Darius Leonard has been one of the NFL’s best linebackers since he entered the league in 2018.
After the Indianapolis Colts selected “Maniac” No. 36 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, he led the league in tackles in his rookie season and was named First-Team All-Pro and the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Due to a concussion, Leonard played two fewer games in 2019, but he made his first Pro Bowl.
— NFL (@NFL) March 14, 2020
Also in his second year, he intercepted five passes and scored his first career touchdown:
— Cody Felger (@CPFelger55) March 30, 2020
Leonard can be First-Team All-Pro again
Leonard could see an expanded role in 2020, and if so, he can have a career year this upcoming season.
The following tweet shows how impressive Leonard has been during his first couple of seasons in the NFL:
— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) April 1, 2020
Andrew Walker’s tweet has Leonard with the fourth-most tackles over the last three seasons, and Leonard did not even play in the NFL in the first of those three seasons.
In Leonard’s first two seasons in the NFL, he has been third in tackles overall and has also been a top 20 linebacker in terms of tackles for loss.
However, Leonard only played 80 percent of Colts defensive snaps in the 13 games he played in 2019.
This is after he played 91 percent of defensive snaps in his 15 games the previous year.
The Colts unsurprisingly will attempt to bring Leonard in for more defensive snaps in 2020 because he is one of the best defensive playmakers in the league.
In 2019, he was ranked No. 26 in the NFL Top 100, and he was ranked the fourth-best linebacker behind Von Miller, Bobby Wagner, and Luke Kuechly.
Since Leonard was in high school for each of those aforementioned players’ rookie seasons, it is safe to say that Maniac is the NFL’s next best linebacker.
Impact on Special Teams
Not only does Leonard have an ability on defense, but he can also make an impact on special teams.
With his propensity to force fumbles – he has six forced fumbles in just 28 games – and his hard-hitting ability, Leonard was utilized on many more special teams snaps in 2019 than in 2018.
In 2018, he played 20 snaps, but he almost tripled his special teams snaps the year after.
It is no coincidence that the Colts improved in most non-kicker special teams statistics last season.
If Indianapolis can continue to increase his special teams exposure, the team can find another way to increase his value.
Leonard has the talent to become the best linebacker in the league, and he is well on his way to doing so.
Although the concussion hindered his statistics in 2019, his impact was not diminished.
He impressed with the fourth-most interceptions and fourth-most interception return yards.
In NFL history, only five players have more combined tackles than Leonard in their first two NFL seasons.
One of the names on that list is Ray Lewis.
If Leonard keeps playing like he has been, he is well on his way to a stellar Hall of Fame career.