Editor's note: Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. This week, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein shares some of what he's hearing from NFL folks about two prospects who are moving in opposite directions based on their NFL Scouting Combine performances earlier this week.
The scoop: "Really impressed with the Boise linebacker. There aren't too many (linebackers) in the league who have his size and explosiveness in testing. And it shows up on tape. He's a player, not just a tester." -- NFC defensive coordinator on Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
The skinny: Vander Esch isn't as well-known as some of the higher-profile linebackers in this year's draft, but NFL evaluators have become very familiar with the 6-foot-4, 256-pound former Bronco during the evaluation process. At the combine, he ran a 40-yard dash of 4.65 seconds (below the magic number for LBs of 4.7), had a 39 1/2-inch vertical leap (tied for second-best among combine LBs) and completed the 3-cone drill in 6.88 seconds, showing off his change of direction and quickness.
Teams might question why he was a starter at Boise State for only one season, but will they question his 141 tackles, four forced fumbles, four sacks, and three interceptions in 2017? He's still a work in progress from a technique standpoint. However, the traits and talent are aligned for a dash up the draft board. I project him to go 17th overall to the Chargers in my post-combine mock draft, but I won't be shocked if he's off the board before the Chargers are on the clock.
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The scoop: "I didn't think he was going to be fast, but I thought he would look smoother in the drills. He will probably need some time to smooth out the kinks." -- NFC defensive backs coach on Iowa CB Josh Jackson
The skinny: It was a disappointing combine for Jackson. He measured in at just over 6-feet tall and isn't quite as long as expected. He ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, which placed him 27th in the event among cornerbacks. As for his showing in the position drills, he wasn't as fluid as he might like.
Jackson was a full-time starter at Iowa for only one season, but that season yielded an FBS-best 8 interceptions. With a good combine, I believe he would be receiving consideration from teams picking as high as the top 10. Instead, he could be available late in the first round, or even early in Round 2.