College: South Carolina State
College Stats: 124 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks in 2016; 114 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks in 2017. First Team All-American in 2017, two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-MEAC in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Darius Leonard was a force of nature at South Carolina State. Leonard was one of the most terrifying linebackers in the country, and he always seemed to make his impact felt in one way or another.
After not receiving an offer from Clemson like he had hoped, Leonard decided to stay in the Palmetto State and prove that the Tigers had made a mistake. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact either. He led the Bulldogs in tackles in each of his four years at South Carolina State and was constantly making plays around the ball.
Leonard is one of just a handful of players to post double-digit tackles for loss totals in four straight seasons. He made his presence felt in both the passing game and the running game. Opposing offenses had to always be aware of where he was on the field.
Leonard has natural instincts that you just can’t teach. He is able to quickly diagnose what the offense is trying to do and can disrupt the play. He also possesses the athletic ability to make the plays after reading the offense, often resulting in something positive for the defense.
At the collegiate level, he was very tough to block. Leonard was able to use his speed to get off of bigger linemen, and he would outmuscle smaller players that were matched against him.
The main concern that scouts seem to have with Leonard is whether or not he can add more weight if need be. Leonard gained more than 50 pounds during his time at South Carolina State and it might be hard to add on more muscle.
Additionally, the MEAC is not known to have great offenses. There are diamonds in the rough like Tarik Cohen that come out from time to time, but for the most part teams struggle to move the ball. Only two teams, Howard and North Carolina A&T, had offenses ranked in the top half of the FCS in terms of total offense.
Mel Kiper Jr. rates Leonard as the best FCS defensive player on his big board, and he could be a Day 2 pick. Leonard was unable to solidify that with his NFL Combine performance, but he will not go later than the fourth round.