Small School Prospect Edition: Darius Leonard and Daylon Mack
Welcome back to The Burgundy and Gold Report. During the last post I went through a few Diamonds in the Rough Draft Prospets on Offense. Today I’ll examine the Defensive side of the ball. We received some great reader feedback on the last post, but a few readers took exception to the idea of Washington drafting the players that were evaluated. Keep in mind this topic is just focusing on Mid-Late round prospects, that you won’t hear Mel Kiper talk about this early on in the evaluation process.
Free Agency will also dictate positions of focus in the Draft, but some of these guys are “Friggin Football Players” and love the game. I think part of the Redskins roster issues start with a general lack of speed and talent. The Redskins scored with late rounder selections Matt Ioannidis, Montae Nicholson, Kendall Fuller just to name a few. Well let’s hope that some of the Diamond in the Rough Prospects can live up to The B&G Report hype. Let’s do this!
Darius Leonard ILB S.Carolina State
During my search for potential mid round Draft gems, I came across a player that has the potential to be a playmaker on the next level. I’m referring to South Carolina State Star ILB Darius Leonard. The small school product stands 6’3′ weighing 235 lbs and plays fearless! Although he has good size for the NFL, he needs to add more muscle to his frame. In saying that, Leonard absolutely dominated the competition on his way to earning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Honors.
The SCS inside linebacker was all over the field in 2017 raking up 113 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions with a forced fumble. Leonard is an under the radar playmaker that dominated his level of competition. One trait that stands out when it comes to Leonard is his tackling technique. The young Linebacker rarely goes for the knock out blow, instead displays veteran like textbook wrap up tackling. In addition to that Leonard always looks to punch the ball out from ball carriers. Some of these basic techniques take players years to learn in the NFL.
His high motor is the SCS linebacker’s strength. At worst Leonard could be a soecial teams demon with potential to play in sub packages early on. His level of competition will always be a strike against him, but with hard work Leonard could be a valuable contributor on the next level. He has good hands and excels in pass coverage so paring him with Zach Brown (Unsigned FA) would be a site to see. Most draft experts have him being drafted, somewhere between rounds 3-5. Depending on the Redskins first three selections in the Draft, Leonard would be an ideal pick if available in the 3rd round.
Daylon Mack NT Texas A&M
Since the Redskins changed their defensive philosophy to a 3-4 base front, they have lacked a true impact Nose Tackle. Although the Redskins only play in the 3-4 base formation about 30% of the time, lacking a true pocket pusher has hamstrung their run defense in a big way. Drafting a Nose in the 1st round might be a reach unless he’s a once in a lifetime DT. Unfortunately that type of lineman isn’t available in this years Draft. On the other hand the Redskins drafted their first 1st round D-lineman last year (John Allen) after not considering the piston in the 1st round since Kenard Lang was selected 17th overall in the 1997 Draft.
Washington needs to continue to build that area of weakness until they get it right. The urgency this offseason is real for the Skins to find impact NT, luckily for the Redskins using an early round pick will not be necessary.
During The B&G Report‘s search for Mid-Late round defensive gems, an intriguing prospect arose. I went through a ton of film and Texas A&M NT Daylon Mack jumped off the screen! The Aggie run stuffer checks in 6’1 335 and plays with a relentless motor. The first comp that came to mind when watching Mack, was Warren Sapp. I understand those are huge shoes to fill for a mid round prospect, but Mack shoots the gap with purpose and anger. He has a long way to go, but his huge lower body is reminiscent of the former Hurricane DT.
Mack’s strength is taking on double teams and stopping the run, but I think this kid could be a better pro than he was an amateur. What really grabbed stood out was his get off from the snap of the ball. I watched multiple plays in which Mack shot the gap and was in the backfield before the running back even took the handoff. In no way would I label Mack as a playmaker with speed (5.20 40 YD), but he plays with urgency and hustle.
Mack was mainly used as a rotational player at Texas A&M. Mack finished with a pedestrian like 16 tackles with 5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. The Junior underclassman probably could use another year of grooming, but many reports list him as likely to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Multiple Draft experts currently slot him as a 4th-6th round prospect. I tend to agree with that evaluation, simply based on his position and team needs. Only a small number of teams in the NFL run the 3-4 defense with more and more teams switching out of it every year.
A player like Mack who is more of a situational 1st/2nd down rotational lineman, will fall on most draft boards. In no way will his mid/late round selection be based on talent, but it will be more to do with supply & demand in the NFL for Nose Tackles. How does he fit in Greg Manusky’s system you ask? I envision a rotation with John Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee and Dalton Mack. Ziggy Hood is a FA and Terrell McClain has been a FA bust, so both of those players don’t look to be in the long term plans. Between now and Draft night, many other prospects will rear their heads as potential fits for Washington. So early on, Mack is my personal favorite Nose Tackle. Dalton Mack is the type of player Manusky covets and if he’s is still available in the 4th/5th rounds, the Redskins should pull the trigger!
Thanks for checking out another edition of The B&G Report’s Diamonds in the Rough Draft Edition. Stay tuned for more Draft prospect evaluations, as well as the Redskins State of the Defense coming soon!