Scouting Report: Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State

By Kelby Goodman

Number: #38 | Hometown: Riggins, ID | Height: 6040 | Weight: 256 | Hand: 0934 | Arm: 3378 | Forty: 4.65 | Bench: 20 | Vert: 39.5”| Broad: 10-3 | L-Drill: 6.88 | Shuttle: 4.15 | Sixty: 11.57


The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year burst onto the scene in 2017 after having a quiet first two years for the Broncos. He finished the year with 141 tackles, after compiling just 41 his previous two campaigns. Physically, he looks the part of a prototypical NFL middle linebacker and he pairs his size well with impressive athleticism. Even though he bulked up nearly 15 pounds leading up to the combine, he still put up a 39.5 inch vertical, 6.88 second three-cone drill and was amongst the top five of all linebackers in every test. Even more impressive, he would have been 15th in the three-cone and seventh in the vertical amongst all defensive backs in Indy. His close-range speed is apparent on film, as he constantly is able to stay above the fray and slide in underneath blockers climbing to the next level. When he’s in zone, he becomes a major obstacle the middle of the field for quarterbacks to throw over, standing at 6-4, combined with his leaping ability. The Boise State linebacker shows good blitzing instincts and will destroy most running backs or tight ends attempting to take him on. Besides his athletic traits, his hand size and arm length is apparent on film as well, when he gets his 9 ¾ inch mitts on a ball carrier they are not getting away. Despite his impressive junior year, there may be concerns of it being a flash in the pan, rather than success that can be sustained or built upon. He’ll need to improve upon his hand combat—too often he loses position by just throwing a shoulder into his blocker. He has a tendency to get sucked up by play action but does have the quick twitch to recover. Look for him to hear his name called in the top 50 overall selections.


RS JUNIOR (2017): Had a sack among his seven tackles (six solo) against Troy (Sept. 2)…made a career-high 16 tackles (10 solo), two sacks and forced a fumble at Washington State (Sept. 9)…intercepted a pass, forced a fumble, and made 13 tackles (seven solo) against New Mexico (Sept. 14)…shared a tackle-for-loss among his 10 tackles (six solo) against Virginia (Sept. 22)…recorded his second interception of the season, returning it 36 yards, and made six tackles (five solo) at BYU (Oct. 6)…posted a game-high 11 tackles (nine solo), including one for loss, at San Diego State (Oct. 14)…for the second-straight game, posted a game-high 11 tackles (seven solo) for the Broncos vs. Wyoming (Oct. 21)…Tallied five total tackles (one solo) in the victory at Utah State (Oct. 28)…Collected seven tackles (five solo) vs. Nevada (Nov. 4)…made 13 total tackles (seven solo) with one tackle-for-loss at Colorado State (Nov. 11)…also had one forced fumble in overtime (recovered by Horton) to end the Rams’ drive and the game…Made six total tackles (two solo) vs. Air Force (Nov. 18)…Collected eight tackles (six solo) in the loss at Fresno State (Nov. 25)…Won MW Championship Game Defensive MVP after tying his career-high with 16 tackles (10 solo), 10 of those in the first half, along with icing the game with an interception late in the fourth quarter in victory over Fresno State (Dec. 2).

RS SOPHOMORE (2016): Limited to six games due to injuries throughout the year…made 27 tackles (23 solo) including 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack, also picked off a pass…recorded a sack among his five tackles (four solo) at Louisiana (Sept. 3)…shared a tackle-for-loss among his two tackles against Washington State (Sept. 10)…made three solo tackles at Oregon State (Sept. 24)…came up with his first-career interception, made 2.0 tackles-for-loss among his nine tackles (seven solo) at Air Force (Nov. 25)…made six solo tackles against Baylor (Dec. 27).

RS FRESHMAN (2015): Appeared in 12 games…had 20 tackles (14 solo) including a sack and recovered a fumble…rushed once for 10 yards and a first down on a fake punt…made a solo tackle against Washington (Sept. 4)…broke up a pass and made two tackles (one solo) against Idaho State (Sept. 18)…had three tackles (two solo) at Virginia (Sept. 25)….recovered a fumble and made three solo tackles against Hawai’i (Oct. 3)…had a tackle-for-loss among his four tackles (two solo) against Wyoming (Oct. 24)…made six tackles (five solo) and led the team onto the field with The Hammer at UNLV (Oct. 31)…rushed for 10 yards on a successful fake punt against New Mexico (Nov. 14).

FRESHMAN (2014): Redshirted the season.

HIGH SCHOOL CAREER: Played football, basketball and track and field at Salmon River High School…helped team to 1A Division II state titles in both football and basketball as a junior and senior…averaged 29.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior on the basketball team…named Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014…All-Idaho 1A Division II Player of the Year…played quarterback and middle linebacker…in 2013 completed 60.8 percent of his passes (121-for-199) for 2,155 yards and 28 touchdowns with just one interception…also carried 157 times for 1,565 yards and 34 touchdowns…on defense he made 131 tackles (85 solo) with five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns…played for head coach Charlie Shepherd.