ESPN ranks Darius Leonard as the NFL’s top LB
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been impressing everyone since he first took the field as a second-round pick during the 2018 season.
Now, The Manic has three All-Pro First Team and three Pro Bowl selections, while racking up numbers in multiple categories.
He has been the heart of the Colts defense and earned himself a payday that made him the highest-paid player in the position
entering the 2022 season, ESPN Ranks Leonard As Best Off-Ball Linebacker in the NFL.
Leonard remains a splash-play generator. His combination of eight coercive fumbles and four interceptions propelled the group by a wide margin in 2021.
The Colts gave Leonard a $99.2 million extension before last season because of his ability to get the ball back into his offense with length and blast.
“He can turn the game at any time,” said a high-ranking AFC official. “It concerns you more as an opponent than a traditional linebacker because he keeps his hand on the ball at all times.”
Over the course of four seasons, Leonard has had 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 15 sacks. As a rookie in 2018
the Colts used him in a role that allowed for more blitzes, resulting in seven sacks. Their sacks have decreased every year since then,
in large part because of how Indianapolis uses them more often in space and coverage. Leonard can sometimes struggle with strength and tackle in the box
one exec told me, and he started 2021 too slowly due to an ankle injury. However, his aristocratic instincts easily make up for it.
“He’s already the most disruptive linebacker out there, and he can do things to clean up his technique and get better,” said one veteran NFL defensive player.
“Sometimes you’ll see him standing up straight before groping the ball instead of the linebacker’s position and you’re like, ‘What?’ But then he takes the ball away and you’re like, ‘Oh, okay.'”
One thing to keep in mind: Leonard had back surgery in July and will miss part of the training camp recovery.