By now you might have heard that the Dallas Cowboys drafted linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th pick of the 2018 draft. The Cowboys came into the draft with four big needs in most people’s minds - wide receiver, guard, linebacker and defensive tackle. Obviously, they think they have solved the linebacker issue.
Let’s check out the pros and cons of drafting LVE.
Pros: The guy is super athletic and big. Earlier this offseason OCC wrote a whole post about athletic linebackers using Sparq.
Topping the Sparq scores for this draft class is Leighton Vander Esch, one of the favorites for the Cowboys’ first-round pick, with a phenomenal 143.6 pSPARQ score that puts him in the 97th percentile among all NFL players at his position.
So we know he is an athletic freak, and that’s pretty amazing given he’s big for a linebacker at 6’ 4” and 256 pounds. It doesn’t stop there. He had tremendous production in his final year at Boise State.
He’s known for his ability in stopping the run and covering the full width of the field. He’s really good at shooting the gaps. He should also be able to cover tight ends, even the bigger ones because he can match them not only with his agility but with his size. Once he learns proper technique in coverage, it could become a real asset.
There is a lot to like about Vander Esch. Given the Cowboys issues keeping Sean Lee healthy and trying to get Jaylon Smith up to NFL-level performance, the need was there, too. The Cowboys are also thinking about life post-Sean Lee.
Cons: For one thing, LVE suddenly burst onto the scene last year, so he’s only done it for one season. Can he do it again at the pro level?
There is also the need for him to be a stronger player, a guy who can shed blocks and not get washed out in traffic. If he plays in he middle, they will need him to be able to navigate his way through the trash.
There is also the neck issue which reportedly had some teams take him off their board. The Cowboys obviously think he’s just fine, but it does raise a little bit of doubt.
Will he be a starter? Can he beat out Jaylon Smith? We’ll see but if the Cowboys have two first-round picks in a row that can’t crack the starting lineup, that’s not great.
Enjoy some highlights and scouting analysis of LVE.