Height: 6’ 2”
With the 36th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts have selected Darius Leonard out of South Carolina State.
This pick came as a bit of a head scratcher to many who were expecting DE Harold Landry’s slide to end with the Colts. Instead they select the guy who is Walter Football’s 4th ranked ILB (and best available).
On the other hand, Mike Mayock’s top 100 prospects has Leonard much, much lower. Leonard was Mayock’s 87th player overall. And he’s selected by Chris Ballard at 36.
It’s early in Ballard’s tenure and this pick is a real test of how much fans trust what Ballard is doing. Passing on top tier talent like WR Courtland Sutton, CB Joshua Jackson, RB Derrius Guice, among others is a bold choice.
In 2017, Leonard had 113 tackles (with eight tackles for a loss), eight sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. The Colts, current looking at cobwebs in their starting linebacker spots, do need someone, anyone who can make tackles and maybe become a leader on that defense. (A need that had many pointing to Roquan Smith yesterday, but alas.)
NFL.com sees Leonard projecting to a Will linebacker in the Colts new 4-3 defense. He’ll be aided by his speed, something the Colts have mentioned they were looking for when moving to their new defense. Leonard is also praised for his closing speed, reactions, and on field discipline, all of which should help him in pass coverage.
His weaknesses all seem to revolve around his strength at the position. The hope is that getting him in an NFL training program can help remedy that and match his strength to his speed.
In a linebacking corps full of question marks, Leonard should compete from day one to start. But then again, anyone the Colts picked here should be expected to compete for a starting spot. There were still round 1 graded talents on the board when the Colts selected Leonard. And yet…
So maybe Ballard sees something others don’t? Colts fans should be happy that there was a move here to help the defense, even though it wasn’t a move many expected. The linebacking group needed someone, anyone to come in and try to claim a starting spot.
But I’ll be honest. My biggest worry is that this doesn’t feel like a Best Player Available choice. It feels purely like a need pick, which is a dangerous game to play. Not saying Leonard isn’t good and maybe he is the linebacker starter for the future. But man, I just have a tough time believing he was the best player on anyone’s board at 36 overall.
Hopefully Leonard proves me wrong and shows that he’s the right guy for the job.
Colts draft picks:
Round 1, Pick 6 – G Quenton Nelson
Round 2, Pick 36 – LB Darius Leonard
Round 2, Pick 37
Round 2, Pick 49
Round 3, Pick 67
Round 4, Pick 104
Round 5, Pick 140
Round 6, Pick 178
Round 7, Pick 221