2013 NFL Combine - Inside Linebacker Analysis
LSU LB Kevin Minter
LSU LB Kevin Minter
Posted Feb 25, 2013

Combine quick looks at the inside linebackers invited to Indy.

2013 NFL Combine

Top Ten ILB Rankings

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 - 2013 CFN Pre-Combine ILB Rankings, No. 11 to 25 
1. Kevin Minter, LSU 6-0, 246 (Jr.) Proj. 1
Positives: A very strong, very pure tackler. He might have been surrounded by a ton of NFL talent, but he still stood out as one of the keys to a great run defense. The D line gave him the room to make plays, and he took full advantage both against the run and in pass coverage. … Unblockable at times. Slippery by using his feet and quickness to not get engaged for long. Nice technique to handle the bigger blockers. … Lots of tread left on the tires. He's healthy for a top-tackling SEC inside linebacker and should be a fresh starter from Day One.

Negatives: The wheels aren't quite there to be used in a variety of ways. He's going to have to sit on the inside, preferably in the middle. Average quickness. … Better from Point A to Point B than he is in pass coverage. He'll be a three down defender, but he needs to be on the mid-range tight ends; he'll have a problem with the speed backs coming at him. … Needs more seasoning. He only had one year as a starter and it showed at times with his indecisiveness. He needs more at bats.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? It will take a little while, but eventually he'll start to feel the game and then he'll be a leading tackler. A team has to be a little bit patient to get through the rough patches early on.

2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame 6-1, 241 Proj. 2
Positives: Showed better instincts year after year. That's how it's supposed to happen, but he really took on a different level with far better positioning as a senior. He was always around the ball – he didn't come up with that many picks on quickness. … A leader. It might take a little while to get through the locker room razzing he's certain to get, but the team will quickly take to him. He'll do his talking on the field against the run. … A true tough guy who attacks the ball. He'll battle off blocks to hold his ground.

Negatives: Not fluid. Labors a bit on the move and looks and plays heavier than he really is – he can be a bit lumbering when chasing someone down. … Did he get exposed by Alabama? Had a nightmare of a day with too many whiffs and misses against the quicker backs and stronger linemen. He was helped throughout his senior year by an improved defensive front, but not against the Tide. … Oh yeah, that. Either a team can get past the strangeness of Te'o's story, or it can't. His incident will be a distraction in his rookie season no matter where he goes.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? The off-the-field issues won't be a problem after a few weeks. However, he's not big enough or fast enough to become a star. He'll be a steady starter, but he certainly won't be the next Ray Lewis.

3. Kevin Riddick, North Carolina 6-1, 243 Proj. 4
Positives: There's still amazing upside to a player who had a good long career. He was productive, but he kept getting better and kept improving. There's still more he can do. … A good all-around playmaker, he turned into a terror behind the line as well as a good run stuffer. … Works hard and doesn't need any motivation. Extremely coachable and will do what's needed to take his game to another level.

Negatives: Not a blazer. He's functionally quick, but he doesn't have the extra closing gear. He isn't going to chase down too many NFL runners. … Doesn't quite have the right basic tools. He's not quite big enough and he doesn't move well enough to be for everyone. He might be pigeon-holed into the middle. … Stay blocked a bit too easily. Needs to get in position before taking on contact.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? A mid-round steal. The right team will see what it needs out of him and have a designed plan. He'll end up starting right away to become a top tackler.

4. Kiko Alonso. Oregon 6-3, 242 Proj. 3
Positives: Great size with an excellent frame to get a little bit bigger. Long, he has good reach and good enough speed and athleticism to make him tough to get around. … Fast enough to work on the outside if needed, but he's an interior linebacker who can play in the middle or in a 34. He has the right tools to be terrific. … Works his way into the backfield on hustle as well as quickness. Excellent straight line burst.

Negatives: Seems out of position a bit too much. Despite the nice stats, he didn't make as many plays as he should've. He made a lot of flashy plays, but not enough of the routine. … Can be popped. The more physical lead blockers will blast him out of the way. … Doesn't have the best of instincts. Hesitates a bit too much.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? If you're looking for an inside linebacker in this draft with upside and splash, this is it. There aren't many who can do what he can – he'll grow into a key starter who'll get better and better with more time.

5. Nico Johnson, Alabama 6-2, 248 Proj. 3
Positives: A high-character player who doesn't make mistakes. He was a leader among a defense full of leaders. Smart enough to always be in the right position. … Physical. He did all the dirty work that went beyond the stats. He fought his share of battles and held up well. … A great quarterback for the D. He's the type who'll make sure everyone is in the right position and sees things well before they're about to happen. Coaches love him.

