2013 Draft Countdown: Linebackers
Not elite, but serviceable
Like so many other normally high-profile positions in the draft, the linebacker crew is in a relatively down year. It’s not a group devoid of talent, merely one devoid of elite “can’t miss” (for what that’s worth) talent. Jarvis Jones, an OLB from Georgia, and Manti Te’o, an ILB from Notre Dame (you may have heard of him), are at the head of the class.
Patriots pecking order
The Patriots need some depth here. They have the guys they need for the 4-3 they ran much of last year – Brandon Spikes in the middle, Dont'a Hightower on the strong side, Jero Mayo on the weak side, Dane Fletcher as the coverage linebacker – but they have nobody behind them. Expect this to be an area the Patriots attack whether in the draft, with the UDFA class or in dump-picking over the veteran free agents after the draft. Also in the mix: Niko Koutouvides
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Jones put a ton of tape out there for the Bulldogs that showed he should be a top-15 pick. But he didn’t work out at the Combine and then underwhelmed at his pro day and now experts see him dropping a bit on draft day. Jones’ pass rush ability as an OLB is seen to be outstanding, though, so he probably won’t get past 20.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Incredibly productive on-field. Incredibly naïve, it would seem, off of it. Teo had 103 tackles and seven picks last year for the Irish, winning almost every major defensive honor in the postseason. Played poorly in the National Championship game, had the fake dead girlfriend issue and didn’t set the world afire at the Combine. Still, he’s probably the best ILB prospect and – despite a tough 2013 – should be a starter in the league.
Alec Ogletree, Georgia
A 6-3, 242 pound weakside linebacker who has outstanding athleticism and a couple of brushes with the law (including a DUI during the predraft process) that will make teams wary of his maturity. Speed and coverage ability make him a guy who can stay on the field in all situations.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State
The Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Brown is a little small – 6-feet, 241 – but projects as a productive weakside linebacker with good speed, intensity and leadership potential.
Kevin Minter, LSU
At 6-0, 246, Minter was very productive as a middle linebacker for the Tigers (130 tackles) and a player who finds the ball and gets plays stopped. Can operate in coverage.
Kiko Alonso, Oregon
The Patriots would be in the market for a backup or possible successor to Spikes in the middle. Ogletree could be a value pick in the first three rounds if he drops because of his off-field stupidity. Kiko Alonso of Oregon, Stanford’s Chase Thomas, Sio Moore from Connecticut and Khaseem Greene from Rutgers could be later-round options if the Patriots add mid-round picks.