The Eagles have had an active offseason. Bringing in Corey Nelson, Paul Worrilow and resigning Nigel Bradham will certainly help this year but there is no question that the linebacking core is an area that is still troublesome. Mychal Kendricks has been on the trading block for years now and while Jordan Hicks has proven to be an incredible talent, we have yet to see if he can stay on the field consistently. That is why the Eagles must target linebacker as a position of need in this years draft and one of the players they have met with is projected first-round pick, Leighton Vander Esch.
Starting just one season at Boise State, Leighton Vander Esch turned heads so fast he gave people whiplash. With 141 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, 4 sacks, 4 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles he was selected as a first team all-conference linebacker. Standing at 6’4″ and 256 lbs, Vander Esch has prototypical size to play in the NFL.
Vander Esch was a heat-seeking missile looking for the football in his only year as a starter. Without hesitation, he analyzes the play and starts moving, showing great instincts. When going for the tackle, Vander Esch has great technique in wrapping up the ballcarrier. He is also very capable when dropping back into coverage. Possessing the speed to keep up with more athletic tight ends and the size to not get bullied by the bigger ones, Vander Esch has the athleticism to stay on the field during all 3 downs.
While it might seem like he is a perfect prospect, there are some knocks against the Boise State linebacker. Having only started one season, it is much harder to determine whether or not he can do this on a long-term basis. Vander Esch also missed the majority of his sophomore season due to multiple injuries which could raise concerns. On the field, there are also times that he can get caught over-pursuing. Adding some muscle should be a priority in order to shed blocks.
The Diagnosis: Perennial Pro-Bowl Linebacker
While it may take a season or two for Vander Esch to work out some kinks, he has all of the tools to be one of the best linebackers in the league. It is highly unlikely that he would fall to the 32nd pick but the Eagles have used one of their thirty available workouts on him. It’s either they think its possible for him to be there OR they are deciding if the cost to move up would be worth it in order to create a dominant linebacking core.