New England Patriots: Seven round 2018 mock draft

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 25: Lamar Jackson
LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 25: Lamar Jackson /
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Round 1, Pick 31: LB Leighton Vander Esch

With their second first-round pick, the Patriots select Boise State linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch.

According to Sports Reference, Vander Esch played 14 games for the Broncos in 2017, amassing 141 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, and four sacks.

Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 256-pounds, he has some elite length for the position with 33⅞-inch arms that rank in the 96th percentile among inside linebackers, per MockDraftable. He had a strong showing at the NFL Combine, posting a 39½-inch vertical jump and 124-inch broad jump. He also clocked a 6.88-second three-cone drill and ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash.

Drafting Vander Esch would give the Patriots an inside linebacker with the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends (five passes defended in 2017) while utilizing Hightower as a pass rusher off the edge.