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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers pick Boise State linebacker to fill huge void

The Pittsburgh Steelers take a linebacker from the blue turf to help them fill the giant hole they have at ILB.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft process is still very young. All-Star games like the Shriner and Senior Bowls have all concluded, but with the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is just days away things are just starting to heat up.

After the combine, where NFL teams will be meeting with specific athletes, Pro Days and pre-draft visits, then fans will truly get a feel for teams’ interest in specific athletes. Until then, most, if not all, NFL Mock Drafts are purely speculation and guessing.

Here at SB Nation, the latest mock draft has a linebacker coming to Pittsburgh, and this player is gaining momentum as an early fan favorite for the team’s first round draft pick.

Here is who Dan Kadar has mocked to the Steelers with pick No. 28 in his latest mock draft:

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Without a true explanation to the selection, some fans might want to know more about the kid from Boise State, and whether he could be a good fit for Pittsburgh or not.

This from his NFL Draft Profile:


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.


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.

For the visual learners out there, check out Vander Esch’s highlight reel from his time on the blue turf:

What do you think of Vander Esch as a prospect? What do you think about the overall pick? Let us know in the comment section below!