With Avery Williamson off to join the New York Jets, the Tennessee Titans ned a new inside linebacker to take his place. Options are growing thin in free agency, so it seems that the Titans will be forced to find Williamson’s replacement in the NFL Draft.
By the time the Titans pick at No. 25 in the NFL Draft, the reality is that the top three linebackers in the NFL Draft class, Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, and Rashaan Evans, will all be gone. This doesn’t mean that the Titans should wait until Round 2 to grab a linebacker, however. There is one more linebacker worthy of a first-round grade. And that is Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch.
First and foremost, Vander Esch, a team captain, fits the culture that Mike Vrabel is striving to form. But the benefits of drafting Vander Esch do not stop on the sideline. Vander Esch, in his one year as the starting linebacker for Boise State, saw outright incredible production. He logged 141 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections, and four forced fumbles.
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That’s quite a stat line.
Vander Esch, understandably, won 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors. On paper, his accolades jump out of the text, and on tape, his traits follow suit.
Vänder Esch has elite size for a linebacker, standing at 6-foot-4, 256. He has a muscular frame, but he’s athletic enough to make tight movements and track the ball wherever it goes. This was a calling card of Vander Esch’s in his final season, as evidenced by his 141 tackles. Vander Esch did not let his eyes leave the football. He flew all across the field, making an impact wherever possible.
With Vanders Esch’s most prolific year also being his most recent, the only deductible conclusion that can be made is that Vander Esch will only continue to improve in the NFL. With Mike Vrabel, an established linebackers coach, heading his team, Vander Esch could thrive in Tennessee.