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Draft Preview: Sorting Out The Inside Linebackers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 8, 2013 – 5:12 am

The Vikings don’t have a returning starter at middle LB (Jasper Brinkley signed with Arizona), they have 11 picks overall and 6 selections in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, and both of their 1st-round selections sit in the area where many expect a few inside LBs to come off the board. Add it all up, and it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings will be in the mix to take one of the draft’s top inside LBs.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a linebacker’s chances of making it in the NFL. Is he a 2-down or 3-down LB? Does his college position transition well to the NFL? Or will he have to go through a position change? Those are relevant questions and will be part of the evaluation process for teams as they examine this year’s crop of LBs.

The highest-profile player in this class is Manti Te’o, the leader of the country’s 2nd-ranked defense (Notre Dame) this past season. Those draft analysts who don’t have Te’o atop their boards likely have Georgia’s Alex Ogletree rated #1. Others often included in the top tier are LSU’s Kevin Minter and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. The analysts in our most recent Mock Madness are virtually split between Ogletree and Te’o at #1 and #2, then it’s generally Minter who rates #3 and Brown comes in at #4. There is one mention of Kevin Reddick by ProFootballWeekly.com.

Only time will tell if the Vikings tab one of the class’ top LBs early in the draft or if they choose to rely on the position’s depth and lean on the middle rounds. For now, all we can do is assess the options. Here’s a look at this year’s crop of LBs (alphabetical order)…

Arthur Brown – Kansas State
An instinctive player with over 100 tackles as a senior in 2012, Brown possesses an adequate frame (6-0, 241) to play middle LB in the NFL. He redshirted his first season with Kansas State (transferred from Miami) before starting all 13 games as a team captain in 2011. After collecting 100+ tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss (TFLs), Brown was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and was also 1st-team all-conference for the Wildcats. His success continued in 2012 as he amassed a second consecutive 100-tackle season and also tallied 7.0 tackles for loss (TFLs), 4 pass breakups (PBUs), 2 INTs and a sack.

Cool fact: Brown intercepted both Robert Griffin III and Geno Smith during his career at Kansas State.

Kevin Minter – LSU
Because the LSU Tigers consistently boast one of the country’s top defensive units, it’s easy for an individual to become overshadowed. After all, it was the likes of Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Eric Reid who (deservedly) received much of the hype. But through it all, Minter was a solid contributor. The 6-0, 246-pound junior earned consensus 1st-Team All-SEC honors and was named his team’s MVP in 2012 following a campaign in which he totaled 130 tackles, 15 TFLs (which led the team), 5 PBUs, 4.0 sacks and a forced fumble.

Cool fact: Squatted 545 pounds as a redshirt freshman at LSU.

Alec Ogletree – Georgia
Athletic and productive, Ogletree enters the NFL draft after his junior season. In 30 games at Georgia Ogletree was productive, tallying just short of 200 tackles, 20.0 TFLs, 8 PBUs, 6.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 1 INT. He was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler over the final 6 games of 2012 and was named All-SEC 1st Team after the season. The 6-2, 242-pound Ogletree came to Georgia as a safety and started his first game there, but quickly converted to LB and formed a talented duo with fellow draft class member Jarvis Jones. Ogletree missed the first 6 games of 2011 due to a broken foot and was also suspended the first 4 games of 2012. But when on the field, Ogletree is a difference-maker.

Cool fact: Has a twin brother who played FB for Georgia.

manti

Manti Te’o – Notre Dame
One of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football, Te’o prepares to enter the NFL following an ultra-productive 4 seasons at Notre Dame in which he started 49 of 51 games (had 47 straight starts) and became the second player in school history to tally 100+ tackles in 3 consecutive seasons. Te’o was a consensus 1st-Team All-America by the Associated Press, Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association. He finished runner-up in Heisman voting after this past season and helped lead Notre Dame to the national championship game. An off-field situation during the 2012 season in which he was the victim of an elaborate hoax captivated the sports world, but more relevant to Te’o’s football future is that he was one of the most productive players in the history of one of the country’s best programs and he has top-notch work ethic and intangible traits that will increase his chances of success at the NFL level.

Cool fact: Was teammates at Notre Dame with current Vikings S Robert Blanton, TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith.

Don’t forget…
Kiko Alonso – Played 4 seasons at Oregon, led team in TFLs (14.0) in 2012 and was named 2nd-Team All Pac-12 after the ’12 season.
Jon Bostic – Senior from Florida known as big-time hitter against the run.
Kevin Reddick – A 4-year, productive starter at North Carolina who possesses traits that give him position flexibility.
Vince Williams – Key to Florida State ranking #2 in total defense during 2012 season and started 25 games the past 2 seasons.

Mid- and late-round prospects (as rated by NFL.com)
Michael Mauti (Penn State)
Nico Johnson (Alabama) – Nick Saban-coached, productive, smart, lunch-pail type of player who can step in and battle in the trenches.
Kenny Cain (TCU)
Bruce Taylor (Virginia Tech)
Steve Beauharnais (Rutgers) – Doesn’t jump out at you, but a solid and experienced player who may have been overshadowed at Rutgers.
Kenny Demens (Michigan)
Shaq Wilson (South Carolina)
Tom Wort (Oklahoma)
AJ Klein (Iowa State) – I’d rate him higher; 3-year starter in college; could play multiple positions in NFL; will be special teams star
John Lotulelei (UNLV) – No relation to Star Lotulelei; undersized; 121 tackles in 2012
Uona Kaveinga (BYU)
Jonathan Stewart (Texas A&M)
Will Compton (Nebraska)
Brandon Hepburn (Florida A&M)
Nick Clancy (Boston College)


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