A report on Tuesday implied that the Green Bay Packers were among a large group of teams inviting Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch on an official pre-draft visit. Vander Esch, a versatile player who can play almost any linebacker position, is one of the more impressive athletes in this year’s linebacker class.
Although he was a productive player for the Broncos and may be a fit for the Packers’ defense, Vander Esch seems unlikely to go off the board in the top 15 picks later this month. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein sees him as a borderline round-one pick, while NFLDraftScout.com has him rated as the 26th-best prospect.
Furthermore, the Packers have bigger needs at present than a versatile all-around linebacker, with the secondary and a dedicated pass-rusher being more pressing needs. Instead, the Packers have reported visits lined up with one of the draft’s highest-rated cornerbacks in Mike Hughes, and they met with top defensive backs Derwin James and Denzel Ward at the 2018 NFL Combine.
Vander Esch is a solid player and the late middle of the first round would appear to be a reasonable landing spot for him, but the Packers would probably get better value and a player who can make a bigger immediate impact at the 14th pick by taking a corner (Ward, Hughes, or perhaps Iowa’s Josh Jackson) or pass-rusher (Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport, for example) than Vander Esch.