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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies

The made an unsurprising — if you were following all the pre-draft rumors — move when they drafted Boise State University with the 19th overall pick in the . It was one of those picks where many analysts — including me — said, “fine player but not worth the 19th overall pick.”

Well, the Dallas Cowboys just continue to do what the Dallas Cowboys do and that's hit on their early draft picks.

Leighton Vander Esch has caught the attention of national observers with his play in the first five weeks of the season. His 33 solo tackles are sixth in the NFL and he's only missed one through the first five weeks. In total tackles, Vander Esch is only one behind Middle Linebacker , though Vander Esch has eight more solo tackles than Smith.

Pro this week released their top 10 rookies at this point of the and Leighton Vander Esch ranked second only to rookie Baker Mayfield.

Here's what ' William Moy had to say about Vander Esch:

“Vander Esch continued his strong start as a professional with his best game so far in Week 5, earning an 83.5 overall grade against the Houston Texans. The Cowboys first-round pick ranks third among all linebackers this season in terms of overall grade, and he’s the only linebacker to currently own season grades of at least 80.0 in both run and coverage. Among the 52 linebackers who’ve made at least 10 tackles in , Vander Esch ranks 10th with an average depth of tackle of just 2.38 yards. He’s also one of just 13 linebackers who has recorded at least 10 tackles in run defense without missing a tackle. In coverage, Vander Esch ranks fifth among linebackers with eight coverage stops. Out of the 55 linebackers who’ve spent at least 100 snaps in coverage this season, he ranks seventh, allowing either a first down or touchdown on just 35.3 percent of the catches into his coverage.”

William Moy – Pro Football Focus


When Pro Football Focus released their grades for every draft pick, Vander Esch had the highest grade among the defensive players selected in the first round. Higher than highly regarded first round Linebackers Roquon Smith of the and Tremaine Edmunds of the .

“Vander Esch played a career-high 80 snaps in Dallas’ overtime loss to the and put on a masterful display for the majority of the night. He accumulated a whopping 12 tackles, seven of which resulted in a defensive stop, and he ended the game with an elite run defense grade of 90.7 – the second-highest single-game mark by a linebacker this season.”

Mark Chichester – Pro Football Focus

Leighton Vander Esch has had an excellent start to his NFL career and it seems like the Dallas Cowboys have found the eventual replacement for veteran All-Pro Linebacker as this team's weakside linebacker. In combination with Jaylon Smith in the middle of this defense, they are going to be a tremendously athletic and powerful duo for years to come.


John Williams
John Williams
Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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David Parkes

I won’t lie, i was a bit skeptical about his drafting but he’s doing amazing so far. Unless things change for the better it looks like Dallas will be picking in this range again in next years draft so i’m thinking Dallas should draft a WR in the first, if for no other reason than to shut the “bring back Dez” idiots up.


I wasn’t sure when it would happen, but I think it’s time they think about Lee’s replacement now. This team doesn’t look like contenders so time to get LVE all the experience he can. Lee would be the best backup in the league.

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