Career Notes...Darius Leonard topped Harry Carson’s school career record at South Carolina State with his 394 tackles (274 solos), which rank as the fourth-highest total in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference history behind Demetrius Harrison of North Carolina A&T (486; 1986-1989), Earl Holmes Florida A&M (446; 1992-1995) and Kevin Talley Norfolk State (416; 2000-2004).
Expected Draft Slot: Day 3
Leonard Scouting Analysis
The weak-side outside linebacker has a compact, muscular frame with good upper body development, but has to improve his lower body strength and will likely need to add bulk in order to compete effectively at the next level. He does have room on his frame to carry the additional weight without it impacting his overall speed.
Leonard has great agility and athletic ability, playing with quickness and speed. He shows fine balance closing on the ball and the ability to stay on his feet working through trash. With his flexibility, he is quick to redirect and work his way to the flow of the ball. He has the quickness of a safety dropping back in zone coverage and is an above average space player, thanks to the suddenness when closing. He looks very athletic moving to the ball, showing fluid change of direction, acceleration and body control in attempts to keep the action in front of him.
Leonard has a natural feel for the flow of the ball, showing quick lateral movement and fluid change of direction agility. He has that ease of movement when changing direction to turn and run on the ball in an instant. He plays with good hand usage, balance and agility to thread through traffic, but a lack of bulk could see him engulfed in one-on-one battles vs. bigger linemen, making him a better fit for the position he excelled in college on the weak-side. He is quick to pull the trigger when operating in pursuit, as he has the speed to cover ground from sideline to sideline, thanks to his excellent range and good effort.
The Bulldog leader is sudden to react and triggers fast moving back in zone coverage. He is quick coming off the snap, staying low in his pads while generating quick lateral movements to string the plays wide. He has the natural ability to always anticipate the flow of the ball. He is a patient type that generally plays under control and has no problems identifying what the offense throws at him.
While Leonard lacks the ideal size to take on the larger blockers, he compensates with field savvy, quickness and instincts. He has the functional playing strength to combat tight ends and lead blockers, but will struggle to shed when an offensive lineman latches on to his body. He is a better space player than one in tight quarters, as he needs to be very quick and active with his hands to control and get off blocks in attempts to get to the ball.
Leonard is strong enough for his size and can hit with leverage to stun lead blocks and cause a pile, but does not have the “sand in his pants” to take on linemen. He has the hand strength to shed blocks quickly, doing a nice job of extending to keep blockers from attacking his body. He has the ease of movement agility to flow to the ball, staying at a proper pad level to extend, wrap and secure as a tackler.
Against the inside run, Leonard compensates for a lack of size with his change of direction agility and lateral movement to slip past blocks. He fills holes quickly and has the functional strength to take on fullbacks, but vs. the bigger offensive linemen, he can get engulfed when working in-line if he does not protect his chest from the blocker locking on. He does a good job of coming down hill, but is best when using his hands to shed when working near the line of scrimmage, which allows him to fill the rush lane.
Leonard has the ability to drop off deep in the zone due to his hip swerve. He has the quickness to run with backs, tight ends and slot receivers in the short area and shows good vision, quickness and ball anticipation to be right in the receiver’s face in attempts to reroute. He uses his hands with force in press situations and shows the hip swerve to operate in trail coverage. He takes no wasted steps in transition and is quick to turn coming out of his backpedal.
Leonard can get caught up vs. inside trash when his hands get outside his frame, but when he keeps his hands active and gets a strong push off the blocker, he can get into the backfield to apply pocket pressure. He gives good effort as a blitzer and is effective flowing to the ball and attacking from the back side, but is never going to be considered an elite disruptor in an opponent’s backfield due to size and lower strength issues.
Compares To...Harry Carson-ex New York Giants...Not since The Captain himself suited up for the Bulldogs, have I been so impressed by a Mid-Eastern Conference player. Yes, the level of competition fails to match up to the bigger colleges, but look at the destruction he left on the field when taking on Clemson in 2016. As with most players at this level, a lack of a great training room means he might need some time to play regularly at the next level, but each and every college season, he packed on the pounds without losing his impressive closing quickness.