2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Linebackers
The top inside and outside linebackers in the 2013 NFL Draft
By AJ Young - March 25 2013
OG | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S
These draft profiles are designed to provide you with a better insight into the prospects detailed in our mock drafts and on our 2013 NFL Draft Board:
[Editor’s note: Some of these prospects were covered in our NFL Combine previews, in which case, the profiles have been updated in light of the Combine]
1. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon (6)
With 29 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks over the course of his three years in Eugene, Dion Jordan was nothing but a pest in opposition backfields for the Ducks. With 119 tackles to go alongside those stats, Jordan certainly put up good numbers in college showing that he's more than capable of rushing the passer as well as fulfilling assignments in the run game. Unlike most outside linebackers in this draft, Oregon asked Jordan to play with his hand in the dirt as well as stand up and drop into coverage in equal measure meaning that he’ll be ideal for any team running the 3-4. He originally went to Eugene as a tight end but moved to the defensive side of the ball in spring 2010. This kind of athleticism, coupled with his size and experience should allow him to transition to the next level without too many growing pains. At 6-6, 248 lbs, Jordan shouldn’t have top end straight line speed but as his 4.6 forty at the Combine shows he’s an elite athlete that is worthy of selection in the top five of April’s draft.
2. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (12)
Out of high school Jones originally signed for USC, earning playing time right away as a true freshman before suffering a sprained neck in the eighth game of the season. This freak injury caused him to miss the rest of the year and team doctors refused to clear him for participation the following spring. Consequently, Jones transferred back to home-state Georgia and sat out the 2010 season. In his two years at Georgia, Jones terrorized opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 28 sacks and 46(!) quarterback hurries. Alongside his pass rushing abilities, Jones was a tackling machine, amassing 155 tackles in 26 games, including 44 tackles for a loss and 9 forced fumbles. So what’s the catch then? Why isn’t Jones projected to be a top five pick? Jones' durability has been a question mark throughout the draft process because he suffers from a condition called spinal stenosis that he sustained during the freak injury at USC. Again, I’m no doctor but this apparently translates to a narrowing between the vertebrae in his neck and could shorten his career significantly. How far Jones will fall remains to be seen but he has unquestionable talent and will be a mightily tempting pick for practically all 32 NFL teams.
3. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU (13)
Mingo didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school but the former track athlete’s speed soon got him noticed by scouts, leading to him signing with the Tigers before redshirting his freshman year. After a relatively uneventful first year in Baton Rouge, Mingo entered the 2011 season as backup defensive end and only started four games all season. This didn’t stop him leading the team with 15 tackles for a loss, finishing second on the team in sacks with 7 and leading the team with 11 quarterback hurries. He consistently demonstrated great speed off the edge, putting pressure on the quarterback and making plays in the backfield. Unfortunately he never really built upon this during his junior year and might have best been served returning to LSU for another season. At 6-4, 241 lbs, it’s easy to envisage Mingo getting after the quarterback at the next level, particularly with his athleticism and speed, but he’s somewhat of an unpolished player that is more potential than actual substance as he largely relies on his innate physical gifts rather than actual technique to make plays. In college it’s a lot easier to breeze past offensive tackles with raw speed and agility than it is in the NFL and although he has a limitless ceiling, he could quite easily never develop into a threat at the next level. Mingo might best be suited to outside linebacker in a 4-3 where he doesn’t have the pressure or expectation to get after the quarterback; with coaching he could be effective in coverage and has great speed that could be used to play the Will or Sam position. That way he could be a pass rusher on passing downs and wouldn’t have to be an every down pass rusher which I’m not sure he’s capable of being.
4. Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia (22)
The pre-draft evaluation process for Alec Ogletree has largely been about his performances off the field rather than anything he achieved on the field for Georgia. He was suspended before he even played a game for the Bulldogs after being arrested and charged with theft. This resulted in a suspension for the season opener but was later suspended four games during last season after he failed drug tests. Finally, in February he was arrested and charged with DUI after speeding in the early hours. On the field, Ogletree initially started his career in Athens at safety before moving to inside linebacker. He possesses phenomenal speed for his size (4.7 forty), having the ability to cover sideline to sideline in a flash. Overall, he's likely an outside linebacker at the next level, most probably better suited to the 3-4. He's a bit raw for an inside linebacker as he sometimes struggles to diagnose the play and can be undisciplined in his assignments. By contrast, his freakish athleticism and top end speed might be better utilized coming off the edge as a pass rusher. He could nonetheless transition to the NFL as a middle linebacker with the right coaching and his 111 tackles in 2012 at inside linebacker shows his abilities. If Ogletree's draft stock survives the red flags, he's likely a top fifteen talent; unfortunately it's becoming harder and harder to justify such a high pick for a somewhat volatile player off the field.
5. Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State (52)
Brown was the heart of a Kansas State defense that was on the cusp of making the BCS National Championship. Although he played middle linebacker in Manhattan, he's NFL status is in question and he may find himself playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He was heavily recruited out of high school and initially played for Miami before transferring back to his native Kansas. You don't get recruited to The U if you lack football instincts but he's inability to fit in at a premiere football program may raise flags about his ability to transition to the NFL. Question marks regarding his size and position mean that he currently projects as a second round pick.
1. Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame (30)
With an average of 123 tackles per season across his three years starting at South Bend you’d be fooled if you thought Te’o’s Heisman campaign made him a one year wonder. Equally so, what a spectacular year it was; 113 tackles, 7 interceptions, 4 batted passes, 1.5 sacks and a recovered fumble later and it was unsurprising that Te’o nearly came away with Heisman honors. At the peak of Te’o’s campaign, some draft boards had him as high as third. Since the season culminated however, Te’o finds himself at the end of the first round on most boards, including ours. Why the drop off? For the most part, the catfish scandal had little to no effect on his draft stock; the two big red flags against his name are his performances against Alabama in the BCS National Championship and his pedestrian speed at the NFL Scouting Combine. Te’o’s lack of elite speed may cause him to struggle tracking NFL caliber backs to the edge (similar to how Bama’s Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon consistently found room outside in the BCS National Championship). He also played behind one of the best defensive lines in the nation that allowed him to penetrate up the middle freely; in the NFL he’ll have to fight off blockers more and as Alabama showed, he was easily swallowed up and struggled to move off of blocks to make plays on the running back. One of his best features at Notre Dame was his ability to cover tight ends, as can be seen by his 7 interceptions and 4 pass defenses. In the NFL however where tight ends are looking more and more like robotic receivers, he might struggle to keep up with them. So what are we left with? A linebacker that can’t cover the full width of the field, can’t escape blockers in the middle of the field and can’t track tight ends up the field. Things don’t look great under that evaluation though admittedly it’s on the worse-case side. Either way, Te’o has the production and ability of a first round pick but uncertainty surrounding his potential to translate to the pro game makes me reluctant to select him in the first round if I’m a GM, regardless of how badly I need an inside linebacker.
2. Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (34)
Minter was one of the most productive linebackers in the nation in 2012, following a sophomore campaign which was his first as a starter where he made 61 tackles with a junior season resulting in 130 tackles. Such a leap in production caused him to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft as one of the best middle linebackers available. At 6-0, 246 lbs, Minter is slightly undersized and relies on his natural instincts and sound tackling fundamentals to put up good numbers rather than sheer physical ability. He doesn’t have top end explosiveness and he might struggle to play sideline to sideline at the next level where everyone is fast. He doesn’t take on blocks like teams would prefer; he tends to try and avoid them and spin out of them rather than necessarily taking them head on physically. Minter would be a great inside linebacker in the 3-4 with a star next to him similar to NaVorro Bowman for San Francisco but to what extent he can play the Mike in either defensive formation remains to be seen.AJ Young
is the editor of Down at the One.