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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch set for a big role in rookie year

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Cowboys’ first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will report to camp in just a few days. What can we expect from the 2018 first-round pick?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Martin, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Taco Charlton, and now Leighton Vander Esch were the last five first-round draft picks by the Dallas Cowboys. All of the players selected between 2014 and 2017 have played big roles for the team. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is the next man up on the list to be a key contributor for the Cowboys in year one.

Vander Esch was the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Even with Derwin James, Tremaine Edmunds, Harold Landry, and Isaiah Wynn still on the board within a few picks of the Cowboys being on the clock, multiple sources said that the Cowboys were selecting Vander Esch no matter who was there. That just proves how much they loved the former Boise State Bronco.

Vander Esch, 21, entered the NFL Draft process as a physical freak with elite athletic traits for his age. He was a three-year contributor in the Boise State defense, before foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He saw action in 28 games for the Broncos, recording 188 tackles (141 in 2017), 13.5 tackles for loss (8.5 in 2017), three interceptions (two in 2017), and five sacks (four in 2017). As you can see there is a common theme for Vander Esch, he had his best year by far in 2017, and that’s why the Cowboys used the 19th overall pick on him.

In his rookie season, Leighton Vander Esch should get every opportunity to earn a starting linebacker job at the MIKE. Vander Esch’s versatility is something the Cowboys loved about him pre-draft. Due to his size (6’4”, 256-lbs) and athletic ability, Vander Esch can play any of the three linebacker spots if needed. There is a lot to like about him and his potential at the linebacker position. The film shows plenty of positives, but plenty of negatives as well. Vander Esch isn’t a guy you should expect to be a Pro Bowl player in week one, but one the Cowboys hope continues to develop and turns into a Pro Bowl caliber player in the next few years.

The Cowboys linebacker group could be a very good unit in 2018 if Leighton Vander Esch develops in the player he has shown signs of being, Sean Lee can stay healthy for a majority of the season, and Jaylon Smith continues to improve both physically and mentally. If anything, it certainly looks like the overall depth of the position is much improved in 2018 over 2017. Vander Esch will certainly have his hands full from the word go, but it sure sounds like he’s ready to take on any and all responsibility. The words transcending player have been used a lot to describe the Cowboys first-round pick, and that’s a great way to describe the 6’4”, 255-lbs linebacker who still on the rise.