Boise State Football

Leighton Vander Esch faces pre-draft injury rumors. Will they have the Ajayi effect?

'I want to be the best linebacker in the NFL'

Former Boise State linebacker and Salmon River grad Leighton Vander Esch discusses his Pro Day experience and the long road ahead to becoming the best linebacker in the NFL.
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Former Boise State linebacker and Salmon River grad Leighton Vander Esch discusses his Pro Day experience and the long road ahead to becoming the best linebacker in the NFL.

Pretty much everyone can agree — let’s just get the dang NFL Draft started.

Months of mock drafts, rumors and prospects being picked apart is winding down as the first round approaches April 26. And now, former Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is part of the nebulous rumor mill.

Charlie Campbell, a draft analyst for WalterFootball.com, tweeted Monday that “some teams have medically flunked” Vander Esch and will not consider drafting him.

In a text message to the Idaho Statesman, Vander Esch’s agent, Ron Slavin flatly denied it.

“It’s false,” Slavin said, adding that Vander Esch scored a “4 out of 5” on his medical evaluations at the NFL Scouting Combine and was not asked to return for further tests.

ESPN’s Chris Mortenson added that some teams have “flagged” Vander Esch, but not removed him from draft boards necessarily. A neck injury that kept Vander Esch out for half of the 2016 season is part of his medical history, but he played all of 2017.

Former Boise State linebacker and Salmon River grad Leighton Vander Esch discusses his pro day work and why he’s confident he will be a high draft pick in the NFL.

“He wasn’t asked for a re-check,” Slavin said.

Pro Football Weekly obtained Vander Esch’s medical file from February’s combine and said his 2016 injury did not leave “any evidence that Vander Esch suffered a significant concussion or any further head trauma in that incident almost 18 months ago.” It noted that he had a pinched nerve that was soon relieved, and the report would not warrant a red flag from teams.

“We don’t expect this incomplete and seemingly inaccurate report to have any bearing on Vander Esch’s draft status,” PFW’s Eric Edholm wrote.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said he spoke to one team representative who had no medical issues with Vander Esch, and later added “from what I understand, there aren’t really any medical concerns at all ... his climb up draft boards will continue.”

Certainly, any past injuries will show up on a medical check, but it appears there is little current health concern with the Salmon River High graduate. It wouldn’t be the first time information has been put out to perhaps influence a team’s draft strategy.

The injury rumors are a bit reminiscent of former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi, who fell until the fifth round of the 2015 draft with reports that he had major issues relating to a knee injury he suffered as a freshman.

Ajayi initially was seen as a first- or second-round pick, but the reports emerged about two weeks before the draft — same as Vander Esch. Ajayi, who won a Super Bowl in February with the Eagles, has played in 42 NFL games in his three pro seasons.

Vander Esch will attend the NFL Draft in Dallas. Among those expected to join him are Boise State coach Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.

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