Don't look now, but the Dallas Cowboys might just have been right to select Leighton Vander Esch with their first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The rookie LB is already proving his doubters wrong through the first three weeks of the season and might even be the best linebacker on the entire roster.
Yes, you read that right. Vander Esch has only three NFL games under his belt, but based on his numbers, he is the best linebacker on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Shocking isn't it!?
Cowboys Nation was pretty much in an uproar when Leighton Vander Esch's name was announced as the 19th overall selection by the Dallas Cowboys. The former Boise State LB wasn't the most popular choice for many of us. But, he did play a position of need, although one that might not have needed to be addressed in the first-round.
Despite all the outside noise, the Dallas Cowboys knew they needed a Sean Lee injury insurance policy. It's certainly looking like the smart move right now, especially with the way Vander Esch is playing and #50's current injury. But you don't have to take my word for it. Let's take a look at #55's statistics through the first three games.
Jaylon Smith – 22
Leighton Vander Esch – 21
Sean Lee – 20
Leighton Vander Esch – 18
Jaylon Smith – 14
Sean Lee – 9
Snaps Per Solo Tackle
Leighton Vander Esch – 4.3
Jaylon Smith – 12.8
Sean Lee – 15.1
As you can see, Leighton Vander Esch has already been really productive in is rookie season. The Cowboys have been bringing him along slowly and playing him sparingly on defense so far. But, that's likely going to change now that Sean Lee is expected to miss an unknown amount of time with another soft tissue injury.
I know it's still really early in the process to claim Vander Esch is the Dallas Cowboys best linebacker, but his statistics don't lie. I don't know about you, but I have been impressed with #55 and I think the Cowboys are in good hands while Sean Lee is out. That's especially true if he can continue to make plays like this…
These are the types of plays you expect a first-round linebacker to make. Leighton Vander Esch shows off his sideline to sideline speed, his ability to read and diagnose correctly, and most importantly his ability to finish a tackle. I'm expecting to see much more of this moving forward.
I may not have been completely on board when the Dallas Cowboys selected LVE with their first-round pick from the beginning, but I am now. I think he's going to be a really good player for the Cowboys for years to come and he's already showing he is more than capable of being Sean Lee's replacement. I personally find that really comforting.