Boise State’s Vander Esch More Than Measured Up At 2018 NFL Scouting Combine

To say that former Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had a great scouting combine is a bit of an understatement. In fact, not only did his Sunday drill performance result in a very lofty pSPARQ score of 141.5, Vander Esch was also able to that after showing up in Indianapolis at 256 pounds, which was evidently more than his playing weight this past season.

“Playing weight this year was around 240,” Vander Esch said Saturday. “I weighed in here at 256. I wanted to put on some weight because I know the guys are bigger, faster stronger in the NFL and I got to keep up. So, I knew that was important going into it and like I have the whole time at Boise, I just developed myself physically to make sure I’m successful on the field.”

Vander Esch was certainly successful on Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday as he was a top-five performer in this year’s linebacker group in the vertical and broad jumps, short and long shuttles, and 3-cone drills.

So, just how impressive were Vander Esch’s distances and times? As you can see by the tweets below, I compared Vander Esch’s measurables and combine results to Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the team’s first round draft pick last year, as if he were being measured as an inside linebacker. The similarity of the two players’ webs is really astounding. In case you’re curious, Watt had a pSPARQ score last year of 142.0, which is just slightly better than Vander Esch’s Sunday numbers.

Just for fun, I compared Vander Esch’s combine numbers to those of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. As you can see, the Boise State product matches up pretty well to the inhuman tight end.

While it’s probably unfair to do so right now, I also compared the Vander Esch’s combine numbers to those posted Sunday by former Alabama linebacker Rashhan Evans. It needs mentioning that Evans did not run the 40-yard-dash on Sunday and while he did participate in several of the other drills, he’s reportedly still trying to overcome a groin injury that he reportedly dealt with all season. That said, Evans is expected to do everything next week during his pro day.

Generally, we don’t see too many top inside linebackers at the NFL level that are more than 6-2. In fact, the top 15 rated inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus for the 2017 regular season are all 6-2 or shorter.

If there were questions about Vander Esch’s athleticism ahead of this year’s combine he more than answered them with his Sunday showing. With that annual pre-draft event now over with, the only real knock on Vander Esch moving forward will likely be the fact that he was only a one-year starter at Boise State and that he never really played against top Power 5 Conference competition in 2017.

Vander Esch’s draft stock probably won’t be any higher than it is right now. In fact, Tony Pauline of had quite a nugget on the Boise State product this past weekend.

“According to teams, Leighton Vander Esch has been crushing interviews and continues to impress people,” reported Pauline on Saturday. “After weighing in at 256 pounds and completing 20 reps on the bench, the Boise State linebacker is hoping to run under 4.7 in the 40-yard dash. Truth be told, anything at or below 4.75 would be a great time. I’ve been told the Green Bay Packers are very high on Vander Esch and that he won’t get past the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 1.”

The Packers are currently slated to pick 14th overall in the first round of this year’s and that feels a little too early for Vander Esch. The Steelers at 28th overall in the first-round, however, sounds a lot more reasonable as we sit here just after the combine is completed. Vander Esch checks a lot of boxes off when it comes to him potentially being the Steelers first-round draft pick this year. With that said, the Steelers haven’t picked a non-Power 5 Conference player in the first round since 2004 and so that’s one main box Vander Esch can’t check off no matter how hard he tries.

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