Darius Leonard sets lofty goals for sophomore season

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  • By Logan Reardon NFL.com
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Darius Leonard outperformed all outside expectations as a rookie, but he still wants more in Year 2.

The Colts' 2018 second-round pick from South Carolina State, Leonard led the league in tackles (163) and won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was one of four rookies named to the first-team All-Pro, but was the only defender.

As for 2019, Leonard excepts to avoid any sophomore slump.

"I want 200 tackles. I want 10 sacks. I want to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year," Leonard said on NFL Network on Tuesday. "I want to be All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP. Just everything with my name at the top of the charts."

Recently, J.J. Watt (2012) and Luke Kuechly (2013) won Defensive Player of the Year in their second season. Leonard not only hopes to, but expects to join those two. For him, motivation comes from those who doubted him after the Colts picked him 36th overall.

"Last year, I was called the worst draft pick by Bleacher Report," Leonard said. "I screenshotted it and every day I looked at it and it kind of gave me the drive to prove that I wasn't the worst draft pick and I could play at the next level.

"I still have that chip on my shoulder. I wasn't MVP. I wasn't at the top of the charts. I wasn't a Pro Bowler. I wasn't a Super Bowl champion. So, that's still goals that I want to achieve. And until I achieve them goals, I'm gonna still have that chip on my shoulder to outplay everybody and be the top competitor that I can be."

Leonard clearly proved his doubters wrong. As a rookie, he showed he can be an elite player in the NFL. Now, it's team success that will bring him to the next level.

The Colts' turnaround last season was largely credited to a healthy Andrew Luck, but Indianapolis doesn't make the postseason without Leonard and that defense. The Colts had the 11th ranked defense in 2018 after finishing 30th in 2017.

So while it's unrealistic to expect Leonard to have 200 tackles, 10 sacks, Defensive Player of the Year, All-Pro, Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP -- did you get all that? -- in one season, he will continue to prove his doubters wrong.

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