nine tackles (seven solo) at Air Force (Nov. 25)...made six solo tackles against Baylor (Dec. 27). 

RS FRESHMAN (2015): Appeared in 12 games...had 20 tackles (14 solo) including a sack and recovered a fumble...rushed once for 10 yards and a first down on a fake punt...made a solo tackle against Washington (Sept. 4)...broke up a pass and made two tackles (one solo) against Idaho State (Sept. 18)...had three tackles (two solo) at Virginia (Sept. 25)....recovered a fumble and made three solo tackles against Hawai'i (Oct. 3)...had a tackle-for-loss among his four tackles (two solo) against Wyoming (Oct. 24)...made six tackles (five solo) and led the team onto the field with The Hammer at UNLV (Oct. 31)...rushed for 10 yards on a successful fake punt against New Mexico (Nov. 14).

FRESHMAN (2014): Redshirted the season.

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