Draft Insiders’ Rookie Spotlight – LB Darius Leonard – Colts
By Frank Coyle
Draft Insiders’ will post Rookie spotlight players regularly and their Scouting Report from our NFL Draft 2018 Yearbook. Scouting Reports are written from the fall into March annually.
Rookie Darius Leonard has been one of the top impact first year players in the NFL this season. He has been a major difference maker for the Colts playoff run. He has been an every down defender and one of the most productive defenders in the league. His well rounded talent translated quickly to the NFL and he has been an interchangeable defender for all the Colts package defenses
Here is his Scouting Report from Draft Insiders’ Yearbook 2018 written March 2018
Darius Leonard #10 South Carolina St 6-2 235 – Sp. 4.65
Player Comparison: Thomas Davis Rating 80
Athletic, active, senior finished his small college career with incredible consistency as an every down defender. Earned MEAC honors annually, completing his career with an impressive Senior Bowl week. Long rangy defender with fine field speed to make plays at the opposite sideline and drop in coverage. Lean frame and probably has maxed out at the 235 lb. level. His athleticism, quickness, toughness and consistent effort vs a high level of competition stand out on film. Good movement skills with good instincts and fluid hips. Top instincts and quick reactions to use his fine speed and athleticism to make plays. Fiery on-field character with explosive closing speed and able to cover a lot of ground quickly in pursuit. Flashes burst to close on the ball especially in close quarters. Powerful tackler and really brings his pads on contact and consistently able to finish. Good initial quickness off the snap to read plays and defeat blocking angles. Able to contort his body to dip around a block and drop ball-carriers. Holds point fairly well with adequate functional strength. Above average change-of-direction allows him to redirect in space and stay with receivers. Developing cover man with improving ball skills to compete for the Will position in the NFL. That is his best position. Very experienced and effective on all special teams’ coverage units where his sure tackling ranks him as one of the premier special teams’ defenders in this class. High level of self-motivation and excellent competitive drive. Outstanding quickness makes it tough for blockers to get a good fit and compensates for marginal size. Moves laterally well and keeps blockers off his body to flow to the ball. Well-developed backfield vision and usually on time recognizing route concepts. In 2017, he had 114 tackles with 12 TFL and 8.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries, 1 FF, 1 PBU and 2 interceptions. Earned 1st team MEAC honors. In 2016, started 11 games and posted 124 tackles with 14.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 4 FF, 3 PBU and 2 interceptions. Earned 1st team MEAC honors. Good early part time defender and special teams’ performer from his true freshman season. Over his career, recorded 394 tackles with 22 sacks, 53 TFLs, 8 FF, 3 FR, 6 interceptions and 7 PBUs. At the NFL Combine, he came in at 6’2”, 234 lbs. with 34 3/8” arms. He ran a 4.70 time with a 1.67 ten-yard split and did 17 reps. He was average in the positional drills. Lack of ideal size causes concern about durability. Best fit as Will backer. Many of the same skills as Thomas Davis with keen instincts, big play talent and good work habits. Rising top 100 prospect with upside and the AA to become a pro playmaker in either a 4-3 or 3-4 set. Fine run and chase defender and rising talent with early starting ability. Needs work in coverage for nickel role, but displays the skills to start there. Outstanding special teams’ ability earns him a roster spot. Top three small college prospect to be a fixture in a 4-3 set. Probable Will starter with some coverage work.
Draft Projection: 3rd Round