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NFL Draft Rumors: Eagles ‘would love to’ pick Leighton Vander Esch in the 2018 NFL Draft

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LB in the first round?

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Given the report that the Eagles don’t expect to retain impending free agent Nigel Bradham, it appears Philadelphia is in the market for a new starting linebacker. The Birds might address that immediate need in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reports the Eagles would love to select Leighton Vander Esch at No. 32.

Note that the Eagles used one of their 60 allowed formal NFL Combine interviews Combine on LVE.

The Philadelphia Eagles would love to add Vander Esch with the last pick of the first round but have come to the conclusion he won’t be available.

As you can see, the Eagles don’t expect him to make it to No. 32. Pauline is reporting LVE won’t make it past the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 28. He also said the Boise State linebacker could go as high as No. 14 to the Green Bay Packers.

It’s possible LVE could fall further than expected, though the NFL Combine certainly didn’t help the Eagles’ chances of landing him. He tested very well in Indianapolis. Spider graph via Mockdraftable:

Here’s what BGN draft writer Ben Natan had to say about LVE.

Despite being a one year starter at Boise State, Leighton Vander Esch has captivated a lot of NFL decision makers. The 6’4”, 240 pound backer has really incredible speed and instincts. He could improve his physicality and tries to out run blocks rather than work through them. However, with all his talent and a name like a James Bond villain; teams will really like him.

Here’s a scouting report on LVE via NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2

NFL Comparison: Karlos Dansby (early version)

Bottom Line: 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.

Perhaps LVE isn’t the only linebacker the Eagles would take at No. 32. Alabama’s Rashaan Evans is another name to keep an eye on.

Philadelphia hasn’t drafted a linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1979. If LVE makes it to No. 32 this year, we might see the Birds make some history.