With the 2018 NFL Draft approaching, there are a few things that are on Packer fans’ minds. Whether it be Aaron Rodgers’ contract extension negotiations, Jordy Nelson signing with the Raiders, Damarious Randall being traded to the Cleveland Browns, these things all stand out. With that being said, there is one minor issue that has not been addressed that is still being talked about, and that is inside linebacker. Many solutions have been talked about including the moving of Clay Matthews to inside linebacker permanently. In reality, there is only one true solution and that is to find someone that can truly play the inside linebacker position effectively on every down.

 

Leighton Vander Esch, an inside linebacker from Boise State, can be a solution to the Packers’ problems. Vander Esch is more than likely going to be drafted in the first round. If he isn’t drafted in the first round, he will most likely be off the board by the third round. With that being said this gives plenty of opportunities for the Packers to pick up Leighton Vander Esch.

 

At Boise State, Vander Esch made his first appearance as a freshman (he redshirted his first year at Boise State). In his redshirt freshman year (2015) he appeared in 12 games with 14 solo tackles. In his sophomore year in 2016, he was injury-ridden and only appeared in six games. In his junior season (this past season) is where he stands out. It is his first full season as a college football player, and when he makes the largest impact on Boise State’s football program. Vander Esch played in 14 total games with 91 solo tackles, marking 141 for his total. He also racked up 4 sacks and 3 interceptions. On top of his outstanding numbers are the awards he won:


  • 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)

There is no doubt that Leighton Vander Esch is going to stand out within the Mountain West Conference. There is an argument to be made that he is the best defensive player coming out of that conference. The only question is, how much potential does Vander Esch have and can he stay healthy? From what he has shown so far, he has tremendous potential. The fact that he had two down years and then to step up his junior season and take that leap shows maturity and drive. Due to the fact that he only played one solid year at Boise State allows for coaches in the NFL to make him grow and form him into a solid football player. The scary part is a lot of teams don’t know much about him or how he plays, there is a small sample size here.

 

Strengths:


Leighton Vander Esch has tremendous potential. He has the build and the athleticism to be an inside linebacker in the NFL, and what he has shown in college is promising. On film he shows great awareness, and can wrap up well.

 

Weaknesses:

His most obvious weakness is his small sample size. He only played one full year for Boise State and was it the real deal or just a fluke? All signs point toward the real deal but who knows, anything could happen. His injury history is a little troubling as well, he was injured most if not all of his sophomore season, and luckily he was healthy for this past one.

 

Where will he be drafted?

Vander Esch will most likely be drafted in either the first or second rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. If the Packers do take him, as it stands, he will either be the 14th pick or the 45th pick if they take him in the first two rounds.

 

How does he fit with the Packers?

From what he has shown, he would fit very well with the Packers. Pair him with Blake Martinez, and they would be a solid duo together. His awareness of the field and ability to tackle is promising. With Mike Pettine as the new defensive coordinator, we don’t know much about how is going to run things given the situation he is in. The Packers have a lot of restructuring to do on defense and Vander Esch could give the Packers a young spark that they need.

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