Monday, March 2, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "jasper brinkley"

jasper brinkley

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

With the fee agency flurry leaving the Vikings roster somewhat shaken up there is one glaring need that sticks out above the rest at this moment.  Sure, cornerback and wide receiver need to be a point of emphasis.  Defensive tackle could still use some work.  There is one need, however, that seems quite a bit more desperate than the others.

Jasper Brinkley has signed with Arizona while Marvin Mitchell remains a free agent.  That means the position is virtually unfilled at this point and could potentially be a first round priority during the NFL Draft.

So far, Manti Te’o is the only other middle linebacker we have profiled in this series, but we will certainly be filling you in on plenty of other prospects at the position prior to Draft Weekend.  Today, I want to take a look at LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who many Vikings fans have on their wish list for April.

Minter became a starter at LSU in 2011 after his predecessor, Kelvin Sheppard, was drafted in the third round.  His first season was pretty pedestrian, really, as he started 11 of 14 games to rack up 61 tackles.  Of those, 3.5 were for a loss, he had one sack, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.  In 2011, Minter was barely a guy one noticed on the star studded LSU defense that included Morris Claiborne and a handful of guys that could easily be drafted ahead of him this year.

In 2012, that all changed as Minter not only became noticeable within the LSU defense, he was named LSU’s Most Valuable Player and seemed like he was All-Everything following the season.  He was certainly more productive, having started all 13 games and notching 130 tackles, 15 for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble, five defended passes, and an interception.  He still had considerable talent around him, but he seemed to be elevating their play this season, not the other way around.

Minter measured into the NFL’s Scouting Combine at 6′ 0″ and 246 pounds.  He didn’t exactly tear it up with his 4.81 second forty yard dash or his 25 bench press reps, but he looked to be the same guy you saw on tape, for better and for worse.

He looks to be a very intelligent football player who sniffs out screens, shows great diagnostic abilities, and solid gap discipline.  Combine that with a knack for getting around, or through, blockers and you have a Mike backer that just always seems to be in the right place at the right time on running plays.

Minter is a very good run defender and would instantly make things tough on opposing running backs looking to stay between the tackles.  He is an excellent tackler, perhaps the best in this Draft class, and is going to add a lot of consistency in the middle to the team that drafts him.  The ability to crush a ball carrier, however, might be his best attribute when it comes to defending the pass.

I don’t mean to say that Minter is a completely inept pass defender (he isn’t), but my game plan as a coach certainly wouldn’t revolve around matching him up against a guy like Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski.  In fact, my game plan would try to make sure that happened as little as possible.

He’s a big man that plays big, but he is also of moderate speed and it shows in coverage.  He is a plodder that can look awkward trying to shadow a running back or provide zone coverage of a slot receiver   He is, in a lot of ways, a lot like what we saw out of Jasper Brinkley during the 2012 season as far as coverage goes.  He is going to struggle sticking with just about any various type of route runner, but will occasionally be able to deliver a jarring hit after the catch.

Minter is already a grade “A” run stopper, and could continue to develop his pass defending via some good coaching, and is a capable blitzer.  He possesses the physical skills to be a middle linebacker in the 4-3 scheme and makes enough big plays to make him very intriguing.

I do think that he is best suited for the 4-3 and that scouts will recognize this.  This might limit the number of teams that place him higher up on their draft boards.  The NFL Advisory committee reportedly gave him a third round grade when he was deciding whether or not to stay at LSU for another year.  Many draftniks have him grading out as a late first round talent, however.

I worry greatly that the Vikings will burn one of their first round picks on a two down linebacker, and I worry that Minter will be a two down linebacker throughout his NFL career.  Thus, I can’t say that I would be real supportive of them taking him at 23 or 25.  However, he has a skill set that is attractive enough, and if they can trade back a bit, or if he is somehow still on the board in the second round when they are on the clock, then I think he could represent a solid addition to the middle of the Vikings defense.

It has been pretty evident that the Vikings were more than willing to move on into the future without linebacker Jasper Brinkley on the roster.  Now, Brinkley has made certain that’ll be the case by moving on himself.

Brinkley visited with the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent, and on Thursday he chose the Cardinals.

According to PFT, Brinkley signed a two year deal with Arizona, and the Vikings are currently without a middle linebacker.

For those keeping track at home, the Vikings have lost one player (Brinkley) but have not signed any unrestricted free agents that would count against their 2014 compensatory draft pick formula.  Matt Cassel won’t count against the formula because he wasn’t an unrestricted free agent, he was cut.

The Vikings let most of their pending free agents enter the three-day negotiating period without contracts in hand, but they were active on Monday re-signing a number of the top ones.

The latest Viking to re-up with the team is fullback Jerome Felton who helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson’s legendary 2012 season.

“Thanks to MN VIKINGS!!” Felton told the Twitter world.  “I’m back and excited about the future!!!!”

The fourth exclamation point really helped me realize he means it when he says he’d excited.

Linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Marvin Mitchell and Erin Henderson, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, and wide out Devin Aromashodu are the only remaining Vikings left unsigned.

UPDATE:  The deal is reportedly for three years and worth up to $7.5 million, according to PFT.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

The Vikings are less than two days away from free agency and they have yet to resign any of their own pending free agents.  On offense, they stand to take a big step backwards if they lose Phil Loadholt, Jerome Felton, and maybe even Percy Harvin all at once.  Those are roles that would be tough to fill all at once, let alone upgrade.

