PatsFans.com Menu
PatsFans.com - The Hub For New England Patriots Fans

New England Patriots > Patriots Blog

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Darius Leonard, LB SC State

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
April 3, 2018 at 9:05 am ET

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Darius Leonard, LB SC State(PHOTO: usa today - USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Apr 03, 2018 09:05
🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

Leonard a Small School Stud at LB

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are in need of an off-the-ball linebacker, one who can cover as well as come off the edge as a pass rusher. Last season the team lost Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin and Harvey Langi to season-ending injuries. McClellin was cut and will probably retire due to concussion issues. And depending on how they decide to utilize the other two either as edge rushers or linebackers will also factor in.

Right now the team has Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, and Nicholas Grigsby on the roster. Van Noy and Flowers played key roles during the season, Van Noy especially, but the one area that really hurt them was running backs in the passing game.

Seven times during the season opposing running backs caught passes totaling 50 yards or more. During the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, they were gashed by Corey Clement for 100 yards on four catches and a touchdown. So a dose of speed and athleticism is in the cards for the Patriots this spring at the linebacker position.

Darius Leonard from South Carolina State is a small school standout who definitely has the speed, athleticism, and instincts to play at the next level. Leonard was a standout high school player in South Carolina but got no love from either South Carolina or Clemson, (who offered him a walk-on chance). Rather than dwell on it, he used it as fodder to drive him.

Signing with South Carolina State, he strove to become a better player. “I used that as a little chip on my shoulder to show teams what they could’ve had,” he said. “I’m still that guy because I came from a small program, so I’ve got a point to prove.”

The 6’2, 229-pound linebacker had outstanding production for the Bulldogs in 2017 with 114 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two passes defensed and two interceptions. Playing against top-flight competition in the Senior Bowl, he piled up a game-high 14 tackles.

He’s got the issues with he could use more muscle onto his lanky frame, which is already close to being maxed out. He could be more physical and won’t be a stout edge guy (at least initially) at setting the edge against bigger offensive linemen.

But his game is based on speed and athleticism, much like the league is going to today. He’s versatile and can play inside or outside as a 4-3 WILL linebacker.

Pros:

– Outstanding length and speed

– Excellent production

– Good in both zone, man coverage

– Good tackler

Cons

– Slightly underpowered

– Frame is almost maxed out

– May need a year of seasoning

What his Role Will Be:

Leonard would step into a subpackage coverage role from Day 1 as well as being an effective chip to blitz off the edge.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 with time in the strength and conditioning program, he could become a very productive starter.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

None, with McClellin and David Harris gone and James Harrison a free agent, there are already open spots for him to snatch up.

What is his ST Value?

He’d immediately become a core special teams guy with his athleticism and physicality.

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that “Long and twitchy with athletic ability and straight-line speed that should light up the combine. Leonard has packed on the pounds since hitting campus, but it hasn’t compromised his play speed as he has posted dominant production throughout. He lacks play strength and there are times you want to see him play nastier in his field demeanor, but he has the traits and talent to become a good, three-down linebacker who can play 3-4 inside backer or 4-3 WILL.”

Leonard’s speed, athleticism, and instincts make him a very attractive  Day 2 prospect. He was the two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, with outstanding speed and athleticism. He’s excellent at timing delayed blitzes and getting to the quarterback.

Leonard is versatile and can play inside or at the WILL linebacker role which he may be best suited for. He handles coverage very well and can cover a lot of ground. Watching him, he gets very good depth in his drops and can fly around from sideline to sideline to make plays. He is good in the running game with his ability to slip blocks.

He may take a bit of time to find his way in the NFL game and get some more playing strength but with the trend going to smaller, faster linebackers, he’s a guy whose arrow is pointing upward. He’s described as a “mature, respectful individual, an old soul” according to his coaches.

He answered the bell when the questions were asked about playing against top competition at the Senior Bowl and against Clemson (19 tackles) and can be a very productive player at the next level.

Leonard’s highlight reel tape from Rashaad Lemon can be seen here: 

His tape at the senior bowl was put together by the Dallas Cowboys.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Like this article?
Support Steve and buy him a coffee.

READ NEXT:
Wednesday Patriots Notebook 4/4: Another Huge Trade Is Made, Gilmore Not Happy About It

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2018 NFL Draft 2018 Patriots offseason Bill Belichick Darius Leonard Dont'a Hightower Elandon Roberts Harvey Langi Kyle Van Noy Marquis Flowers New England Patriots NFL Nicholas Grigsby Patriots Patriots linebackers

  • Comments are closed.

  • More Patriots News Headlines:

    Patriots News 3-3, Jackson Released, Salary Cap Grows 

    Patriots News 3-3, Jackson Released, Salary Cap Grows 

    By: Steve Balestrieri
    “You don’t want to game plan for me. You want to game plan with me,” Drake Maye said at the NFL Combine this week.
    20 hours ago
    Saturday Morning Notebook 3/2: News and Notes

    Saturday Morning Notebook 3/2: News and Notes

    By: Ian Logue
    Heading into this offseason, the key question was clearly going to be centered on how the Patriots would shape their quarterback room heading into 2024,…
    2 days ago
    Patriots Part Ways With CB J.C. Jackson

    Patriots Part Ways With CB J.C. Jackson

    By: Ian Logue
    According to multiple reports, the Patriots have parted ways with the embattled cornerback J.C. Jackson, ending his tenure with the club less than a year…
    2 days ago
    Friday Afternoon Patriots Notebook 3/1: News and Notes

    Friday Afternoon Patriots Notebook 3/1: News and Notes

    By: Ian Logue
    With both Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels being potential targets for the New England Patriots, both guys sounded pretty excited to possibly be the next…
    2 days ago
    Thursday Patriots Notebook 2/29: News and Notes

    Thursday Patriots Notebook 2/29: News and Notes

    By: Ian Logue
    One thing that was interesting to go back and look at was the 2018 NFL Draft, with the duo of Eliot Wolf and Alfonzo Highsmith…
    4 days ago

    Share via
    Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap
    Search For Links: - CLOSE
    For searches with multiple players
    add commas (Ex: "Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty")