From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling Auburn EDGE, Eku Leota.
#55 Eku Leota, EDGE, Auburn (SR) — 6030, 252 lbs.
Combine/Senior Bowl /Pro Day
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Eku Leota||6’3”/252||9 1/2||33 1/2||81|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Good size and length
— Played on both sides of the formation
— Used variety of power and speed rushes
— Solid burst at snap; better on obvious passing situations
— Solid hand usage within the rush
— Good motor and athleticism to chase
— Play strength, pad level, hands to set edge
— Good pursuit from back side
— Has some experience in coverage
— Not a full-time starter
— Mental processing diagnosing run vs pass
— Pass-rush plan seemed inconsistent
— Countering when first move doesn’t work
— Rocks in his stance, leaving him off balance on some snaps
— Not a lot of production
— Coming off season-ending surgery
— 2022: 18 tackles, 14 solo, 5 TFL, 2 sacks
— Career: 66 tackles, 45 solo, 25 TFL, 15.5 sacks
— 35 games
— Senior Bowl Invitee
— Pectoral injury cut 2022 season short
— Transferred from Northwestern for 2021 season
— Bachelor’s degree in communications from Northwestern
— Also played basketball in high school
Eku Leota began his career at Northwestern before transferring to Auburn for the 2021 season. His 2022 season was unfortunately cut short by a pectoral injury that required surgery. As a rotational EDGE for the Tigers, he played on both sides of the formation and has a little experience dropping into coverage.
Against the pass, Leota played mostly from a two-point stance but on some plays including third-and-long plays he would go with his hand in the dirt. Overall, he has solid burst off the line of scrimmage but is better when he can pin his ears back. With his hands, he has a solid punch and will actively use chops and swipes to try to gain an advantage. When rushing the passer, he uses a variety of moves. He will power rush with bull and stab and also speed rush with a dip and rip, swim, club and a jump/chop around the edge. He has good ankle flexion and solid bend to pressure the tackles. I saw him draw several holding penalties with quickness. His motor is good and has solid speed to chase down QBs outside or accelerate inside as a looper.
Against Alabama, Leota (55) from the right edge will swipe the hands of the left tackle to get him off balance to get the pressure.
A couple rushes from him around the left edge, the second forcing the right tackle to hook him, drawing the penalty.
In coverage, he has a little experience dropping into the curl/flat zone and looks comfortable. He flows with the QB’s eyes to try to get into passing lanes. There were a few plays in which he picked up the QB on swing passes and even one up the seam.
From the left edge, he gets in a passing lane and then from the right edge he chases down a swing pass to the outside.
The final sack of his career using a stab and then play strength to rip the tackle to the ground.
Against the run, he has good hand placement and good play strength to get under the tackle’s pads and set the edge. In the 2022 season, it was good to see he showed improvement when it came to stacking and shedding blockers. He has quickness and acceleration to be solid chasing from the backside. His change of direction is solid, and he moves well in space. A strong tackler who shows a little more physicality to rip down a ball carrier.
From the left edge, chasing down from the back side.
Against Penn State, on the right edge, a couple sample of him shedding the block of the left tackle to make the stop.
Change of direction and acceleration here to chase down the play.
His play diagnosis is a little slow identifying pass or run. His pass-rush plan is a work in progress. Some rushes Leota looked unsure what he wanted to do and he didn’t have a go-to move. Countering when the first move doesn’t work needs improvement. In a two-point stance, he rocks his weight back and forth from front foot to back foot leaving him off balance on some rushes. I didn’t see him face a lot of screens to his side so I don’t have a good feel for that part of his game. He didn’t have a ton of production, but Auburn had a good rotation of EDGE players.
Leota has experience playing on both sides of the formation in two- and three-point stances. He has solid quickness at the snap, active hands and uses a variety of pass rushes. He can power rush or bend around the edge and looked comfortable dropping into zone coverage. Against the run, he has the hand placement, pad level and play strength to set the edge and can shed blockers to make plays. He chases well from the back side, is a strong tackler and has a good motor.
Areas to improve include being more consistent with his burst at the snap and quickening his diagnosis of run versus pass. His pass-rush plan needs to develop, and he must counter more effectively when the first move is unsuccessful.
From 2021 to 2022 there was a nice improvement in his game. I was disappointed he was injured because he was really starting to put things together. His career stats aren’t going to blow you away but 38% of his tackles went for loss. He fits the mold of 3-4 outside linebacker. I believe down the road that he has the athleticism and skills to be better than expected. He had a calf issue during his Pro Day so he didn’t add to his measurables.
Playing behind the Steelers starters would give him a blueprint to follow. I have to say, physically, saw a lot of Alex Highsmith in him when watching him play. If Leota can catch up to Highsmith mentally and as a consistent defender, someone may get a nice find.
Projection: Early to Mid-Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.0 Backup/Special Teamer (5th Round)
Games Watched: 2020 – At Purdue; 2021 – Vs Georgia, Vs Alabama, Vs Houston; 2022 – Vs Penn State Vs LSU