Dallas Cowboys pick linebacker Leighton Vander Esch

The Dallas Cowboys felt all along the 2018 NFL Draft would set up right for them.

With so much focus on the quarterbacks early on, they felt the player they wanted would fall to them at No. 19.

Things turned at just as the Cowboys hoped as Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was on the board when it came their turn to pick.

The Cowboys resisted the urge to move up to for Florida State safety Derwin James, who fell to 17th with the San Diego Chargers.

They had their eye on Vander Esch all along in their zest to take the best player on the board as well as fill a huge need at linebacker following the departure of Anthony Hitchens to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

The 2017 Mountain West defensive player of the year is 6-feet-4, weighs 256 pounds, and ran a 4.65-second 40 at the NFL Combine.

In what was his first and only season as a starter, Vander Esch had 141 tackles in 2017 for the Broncos, including 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Vander Esch grew up in a small town in Riggins, Idaho, playing eight-man football at Salmon River High School.

The Cowboys made no secret of their interest in Vander Esch as he was one of their pre-draft visitors.

He is an ideal fit at middle linebacker where he would replace Hitchens and allow the Cowboys to play Jaylon Smith on the strong side with Pro Bowler Sean Lee continuing to man the weak side.

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