Negatives: Not huge. He's built more for the outside as a strongside defender in a 4-3, but he'll likely have to hold up in the interior no matter what scheme he's in. He needs to be surrounded by bigger players. … Don't expect a lot of huge, gamechanging plays. He's going to hold up against the run, but he's not going to do much sideline to sideline. … Not a freelancer. His job is to be another coach on the field and do his job within a system.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? He'll be a good, sound starter for five years. He'll quickly become a leader.

6. A.J. Klein, Iowa State 6-1, 250 Proj. 5
Positives: A tackling machine, he always seems to be around the ball and he's always coming up with enormous games. He's a pure hitter who's built for the inside. … A leader who gets the job done no matter what. He had to clean up way too many messes behind a leaky line. … A playmaker who can be a gamechanger. He doesn't just make the stop; he makes the big play.

Negatives: A better football player than a prospect. The raw athleticism and foot speed are lacking. He's not going to run anyone down at the next level. … Not a pass rusher. He won't do anything behind the line and he'll have to read and react more than attack – he'll have to change up his style a bit. … Makes way too many plays down the field. Yes, he came up with lots of tackles, but it seemed like a lot of them came after a good gain.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? You know exactly what you're going to get. He'll sit in the interior of a defense and come up with a slew of stops against the run. Don't expect any sizzle.

7. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech 6-1, 237 Proj. 5
Positives: A good tackler who always produced when healthy, he was great at making things happen in the backfield with good pass rushing ability. He seems to know how to make the big play…. Smart and well respected, he's the quarterback and leader of the defense. He knows what everyone is supposed to be doing. … Great closer to the quarterback. He doesn't let the passer go.

Negatives: Can he stay healthy? A foot injury was the biggest problem, but his physical style gets him beaten up. … Doesn't have the NFL size, strength or speed to be elite. He's going to have to get by on his leadership and good all-around ability. There isn't a ton of upside. … Has to be surrounded by athletes and he likely won't be a good enough pass rusher in the interior. He'll have to change around his game a bit.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? A spot starter who'll see plenty of time before being replaced by a more athletic option.

8. Jon Bostic, Florida 6-2, 245 Proj. 5
Positives: One of the better middle linebackers in the draft, he's built to man the interior and stuff the run. He has the bulk and the power to hold up against the more physical teams. … Good motor and instincts with the quickness in the interior to not be out of place. He might not go sideline to sideline, but he doesn't need to. … A tone-setter who could quickly become the leader of a front seven if he takes over a starting job.

Negatives: Not a pass rusher, he's not going to do anything behind the line. Plays need to be funneled to him. … The closing speed isn't there. He's at his best when he takes players head on and doesn't have to chase them down. … He might be a bit limited. He worked in a few different spots for the Gators, but he might have to be in the middle of a 4-3.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? He'll be a functional starter who'll put up big tackling stats depending on the scheme.

9. Michael Mauti, Penn State 6-2, 243 Proj. 4
Positives: A football player. Phenomenal instincts and the smarts to always be around the ball. Doesn't take wasted steps and is almost always a step ahead of the play. … A terrific tackler, when he's in range of a play he doesn't miss. … Known for his leadership, the team followed him blindly – for good and bad – during the disaster. He took the controversy head on as one of the team's main spokesmen.

Negatives: His knees can't hold up. Just when it seems like he's finally back from a knee injury, he suffers another one. Hasn't had any injury luck whatsoever. … Athleticism was mediocre even before the knee problems, and while he has a non-stop motor, he's just can't be counted on to make things happen that don't come his way. … Not a pass rusher. He's a pure run stopping tough guy whose worth is his intangibles.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? His knees will keep him from ever being a reliable starter. He'll be a key backup and spot starter for the interior.

10. Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers 6-1, 240 Proj. 5
Positives: There's nothing flashy about what he does, but he makes plays. Makes the consistent stop against the run as a lunchpail type of defender on the inside. … Nice technique doing a lot of the little things right to make up for his shortcomings. Sound and solid. … Could move to the outside in a 4-3 if absolutely needed. He's built for the interior in a 3-4, but he could work on the strongside.

Negatives: Not a great athlete. He doesn't have sideline-to-sideline range and needs plays to come his way. … No room to get any bigger. He might be able to get up past 250, but it's going to be tough. He can't afford to lose any quickness. … Forget about pass coverage. He can stick on anyone out of the backfield.

Really, What's He Going To Do In The NFL? The potential is there to be a late round steal for a team looking for help against the run. If he's flanked by quicker defenders, he has a chance to find a niche.

 - 2013 CFN Pre-Combine ILB Rankings, No. 11 to 25