The Indianapolis Colts spent a second-round pick on linebacker Darius Leonard in the 2018 NFL Draft, but what does he bring to their defense?
For many years, the Indianapolis Colts have lacked a playmaker at the linebacker position on their defense. The Colts finally put that trend to an end by selecting linebacker Darius Leonard out of South Carolina State in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Leonard was a four-year starter at South Carolina State and was regarded as a tackling machine in college. During his junior year in 2016, Leonard was the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as he recorded 124 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and three pass breakups. In 2017, he followed up with another phenomenal senior season as he recorded 114 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two interceptions and one pass break-up.
But now he makes his way into the pro game. So, what will he bring to the Colts?
At 6-2, 234 pounds, Leonard is considered as a very athletic linebacker who is able to travel sideline-to-sideline, make plays upfield in the run game, and drop back into coverage on passing downs.
One game that convinced general manager Chris Ballard of this linebacker’s potential star power was his game against Clemson back in 2016. Ironically enough, Clemson was Leonard’s dream school during the recruiting process, but he never received a scholarship offer from the school.
This game was personal to Leonard as he recorded 19 tackles on the day.
Along with this, his ability to make game-changing plays in the open field is what makes this linebacker truly special. Here is an example him forcing a fumble by violently chopping the ball out of the running back.
NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger makes a good point that Leonard is suited as a WILL linebacker in Indianapolis’ new 4-3 defense. With a linebacker possessing his athletic ability, he would be needed on many occasions to drop back into coverage in passing situations.
Overall, the Colts brass should be patting themselves on the back for landing Leonard in the second round. He has the capabilities of being a three-down linebacker for the Colts defense from day one.