NFL Combine: The buzz builds around Leighton Vander Esch

Two days in, so far so good for Vander Esch. Without a doubt though, he will need his biggest performance on Sunday.

Leighton Vander Esch

Position: Linebacker

Combine Number: LB38

NFL Combine Measurements

Height: 6'4 2/8"

Weight: 256 pounds

Arms: 81 1/8"

Hands: 33 7/8" Prospect Grade: 6.18 (Should become instant starter)

NFL Combine Test Results

Bench Press: 20 reps (t-11th out of 25)

40-YD: 4.65 (t-14th out of 27)

Vertical: 39.5 (t-2nd out of 21)

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Broad Jump: 10'4" (t-5th out of 22)

3-Cone Drill: 6.88 seconds (5th out of 16)

20-YD Shuttle: 4.15 seconds (t-2nd out of 15)

60-YD Shuttle: 11.57 seconds (2nd out of 4)

2017 Boise State Stats

141 TKL, 8.5 TFL, 3 INT, 3 FF, 3 Sacks

> Vander Esch had one of the most impressive individual seasons in program history for the Broncos in 2017. He finished with 141 tackles, tied for third most in program history, and the most by a Bronco in 30 years. He was also the only player in the FBS with 140-plus tackles to go along with three interceptions this past fall.

MORE: Vander Esch on NFL Combine: 'I want to come out of there the best linebacker'

News and Notes

Sunday: As expected, Vander Esch received glowing reviews for his performance at the NFL Combine on Sunday

"You talk about a big linebacker," said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. "You can go 10 years without seeing a guy like this."

"He wore a knee roll when he played (in college) and it made him look a little stiffer than he is," added Jeremiah. "I think he erased any concerns of that today. Very loose. Very fluid."

How unique was Vander Esch's performance?

Since 2008, only six other defensive players have posted a 39.5-inch vertical at 250-plus pounds at the NFL Combine. Four of those guys went on to get draft the first round, and all of them were off the board within the top 52 picks.


2017 - Myles Garrett, DE: 1st Pick (Rd. 1)

2015 - Bud Dupree, OLB: 22nd pick (Rd. 1)

2014 - Khalil Mack, OLB: 5th pick (Rd. 1)

2013 - Jamie Collins, OLB, 52nd pick (Rd. 2)

2009 - Brian Orakpo, DE: 13th pick (Rd. 1)

2009 - Connor Barwin, DE: 46th pick (Rd. 2)

Still, Vander Esch's unique blend of size and athleticism apparently has him earning comparisons to a Hall of Fame linebacker not on this list above.

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"The comparison I get from scouts and general managers is very simple: Brian Urlacher," said NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "His drills really stood out today."

Urlacher played in college at the University of New Mexico, and was selected 9th overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2000 NFL Draft. He was named to eight Pro Bowls in his 13 years in the NFL, and just last month, Urlacher was voted in to the NFL Hall of Fame.

"I think what's happening now is coaches are looking at his film and going, 'Wow. This guy can really really play," added Rapoport about Vander Esch.

Saturday: Vander Esch - who has an incredible 6'9 1/8" wingspan - hit 20 reps on the bench press, one more than former Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Both Vander Esch and Edmunds are long and athletic and have drawn comparisons to each other this weekend in Indianapolis.

Also, clearly interest is picking up around Vander Esch. According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Vander Esch was moved from a group setting to the podium for interviews on Saturday.

Two days in, so far so good for Vander Esch. Without a doubt though, he will need his biggest performance on Sunday. That is when he is scheduled to run the 40, test his vertical, do on-field work, and more.

Friday: Vander Esch weighed in at a whopping 256 pounds, which is approximately 16 pounds more than he played at during his junior campaign at Boise State. He also checked in at just over 6-foot-4, and his wingspan was measured at just over 6-foot-9. CBS Sports labeled Vander Esch a "Day 1 Winner," stating he is ridiculously long and athletic.

MORE: NFL Combine: Cedrick Wilson draws praise for route-running, good hands

What are they saying?

Vander Esch also received praised for his versatility and football IQ over the weekend in Indianapolis.

"I'm intrigued by this kid," said Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "Teams are doing their homework on Vander Esch. You don't see many 256-pound linebackers off-the-ball these days. His ability in the pass game is really good."

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"What Vander Esch does also in the pass game, when he realizes (they’re throwing) off of playaction, his head goes immediately to where his spot is suppose to be or the man crossing right away," added fellow analyst Charles Davis.

"Yeah, he looks for the crosser immediately," confirmed Mayock, as the conversation continued. "I thought his Oregon tape was as good an off-the-ball tape as I've seen in years."