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Brock Huard’s 2018 NFL Draft preview: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch

Apr 25, 2018, 1:49 PM | Updated: 9:29 pm
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Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch was the Mountain West DPOY in 2017. (AP)
(AP)

 Each day, Brock Huard is profiling a different draft prospect that he considers an early-round possibility for the Seahawks. His draft previews continue with Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch. The audio is embedded above.

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Position: LB
Height/weight: 6-4/256
Class: r-Jr.
Hometown: Riggins, ID

Scouting report: Vander Esch finished the 2017 season at Boise State with 141 tackles (91 solo) and 4.0 sacks, earning him the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year nod and Mountain West Championship Game Defensive MVP. Vander Esch is speedy and agile, especially given his large frame, and tested off the charts at the combine in Febuary.

Brock’s take: “Another linebacker that you are more than likely going to see drafted in the first round. This is the best linebacker draft I can remember in a long time, and Leighton Vander Esch is one unique kind of talent. He’s 6-4, 256, and he jumped nearly 40 inches at the combine. That was second amongst all outside linebackers. He blew it up.

“They’ve got this SPARQ testing that is really big at the high school level to kind of measure a kid’s explosiveness, movement, and functionality. Leighton Vander Esch in this category checks every single box for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. More than the Alabama linebacker did, because he’s got immense length, immense wingspan, he was second amongst all linebackers in the 20-yard-shuttle, second in the 60-yard-shuttle, second in the vertical jump. He ran 4.65. He backed that up with being the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the only reason Boise won double-digit games. He’s the only reason this year they were as relevant as they were.

Bucky Brooks compared Vander Esch and another linebacker prospect, Tremaine Edmunds, to Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews.

“(Vander Esch and Edmunds) are somewhat similar,” Huard said. “Both of them have a lot of football still to grow and to gain. Well-coached at Boise State, but there’s a lot of football to learn, a lot of intricasies of the game… but there’s not a play on the field that he can’t chase down.

“There is some injury history there. There are some concussions there in the background, that if he does sit late in the first round there’s a reason for it, and the only reason is because of the injury situation. He’s an absolute stud. Would not take him at 18, but he is your K.J. Wright-plus … he’s goign to be a very good pro if he can stay healthy, and is just an unbelievable prospect.”

How he’d fit: The Seahawks have two All Pro starters at linebacker with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. They signed OLB Barkevious Mingo in free agency to fill the spot long-since vacated by Bruce Irvin. However, after Wright and Wagner, depth and experience at the position takes a dip, with D.J. Alexander and Paul Dawson rounding out the position group. Seahawks general manager John Schneider has selected just six linebackers since taking over in 2010, and none since 2014. Seattle will need to add depth here, but it remains to be seen whether Vander Esch will fall to them if they trade in the late-first round.

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Brock Huard’s 2018 NFL Draft preview: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch