Data Scout Notes: **2017: 12-21-17 - Announced Early Entry into 2018 NFL Draft…DPOYC/1stC...2016: NAC...2015: NAC...2014: RS
*Leighton Vander Esch/Boise State football Videos
*Automated search based on player first/last name, college team name, football, 3 loading panels, click video to view in full size on this page, watch or fast forward one full video, or open player with red arrow to choose more cuts at the bottom of the big video screen. Click "I'm done watching this" blue link at the top of video to close screen. If available/HQ changes video quality.
Leighton Vander Esch Boise State Broncos Inside Linebacker 6-4, 245, 4.65, #38 Riggins, Idaho Salmon River High School
…12/21/17 - Vander Esch to make NFL jump: Vander Esch, the reigning Mountain West Conference Defensive Player, announced his intentions to forgo the final year of his college career and enter the 2018 NFL draft. He finished the 2017 season with 141 tackles (most at Boise State in a season since 1988), including 8.5 for loss and four sacks. He added three interceptions and three forced fumbles, capping it with 12 tackles (three for loss, one sack) in a win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
2/03/17 - 2017 ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FOOTBALL FIRST TEAM (COACHES/MEDIA): LB Leighton Vander Esch Jr. Boise State,...Vander Esch has put together one of the top all-around defensive campaigns in recent Bronco history in 2017. Heading into this Saturday's Mountain West Championship Game, Vander Esch leads the team in tackles (113), has intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles, recorded 3.0 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss. He leads a defense that ranks 25th in the country with 339.0 yards allowed per game, and 19th against the run, allowing just 124.9 rushing yards per game. Individually, Vander Esch ranks 24th in the FBS, and third in the Mountain West, with 9.4 tackles per game, as well as ninth in the country (and second in the conference) with 5.9 solo tackles per game. - Boise State Football
It isn't often that former walk-ons become conference MVPs and celebrated NFL draft prospects but Vander Esch is far from your typical player.
The breakout season Vander Esch enjoyed for the Broncos in 2017 - when he was credited with an eye-popping 141 tackles to earn Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors - was perhaps just as remarkable as the journey he took in arriving at Boise State, hailing from a town (Riggins, Idaho) which sported a population of just 406 people at the last census and a high school team that won the state championship in both his junior and senior seasons, albeit in eight-man football.
While his fourth year on campus resulted in one of the most impressive campaigns by any defender in all of college football in 2017, Vander Esch's career started off in humble fashion.
The self-described "scrawny" 6-4, 215 pounder redshirted in 2014 and recorded just 20 tackles (mostly in mop-up duty) a year later. His 2016 season began in fine form with his second career sack among five tackles in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette but he was hampered by an undisclosed injury a few games later and missed most of the next two months, ultimately finishing his third season on campus with a total of 27 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and an interception.
Optimism was high that the now-strapping Vander Esch would break out in 2017, especially after he recorded a then-career high six tackles (all solos) against Baylor in a Cactus Bowl loss to Baylor to cap the 2016 season and earned buzz from teammates and the coaching staff for his "freakish" athleticism.
Few, however, could have predicted that he would blow up like he did.
Like the year before, Vander Esch enjoyed a solid season-opener, recording a sack among his seven tackles (including six solos) in a win over Troy. It was his next performance - setting a new career-high with 16 tackles (including two sacks) and forcing a fumble against Washington State a week later than started capturing the attention of scouts with Vander Esch beginning an impressive streak of enjoying his best performances against top competition. He recorded 10 tackles (including one for loss) against Virginia, a game-high 11 tackles (including nine solos and a tackle for loss) in an upset win at San Diego State, earning MVP honors of the Mountain West Conference Championship game win over Fresno State by tying his career-high with 16 tackles (including 10 solos), along with icing the game with an interception late in the fourth quarter and capping his career with a dominating performance against Oregon to help win the Las Vegas Bow, recording 12 tackles, including three for loss and a sack.
Scouts will have to weigh the fact that Vander Esch only enjoyed one dominant season at the collegiate level but teams are often willing to gamble early picks on athletes with perceived untapped potential, especially those who have shown the grit to rise from former walk-ons to superstars. One need only look to last year's draft, in fact, when the Arizona Cardinals made former Temple walk-on Haason Reddick the No. 13 overall selection.
BACKGROUND Played football, basketball and track and field at Salmon River High School...helped team to 1A Division II state titles in both football and basketball as a junior and senior...averaged 29.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior on the basketball team...named IdahoSports.com Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014...All-Idaho 1A Division II Player of the Year...played quarterback and middle linebacker...in 2013 completed 60.8 percent of his passes (121-for-199) for 2,155 yards and 28 touchdowns with just one interception...also carried 157 times for 1,565 yards and 34 touchdowns...on defense he made 131 tackles (85 solo) with five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns...played for head coach Charlie Shepherd. …
…STRENGTHS Looks the part of a modern day NFL linebacker with a strapping, well-built frame including broad shoulders, long arms, a tapered middle and good overall weight distribution. Shows very good key and diagnosis skills, frequenting taking steps towards the direction of the play even before the snap. Shows aggression, as well as good body control and strong technique in taking on, alternately using his length and powerful hands to initiate the contract and disengage quickly or turning his frame to offer just a shoulder (thereby leaving little target for blockers to hit) and sliding off to get in on the tackle of the ball-carrier. A very reliable open-field tackler, using his long arms to trip up ball-carriers seemingly out of his grasp and using textbook hit-life-drive technique to stop even talented runners in their tracks (San Diego State-2017). Impressive agility, body control and speed for a man of his size. Slides well laterally and shows the easy hip turn and smooth acceleration to change directions for coverage duties or when avoiding would-be blockers on the blitz... Basketball (and experience on offense) shows in his comfort boxing out would-be receivers and turning pass breakups into interceptions, with three takeaways on just six career passes defensed. Voted a team captain in 2017... -- Rob Rang 1/7/2018
WEAKNESSES Possesses relatively long legs for an inside linebacker, which leaves him vulnerable to cut-blocks, an area that he could improve with greater awareness and technique to sprawl and use his length to defeat them. While generally showing impressive body control for his size, Vander Esch can get greedy, getting too far over his skis and lunging at ball-carriers, rather than breaking down. Needs to show greater variance as a pass rusher, relying upon his length, physicality and agility to physically beat blocks but showing little technique. Comes with legitimate one-year wonder and level of competition questions. Missed seven games in 2016 due to an undisclosed injury which teams may need to investigate at the Combine. Hails from a small rural town and may struggle acclimating to larger media market. - Rob Rang 1/7/2018
COMPARES TO : 2018 Hall of Fame finalist Brian Urlacher, Bears - It might seem presumptuous to compare Vander Esch - essentially a one-year wonder - to Urlacher, who recorded an eye-popping 1,229 tackles and 41.5 sacks over his 13 NFL seasons, all in Chicago. There are some eerie similarities between the two, however, not the least of which are their similar sizes, athleticism, physical tackling and small-school backgrounds. It is worth remembering that prior to earning the No. 9 overall pick in 2000, the 6-4, 258 pound Urlacher also fell off the recruiting radar after playing eight-man football in high school and played his college ball at New Mexico before
IN OUR VIEW Frankly, if there was a "Breakout Player of the Year" award in college football, Vander Esch would have won it in 2017. Sure, there is risk involved whenever investing an early round selection in a player with just one dominant season, especially given the questionable competition Vander Esch faced in the Mountain West. The tape doesn't lie, though. Vander Esch offers a prototypical blend of size, strength and athleticism for linebacker and is an instinctive, physical player with the range and reliable open-field tackling ability to warrant at least top 50 consideration and perhaps even a first round pick.
(RSJr)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).
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).
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).
Redshirted the season.
