INDIANAPOLIS —“The Maniac’s” record-breaking rookie season has the attention of those across the league.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard tonight was revealed as the 26th-best player in the league in the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2019” list, which is voted on by players across the NFL. He’s the third Colts player to make this year’s list, joining tight end Eric Ebron (No. 66) and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (No. 70).
Tonight is the first of what should be many “Top 100 Players” appearances for Leonard.
The Colts surprised many last year when they selected Leonard out of FCS South Carolina State with their second-round (36th-overall) selection in the NFL Draft. As it turned out, he was the perfect piece to plug in at WILL linebacker in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ new 4-3 scheme.
Leonard finished as the NFL’s leading tackler (163) while adding 12.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, eight passes defensed, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He set the franchise record for tackles in a single season and his tackle total ranks third in league history for a rookie.
Among rookies last season, Leonard ranked in the top-10 in tackles (first), tackles for loss (second), sacks (second), passes defensed (ninth), interceptions (tied-seventh), forced fumbles (first) and fumble recoveries (tied-first). Not surprisingly, he was named the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But the accolades didn’t stop there. Leonard also was named First-Team All-Pro, and he joined guard Quenton Nelson as the first pair of rookie teammates to earn that honor since the Chicago Bears’ Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers in 1965.
Leonard — who became the first player to register at least 125 tackles, 7.0 sacks and four forced fumbles in a single season since Bryan Cox in 1992 — earned numerous other accolades, including AFC Defensive Player of the Month (December), AFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 2, Week 17), Defensive Rookie of the Month (September) and NFL Rookie of the Week (Week 2, Week 8). From the Pro Football Writers of America, Leonard was selected Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-AFC and All-Rookie teams.
Leonard is the first off-ball Colts linebacker to be selected to an “NFL Top 100” list since the show began airing in 2011. He’s the highest-rated Indy defender since pass rusher Robert Mathis was ranked 19th in 2014’s countdown.