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2013 Draft Preview: Linebackers

Posted Apr 24, 2013

Talent on the outside seems to be drawing more attention from scouts.


Sure, the most high profile linebacker in this year’s draft class is Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and he roams the middle of the field as an inside backer. But the outside linebackers are more likely to go off the board first starting tomorrow night when the first round takes place, led by Arthur Brown of Kansas State, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones and LSU’s Barkevius Mingo. Brown is the shortest of the three but has the most experience, while Mingo and Jones have the benefit of having played in the SEC against the nation’s toughest competition.

Mingo’s teammate at LSU, Kevin Minter, will give Te’o a run for his money in terms of which of those two inside linebackers is taken ahead of the other. They are similar in size and had similar results at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Minter is an underclassman with less off-the-field baggage at the moment. It all depends on what type of scheme a specific team is running and how they see each of these players fitting in that scheme, but one given is that Te’o will demand more camera time until he is picked.

BREAKING DOWN TOP LINEBACKER PROSPECTS
(In Alphabetical Order)

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Arthur Brown started off his college career as a Miami Hurricane in 2008 and 2009 but saw limited action and opted to transfer to Kansas State to play with his brother, running back Bryce Brown, and for Bill Snyder. The move paid off, as after redshirting one year he dominated on defense for the Wildcats by going over 100 tackles in each of his last two seasons. As a senior, Brown registered 100 tackles (65 solo), one sack and two interceptions but a shoulder injury forced him to miss the Senior Bowl and limited him to just the vertical jump at the Combine. He was healthy enough at Kansas State’s Pro Day to run a 4.67 and a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, record a 32.5-inch vertical jump and bench press 225 pounds 21 times. Brown is a bit undersized but has good speed to be an edge rusher.

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There was a lot of pressure on Jarvis Jones last month to deliver at Georgia’s Pro Day after he skipped all of the drills at the Combine and that might have affected him, as he managed to run the 40-yard dash in an unimpressive 4.92 seconds. The rest of his numbers were only so-so, although he looked good in position drills and what he did on the field for the Bulldogs last season cannot be ignored. Jones managed to sack the opposing quarterback 14.5 times and he had 24.5 tackles for loss out of his total of 85 (52 solo). He began his career at USC in 2009 but after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis he transferred to Georgia and sat out the 2010 season. Jones is versatile enough to play inside, outside or at defensive end in the NFL, so he should be able to find a home early.

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Barkevius Mingo wowed everybody in Indianapolis with his speed (a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash) and athleticism (37-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet, 7 inches). He was a sack machine at LSU, racking up 15 in just three seasons, including eight as a sophomore and his length and quickness has drawn comparisons to DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys. But Mingo’s slight frame suits him better at outside linebacker than defensive end and his work in the positional drills at LSU’s Pro Day further solidified that notion. The fact that he did not do the bench press left some questions about his strength, but his health was not an issue as he performed with his hand in the ground as a defensive end and standing up as an outside linebacker. Whatever concerns exist with Mingo, his physical attributes should outweigh them and result in him being taken high.


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Just like with Manti Te’o, the Pro Day proved to be beneficial to Kevin Minter as he knocked down his time in the 40-yard dash from 4.81 seconds in Indy to 4.67 and he added a 34.5-inch vertical jump, while shining in positional drills. He was overshadowed by Mingo on the Tigers’ defense despite flying all over the field to the tune of 130 tackles (55 solo), four sacks, 15 tackles for loss and one interception. Minter can do it all on defense, excelling against the run and in pass coverage in nickel situations, which makes him a three-down linebacker at the next level, and he has been compared to Takeo Spikes. If there is one area of concern it’s his lack of experience, as he only started for LSU one year, but that’s because he was behind Kelvin Sheppard until the Buffalo Bills drafted Sheppard in 2011.

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Manti Te’o had all the momentum on his side throughout his senior season leading up to the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama and looked to be a surefire top 10 pick, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting and drawing all sorts of praise. A sub-par performance in the loss to the Crimson Tide, followed by the scandal surrounding the girlfriend hoax, torpedoed his stock. Despite acquitting himself admirably in front of the media in Indianapolis, Te’o struggled mightily in the drills, running a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash. He slightly redeemed himself at Notre Dame’s Pro Day with times of 4.71 and 4.75 and he was a tackling machine for the Fighting Irish with 437 (212 solo) during his career, seven interceptions and five sacks. If the right coach believes Te’o can thrive at the next level and not be a distraction, he could still go in the first round.

OTHER TOP LINEBACKER PROSPECTS AT A GLANCE

Kiko Alonso
Inside Linebacker
6-3, 238
Oregon

Jon Bostic  
Inside Linebacker
6-1, 245
Florida

Khaseem Greene
Outside Linebacker
6-1, 241
Rutgers

Sio Moore 
Outside Linebacker
6-1, 245
Connecticut

Alec Ogletree    
Inside Linebacker
6-2, 242
Georgia


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