The Indianapolis Colts are hopefully working around the clock to determine what they should do in the first-round of the 2021 Draft.
Fans have conflicting opinions in terms of what they feel the Colts should do, but most seem to be in lockstep with the idea of trading back to accumulate draft picks.
After all, general manager Chris Ballard has a near perfect batting average in the middle rounds.
While you can debate whether guard Quenton Nelson or linebacker Darius Leonard, both of whom were drafted in 2018, has been Ballard’s best pick thus far, we would assert that the latter selection is more impressive given the lack of buzz he generated coming out of college.
It sounds preposterous given how his career has panned out since the pick, but Leonard was famously labeled the “worst pick in the draft” by Bleacher Report after the Colts selected him in the second round (No. 36 overall) three years ago.
Well, with draft night a little over 24 hours away, Indianapolis decided to share a mini documentary highlighting Leonard’s journey from a zero-star recruit to one of the most formidable defenders in the entire NFL.
Relive Colts linebacker Darius Leonard’s journey after he was labeled the ‘worst pick’ in the 2018 Draft.
Did anybody else come close to tearing up when Ballard informed Leonard via phone call that the Colts were drafting him? If that didn’t do the trick, the uproarious reaction from the All-Pro linebacker’s family was surely enough to unlock the waterworks for some fans.
For those curious, the story referenced in the video criticized the Colts for drafting Leonard over (!) running backs Ronald Jones and Kerryon Johnson. That assessment alone is laughable, and the development of Marlon Mack ultimately proved those analysts dead wrong in two different ways.
Given the context, the following quote is without a doubt printed and hung somewhere in Leonard’s home or the Colts’ locker room … or maybe both knowing how much the former Defensive Rookie of the Year feeds off criticism and being overlooked in the draft.
"“The Indianapolis Colts’ selection of South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard with the fourth pick in the second round was one of the draft’s worst moves,” the story reads. “… For whatever reason, we woke up Friday in a world where Indianapolis thought taking an FCS linebacker in the top 40 was a good idea.”"
As it turns out, drafting Leonard was a stroke of genius from Ballard and the Colts. While he has two All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections to his name, those nominations don’t come close to encapsulating the full impact he makes on the Colts’ defense year in and year out.
In other words, we’re still living in that world and doing just fine.
Leonard is one of two players — Buccaneers star Lavonte David is the other — with 400 or more tackles and 10 or more sacks across his first three seasons. In 42 career games, he’s logged 416 tackles (26 for loss), 15 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, 28 pressures, 22 passes defended, seven interceptions and nine forced fumbles.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves as he’s still (for the time being, at least) on a rookie contract, but Leonard is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. If you asked us, that isn’t too shabby for someone who was formerly regarded as one of the clearest draft busts in recent memory.