Played football, basketball and track and field at Salmon River High School...helped team to 1A Division II state titles in both football and basketball as a junior and senior...averaged 29.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior on the basketball team...named IdahoSports.com Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014...All-Idaho 1A Division II Player of the Year...played quarterback and middle linebacker...in 2013 completed 60.8 percent of his passes (121-for-199) for 2,155 yards and 28 touchdowns with just one interception...also carried 157 times for 1,565 yards and 34 touchdowns...on defense he made 131 tackles (85 solo) with five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns...played for head coach Charlie Shepherd.
Draft Scout Player News
03/06/18 - 2018 NFL Combine Winners: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State...An ascending prospect, Vander Esch had a breakout junior campaign and his star continues to shine. At 6-4 and 256 pounds with 34-inch arms, the Idaho native ran a 4.65 40-yard dash with a 39.5-inch vertical, 6.88 three-cone and 4.15 short shuttle. Vander Esch has his flaws, but he showed steady improvement throughout the 2017 season and with his athletic profile, he could very well crack the first round. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
03/04/18 - Combine note: LB Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State checked in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, helping to solidify his rising status among scouts. After making only 26 tackles in 2016, he posted 141 stops in 2017, earning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors. NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang lists Vander Esch as the No. 23 prospect on his Big Board and projects him as going at No. 28 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are looking for help at linebacker following the severe spinal cord injury that will keep Ryan Shazier out of the 2018 season. "He is a clear-cut NFL athlete with the size, awareness and reliable open-field tackling skills to be a long-time starter at linebacker," Rang wrote. Vander Esch said he met with the Steelers at the Combine.
02/18/18 - LB Leighton Vander Esch, after his breakout season in 2017 with Boise State, is projected as the 28th overall pick in the first round, going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the latest mock draft by NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang. He writes: "Some will criticize Vander Esch as a one-year wonder at Boise State but the same criticism also followed standout rookie T.J. Watt at Wisconsin. Like Watt, Vander Esch has the motor Steelers fans will love, as well as the length, athleticism and playmaking ability to earn a first-round selection."
12/03/17 - 2017 ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FOOTBALL FIRST TEAM (COACHES/MEDIA): LB Leighton Vander Esch Jr. Boise State,...Vander Esch has put together one of the top all-around defensive campaigns in recent Bronco history in 2017. Heading into this Saturday's Mountain West Championship Game, Vander Esch leads the team in tackles (113), has intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles, recorded 3.0 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss. He leads a defense that ranks 25th in the country with 339.0 yards allowed per game, and 19th against the run, allowing just 124.9 rushing yards per game. Individually, Vander Esch ranks 24th in the FBS, and third in the Mountain West, with 9.4 tackles per game, as well as ninth in the country (and second in the conference) with 5.9 solo tackles per game. - Boise State Football
11/30/17 - 2017 MOUNTAIN WEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR (COACHES/MEDIA): LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, JUNIOR, LB, BOISE STATE...Is the third Boise State player to earn a major MW award since the Broncos joined the Conference, joining Kellen Moore in 2011 (Offensive Player of the Year) and Brett Rypien in 2015 (Freshman of the Year)...Helped lead the Broncos to their second MW Football Championship Game appearance and first since 2014...Finished the regular-season ranked third in the league with 113 total tackles. This figure leads Boise State...Recorded at least 10 tackles in six games this season, including a career-best 16 tackles at nationally-ranked Washington State on Sept. 9...Is 24th nationally with a 9.4 tackles per contest average...Also recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and picked off two passes...Averaging 5.9 solo tackles per game, which is tied for ninth in the country and tied for second in the MW...Key contributor to a defensive unit that is third in the league with 27 total sacks and 21 takeaways. The 21 takeaways are tied for 33rd nationally...Member of a front seven that held opponents to 124.9 yards rushing per game, a mark that ranks 19th nationally and third in the MW, and allowed only two 100-yard rushers. - Mountain West Football