On defense, however, the Vikings have three guys that have started games for them that are set to be free agents and it is hard to picture replacements being any major step back.  In fact, when it comes to Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, and Jamarca Sanford I think the Vikings could conceivably upgrade each spot without too much trouble and without over-investing.  It may not come to that, as each player still seems possible to return, but the Vikings have to look for new linebacker talent regardless.

There are a number of linebackers at the top of the draft class that generate a significant amount of buzz, but each comes with red flags that can’t ignored, such as Manti Te’o’s bizarre girlfriend saga and Alec Ogletree’s DUI.  Arthur Brown seems to be quite popular with some fans, but I don’t know that I would want to spend a first round pick on a guy that might not be a three down player for the Vikings, and I do worry that it is the case with him.

Later on in the Draft, however, it is more excusable to select a linebacker that might have some question marks or maybe isn’t going to be a full time player.  Especially at weakside linebacker, manned by Erin Henderson these last few years, when two downs is possibly all that will be expected anyways.

When it comes to a guy that I think could prove to be a clear upgrade over Henderson, especially in coverage, that can be found a little later in the Draft I have to say that I have a crush on Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore.

For a while I thought I would end up writing this post as a “sleeper” feature that brought attention to a damn fine football player that was largely being ignored.  Then Moore had himself a dandy week during the East-West Shrine Game and lit it up at the NFL Scouting Combine, so the cat is out of the bag, and most are projecting him as a solid second or third round pick.

At 6′ 1″ and 245 pounds, Moore isn’t the biggest linebacker you’ll find, but he brings a rare combination of speed and strength to his game that Vikings could certainly use.  If their primary objective with their linebackers is to improve in coverage, which it should be, then Moore could be the perfect fit as evidenced by his 11 pass breakups in 2012.

At the Combine he was among the top performers in a number of categories including the forty yard dash (4.65 seconds), the bench press (29 reps), the vertical jump (38″), and the broad jump (127″).  His smaller frame is going to worry some personnel decision makers, but that bench press total was good for second place in Indianapolis, and indicates that he is actually as strong as he looks on tape.

Moore shows that he knows how to use his strength to shed blocks and rush the passer.  While he is already a good coverage linebacker, that strength also gives him an advantage here, as he is fairly proficient at jamming and rerouting bigger receivers and tight ends at the line of scrimmage, which makes everyone’s job easier on defense including his.

As a senior (he redshirted as a freshman) Moore actually saw his lowest tackle totals of his career (72) but was clearly better in all phases of the game, as evidenced by the increase of production in all other major statistical categories.  His 7.5 sacks and 11 passes defended were career highs, while his 15.5 tackles for a loss were only 0.5 away from his 2011 total.  Moore uses sound fundamentals while tackling and is usually going to make the stop, but does sometimes struggle with an agile ball carrier one-on-one in the open field.

The Liberian-born Moore is known as a disciplined and instinctive football player that works hard and is quick to diagnose a play.  He will benefit from being coached up at the NFL level, as he could increase his arsenal of moves and learn to use his hands better, but he is certainly a well-rounded prospect that should succeed on special teams from the get-go and move up the ranks fairly quickly.

Moore’s small frame is going to be his most worrisome trait, as many feel it limits his upside, but we have seen plenty of players defy these odds in the past.  We have seen talented linebackers fall in the Draft before because they are thought to be best suited for the 4-3, so the Vikings could be making a solid addition if they grab Moore in the second round, but get an absolute steal if he is available in third or fourth.

Below is some game tape (not highlights) of Moore at work.  For fun though, I suggest you go to YouTube and search his name.  He has a number of entertaining videos posted that display his strength in interesting ways.  If you like Joe Webb’s jump-over-the-mats video, then you are sure to like some of Moore’s videos, as well.

 

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks,tight ends, centers, guards, offensive tackles, wide receivers, safeties, and cornerbacks.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Outside of Chad Greenway on the strong side, the Vikings have reached somewhat of a crossroads at the linebacker position.  Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were not the world’s best starters at their respective positions in 2012, and each are scheduled to be free agents next month along with backup Marvin Mitchell.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings re-signed one or both of their starters at some point this offseason, but there are also plenty of opportunities to think about outside of the current roster.  The Draft has some interesting prospects, but free agency also contains some plausible options:

Top Tier

Perhaps the best linebacker set to be a free agent is one coming from our rivals in Green Bay.  Brad Jones filled in very well for the injured Desmond Bishop last season, and it is clear that he should remain a starter somewhere.  He could be a solid fit for the Vikings in the middle, and stealing from a divisional foe is always and added bonus.

It can be hard to spot decent individual talent on the Riaders, but weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler earned himself a decent contract by sticking out during Oakland’s miserable season.

The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis is a goner, so that makes it even more crucial to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe, who was one of the NFL’s better linebackers this season.

With the starting duo staying healthy this season Larry Grant of the Niners did not get to see extensive action like he did in 2011.  Still, if Grant can go elsewhere and play like he did two seasons ago as a starter, then he will soon be name hear a lot about.

Get Social

2,360FansLike
4,143FollowersFollow