With the 19th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. In his only season as a starter at Boise State, Vander Esch accumulated 141 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two interceptions – earning the junior linebacker 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. The play of Vander Esch in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon was considered one of the best individual performances among this years’ prospects, and Dallas took notice. So much so, they made the former Bruin the 19th overall pick. Vander Esch is regarded as a high-ceiling player who displays great range and coverage ability, giving the Cowboys more depth at the position.
Cowboys Select Leighton Vander Esch
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) April 27, 2018
Newest Addition to Cowboys Defense
During the draft process, it was very clear that the Cowboys had interest in the Boise State linebacker. As shown in the past, Dallas prioritizes their pre-draft visits to those they will consider drafting. Since 2007, the Cowboys have taken a visiting player in the first round with the exception of Morris Claiborne in 2012. On Thursday, Dallas continued that trend with the selection of Vander Esch.
In addition to wide receiver, it was perceived that linebacker was a glaring position of need for Dallas. With the injury histories of fellow linebackers Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee, Vander Esch provides insurance at the position. Over the last several seasons, it has been no mystery who the leader of the Cowboys defense has been – Sean Lee. With Lee in the lineup, the defense is among the best in terms of yards and points allowed per game. Unfortunately, when Lee has been sidelined with an injury, the defense takes a considerable step back. With the acquisition of Vander Esch, stopping an offense without Lee–who turns 32 in July–seems much less daunting.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 27, 2018
Expectations in Dallas
Vander Esch joins an arising defense in Dallas that will look to take the next step in 2018. An infusion of young talent and veteran leadership has made this the most talented defense Big D has seen in some time. The newest Cowboy will be an immediate impact player that shows the potential of becoming a centerpiece for the defense. Dallas aims to continue their draft success in the final two days of the NFL Draft as they hold nine more selections.
Embed from Getty Images