For all the attention their offense has received this off-season, the Bears still need defensive playmakers. There are various potential diamonds in the rough in the 2018 NFL Draft. One of them is South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard, who is visiting Chicago on Tuesday, reports Rotoworld’s Josh Norris.
At 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds, Leonard is currently undersized for the rigors that the NFL presents. With a professional training camp and strength program behind him, however, one fortunate team may unlock special game-changing ability for years to come. The former 2016-2017 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year wreaked havoc last season. 114 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and two interceptions: that’s the kind of immense versatility and production Leonard offered the Bulldogs.
Overall, Leonard is an explosive and patient tackler. He plays with instinct and quick processing ability. And, most importantly, he has the ability to tilt the field. The only real concerns with Leonard are whether his frame and ceiling are maxed out. Even with that mentioned strength program soon to be in place, he might not be able to get much stronger. That’s an issue considering the level of physicality in the NFL.
Though, with refined technique to go with Leonard’s athleticism, that smaller frame could prove to be only a small roadblock on the road to a stellar pro career. Think of the success of guys like the Jaguars’ Telvin Smith, who is 6-foot-3 but just 215 pounds, and there shouldn’t be issue with projecting Leonard to transcend above limitations.
In terms of intangibles, there’s also the matter of him persevering despite being originally rejected by Clemson as a recruit years ago, according to The Undefeated. Resolve the Bears and NFL teams in general constantly seek.
The Bears are sprinting to the finish line towards next week’s draft. Don’t be surprised to see a sleeper pick by Chicago such as the dynamic Leonard.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.