Combine Results

6.2 ?
  • 4.65 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 20 REPS
    Top Performer
  • 39.5 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 124.0 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 6.88 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 4.15 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 11.57 SEC
    Top Performer
Blue Star  =  Combine Top Performer

Draft Analysis:

  • 6'4" Height
  • 33 7/8" Arm Length
  • 256LBS. Weight
  • 9 3/4" Hands


Vander Esch's family made headlines before the Las Vegas Bowl in December, and his play during the team's win over Oregon made the headlines afterward. The Vander Esch's cruised from Idaho to Las Vegas in a big bus adorned with Leighton's picture, number, and team colors. The 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (and team captain) paid off their trip with 12 tackles, three for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. He was also the Mountain West Championship Game MVP with 16 tackles and a game-sealing interception. The first-team all-conference pick totaled 141 tackles, 8.5 for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, and four forced fumbles in his junior season. Vander Esch was limited to six games due to injuries in 2016 (27 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one sack, one interception), and was a reserve for 12 games the previous year as a redshirt freshman (20 tackles, sack). He led Salmon River High in Idaho to state titles in football and basketball as a junior and senior.



Big, long and athletic. Has history of achievement with dominant performances and state titles in two sports in high school. Former basketball standout with fluid hips and smooth movement around the field. Almost no delay in his change of direction. Has agility and quick-twitch for sudden lateral bursts in his slides to close out slashers. Triggers with compact burst to the ball. Works under climbing blockers to stay clean. Easy sideline-to-sideline range as tackler. Has athletic ability to recover and tackle despite over pursuit. Widens frame and opens arms to welcome his prey as a tackler. Generally wraps up. Very talented in coverage. Quick but smooth in his drops. Mirrors quarterback's eyes with ability to redirect from side to side as he follows. Uses active, catch-ready hands to breakup the pass or take it away. Shows real rush talent and instincts as a blitzer. May have enough ability to beat a tackle as edge rusher from time to time.


Has just one year of starting experience. Still filling out his frame. Play strength has room for improvement. Has some struggles in taking on blocks and will get washed away by down blocks. Hasn't learned to use hands effectively to punch and separate. Takes himself out of tackle opportunities by attacking iso-blocks and lead blocks with a shoulder. At times, will over pursue or run himself out of position in attempt to play fast and avoid having to deal with blockers.

Draft Projection

Rounds 1-2

NFL Comparison

Karlos Dansby (early version)

Bottom Line

Vander Esch is a loose-hipped, instinctive linebacker who played in 2017 like he had a GPS tracker on the football. His production totals against both the run and pass are rare for being a first-year starter and with a frame that is primed for more muscle, his NFL ceiling is high. Vander Esch might benefit from a reduced role his rookie season while he improves his play strength and becomes more skilled at taking on blocks. He's an every-down linebacker with very good starting potential and the talent to fill up a stat sheet.
-Lance Zierlein
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability
6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential
6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter
5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter
5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter
5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential
5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
5.00 50/50 Chance of making the roster