With the bulk of the 2018 free agency signing period now over and just roughly one week of pro days remaining on the schedule, we’re starting to see a new batch of major media mock drafts surface on the internet. In fact, on Thursday, NFL.com draft analysts Charles Davis released his second mock of the first round of 2018 and after previously having LSU running back Derrius Guice going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 28th overall, he now has them selecting Boise State inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in his latest offering.
After signing Morgan Burnett to bolster the safety position, the Steelers turn their attention to linebacker, and find an instinctive one in Vander Esch.
It’s not surprising to now see Vander Esch being back in vogue as the Steelers possible first-round selection now that the team has signed veteran safety Morgan Burnett. With that said, however, you still can’t entirely rule out a safety as being the 28th overall selection and especially being as the Steelers really don’t have much invested in Burnett past the 2018 season.
If you were to build a list of potential reasons as to why Vander Esch might not ultimately be the Steelers first-round selection this year, you would likely start by noting that he did not play for a Power 5 Conference college team. Additionally, the fact that Vander Esch was just a one-year starter at Boise State is yet another thing you could add to that list. Here is something else to think about. According to Tony Pauline of draftanalyst.com this past December, Vander Esch received a second-round grade from the draft advisory committee.
Those strikes against Vander Esch aside, he’s still a very athletic specimen as evidence by him posting a pSPARQ score of 141.5 at this year’s scouting combine and he did so while weighing 256-pounds. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that he registered 141 total tackles in 2017 with 8.5 of those resulting in lost yardage and that he also recorded 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 5 defensed passes last season.
The Boise State pro day is currently scheduled for April 3 and while Vander Esch isn’t likely to do much more than position drills during the event, it will be interesting to see if Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin ultimately show up to watch him go through the paces. It also won’t be surprising if Vander Esch is ultimately brought in for a pre-draft visit next month as well as he did formally interview with them while in Indianapolis for the combine.
During a very recent interview with Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network, Vander Esch was asked if he has any idea which team he might ultimately land with.
“I mean, everybody’s talking about Pittsburgh right now,” Vander Esch said. “I feel like I could land anywhere that anybody wants me. Anybody could pick me at this point.”