Leighton Vander Esch

Leighton Vander Esch

28-Year-Old LinebackerLB
 Free Agent  
Free Agent
2024 Fantasy Outlook
There was no outlook written for Leighton Vander Esch in 2024. Check out the latest news below for more on his current fantasy value.
RANKS
$Released by the Cowboys in March of 2024.
Announces retirement from NFL
LBFree Agent
March 18, 2024
Vander Esch (neck) announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports.
ANALYSIS
Vander Esch, a 2018 first-round pick, earned a Pro Bowl selection and second-team All-Pro honors, but he now retires from the NFL after six seasons after having been released by the Cowboys last week. Injuries disrupted the promising linebacker's career, including the 2023 campaign, in which he missed the final 12 games due to a recurring neck issue. Vander Esch retires with 71 regular-season appearances, 469 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 13 passes defensed and three forced fumbles under his belt and as a forever 'what-if' for Cowboys fans imagining scenarios wherein the Boise State product had managed to stay healthier.
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NFL Stats
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2023
2022
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2020
2019
2018
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2023 Leighton Vander Esch Split Stats
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Measurables Review
How do Leighton Vander Esch's measurables compare to other linebackers?
This section compares his draft workout metrics with players at the same position. The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that metric and it would be considered average.
Height
6' 4"
 
Weight
256 lbs
 
40-Yard Dash
4.65 sec
 
Shuttle Time
4.15 sec
 
Cone Drill
6.88 sec
 
Vertical Jump
39.5 in
 
Broad Jump
124 in
 
Bench Press
20 reps
 
Hand Length
9.75 in
 
Arm Length
33.88 in
 
Past Fantasy Outlooks
2023
2022
2021
2020
2019
2018
Vander Esch stayed mostly healthy in 2023 and was on pace for the second 100-tackle campaign of his career until neck issues shut him down Weeks 16-18. The 27-year-old re-signed with the Cowboys on a one year, $2 million prove-it deal, but given his lengthy injury history and the team's collection of young, athletic talent at linebacker that now includes 2023 third-round pick DeMarvion Overshown, Vander Esch seems likely to see his snap count diminish this season.
While Micah Parsons emerged as the star of the Cowboys defense last season, Vander Esch was able to make a contribution in the middle by not missing a game due to injury for the first time since he was a rookie in 2018. His weekly tackle totals were way down, however, as much due to a reduced snap count as Parsons taking away his opportunities. Vander Esch's days as an IDP asset likely are behind him, but the brittle linebacker still provides some stability to the middle of the Dallas defense when he's on the field, and he's capable of double-digit tackles in a game when he's allowed to handle a significant workload.
The 19th overall pick in the 2018 Draft has had trouble staying healthy since his impressive rookie campaign, missing 13 games over the last two seasons. Vander Esch's per-game production declined in 2020 as well as he simply didn't look like the same player, either as a tackler or in coverage. He got the double whammy this offseason of having the fifth-year option on his rookie contract declined while watching the Cowboys draft his successor Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick of this year's draft. If Vander Esch is 100 percent, he could still make an impact, but his snaps may be managed in an effort to keep him on the field, putting a cap on his IDP potential.
A neck injury all but wrecked Vander Esch's 2019, but he still projects as a top-three linebacker IDP if he can get back to the form he showed as a rookie in 2018. In fact, he's probably the only linebacker with a prayer of keeping up with top IDP Darius Leonard. While playing just 1,312 defensive snaps, Vander Esch piled up 212 tackles. Based on those numbers, we might expect Vander Esch to go over 160 tackles should he play 1,000 snaps. A lot of IDP owners might chase teammate and fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith after he posted 142 tackles last year, but it's Vander Esch who warrants the higher ranking if healthy.
Linebacker duos don't come much more established than Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith were last year, yet Vander Esch emphatically introduced himself as the Cowboys' top linebacker as a rookie, with 140 tackles on just 784 snaps. Some of those stops occurred on special teams, where he played 181 snaps (a figure that will drop in 2019), but even if last year's tackle rate is significantly lowered, Vander Esch projects for gigantic totals now that he'll have a three-down role all year. At 6-4, 256, with elite athleticism, Vander Esch might be the Brian Urlacher of this era.
The 19th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Vander Esch joins a Cowboys linebacking corps packed with talent but also fraught with uncertainty. The Boise State product has outstanding speed and athleticism for his size, giving him plenty of upside in a three-down role as he racks up tackles, handles coverage assignments and makes the occasional blitzing foray. Whether he sees a three-down role on a roster that already features oft-injured Sean Lee and third-year LB Jaylon Smith is the big question, but Dallas' initial depth chart lists the rookie as the starting middle linebacker, seemingly putting him ahead of Smith in nickel packages. There were also concerns about a possible neck issue prior to the draft, but the Cowboys presumably didn't consider him a health risk when they used a first-round pick on him. If the workload is there for Vander Esch, elite production could follow.
More Fantasy News
Cut by Dallas
LBFree Agent
Neck
March 15, 2024
The Cowboys released Vander Esch (neck) with a failed physical designation Friday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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Won't return this season
LBDallas Cowboys
Neck
November 14, 2023
Vander Esch (neck) is officially out for the season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated Tuesday, Jon Machota of The Athletic reports.
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Return not imminent
LBDallas Cowboys
Neck
November 6, 2023
Vander Esch (neck) remains without a concrete timeline for a potential return from injured reserve, Jon Machota of The Athletic reports.
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Placed on injured reserve
LBDallas Cowboys
Neck
October 16, 2023
The Cowboys placed Vander Esch (neck) on injured reserve Monday.
ANALYSIS
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Move to IR on tap
LBDallas Cowboys
Neck
October 12, 2023
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that Vander Esch (neck) will be placed on injured reserve, Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News reports.
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Latest Fantasy Rumors
Injury-filled Cowboys tenure ends
LBFree Agent
March 15, 2024
Vander Esch, a 2018 first-round pick of the Cowboys, was released by Dallas with a failed physical designation Friday, Todd Archer of ESPN reports.
ANALYSIS
The 28-year-old linebacker's career started off in highly promising fashion with 176 tackles and a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie, but the neck issues that prompted red flags in the draft process have never truly abated. Vander Esch missed seven of the final nine games in 2019 with a neck injury that eventually required surgery, suffered a stinger that caused a four-game absence in 2022 before missing the final 12 regular-season games plus the divisional-round loss to the Packers with another neck issue this past season. Whether Vander Esch will continue his career elsewhere remains to be seen.
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