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Mid-Season Draft Review: Vander Esch justifies first-round selection

Mid-Season Draft Review: Vander Esch justifies first-round selection

Possible Picks: WR Calvin Ridley, WR D.J. Moore, LB Rashaan Evans

The Dallas Cowboys selected Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. It was a pick at the time divided many fans on whether it was the most needed position with players such as Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore still on the board. A sizable amount of reporters even projected Alabama’s Rashaan Evans as a more desired fit with this Cowboys defense. The disappointment in the pick grew even more with an injury that limited Vander Esch throughout training camp.

Vander Esch was the third linebacker taken in the draft behind Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds. He currently sits as the Cowboys second-leading tackler and the fourth-best tackler amongst all rookies this season (54). At the time of his arrival, Vander Esch was subject to much scrutiny. The team had released Dez Bryant and just had their Hall of Fame Tight End Jason Witten retire.

Many people fell into the trap of once again assuming how great this defense could be with Smith and Sean Lee on the field together. From the outside, it didn’t appear LVE would have much opportunity to see immediate playing time. Smith was beginning to show why the Cowboys took a risk on him and we knew Lee was going to play at a pro-bowl level if he could stay on the field. Unsurprisingly, Lee suffered a hamstring injury earlier this season and he would once again be sidelined for a couple weeks. However, this time, the team had a first-round talent to fill in while Lee was sidelined. Safe to say up until now, in hindsight, who truly believes the Cowboys made a mistake selecting LVE? And if you still do then let’s see how his fellow rookies are performing.

Calvin Ridley (27 receptions, 392 yards, 6 TDs)

After Ridley was unable to register a catch in week 1, the Alabama rookie seemed to hit his stride in week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. Over the course of the next three games, he would register 15 receptions, 264 yards and six touchdowns. The past three weeks he’s been held to under 50 yards three times and has failed to reel in at least five catches twice. That’s all while playing across from a top-3 receiver in Julio Jones. Ridley is third on the team in receptions behind Jones and Tight End Austin Hooper. Second in yards and first in touchdowns. Though Ridley has seemed to showcase a skill set that is lacking in Dallas, he has benefited from the plethora of weapons surrounding him. It’s hard to believe he would succeed in a Dallas offense with a quarterback who has struggled to eclipse 200 yards in a game.

D.J. Moore (18 receptions, 281 yards, 1 TD)

Moore plays with a quarterback similar to Dak Prescott. His numbers can be seen as somewhat of a direct reflection of what could have been in Dallas. Though Carolina ranks seven spots in front of the Cowboys in terms of passing yards/game, the bulk of their receiving has come from Running Back Christian McCaffrey. His 44 receptions are 12 more than Devin Funchess, who leads all Carolina receivers.

Rashaan Evans (17 tackles)

From his twitter,” ILB is not even my primary position,” Evans said about negative criticism regarding his play. Seems Tennessee is still searching for a role for the big guy out of Bama. The Cowboys can rest easy knowing LVE has carved out his niche perfectly here in Dallas.

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Madden Legend | SFA Alum | Fascinated by Success

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