Scout Talk: Top Middle Linebackers
The middle linebacker class will look a lot different if Alabama’s C.J. Mosely and Georgia’s Alec Ogletree leave school early and enter the draft. Both are expected to be first round picks. There is some quality in the rest of the group, but not much quantity.
1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, 6-2, 255. Scouts say he really has helped his stock with a strong senior season. He has gone from a late first round pick to a high first round pick with excellent production and improved instincts. Te’o is a physical linebacker who can play downhill or laterally. He also is pretty fluid in coverage. He is the complete package.
2. Kiko Alonso, Oregon, 6-3, 242. He might be a strong side linebacker or a middle linebacker in a 4-3, and at least some 3-4 teams see him as an inside linebacker. Alonso is pretty strong at the point, and sudden in his movements. He is instinctive and he plays hard. He is not the greatest athlete, but he is productive.
3. Arthur Brown, Kansas State, 6-1, 230. This is an athletic linebacker who will fit into a fast-flow defense that protects the backers. Brown avoids blockers well. This Miami transfer could be an outside linebacker as well, as he is undersized for the middle in most schemes. One front office man said he questions Brown’s instincts.
4. Shane Skov, Stanford, 6-2, 245. He is a physical, point of attack defender who can excel against the run. He is coming off a knee injury that makes him difficult to evaluate. One scout said Skov lost flexibility and mobility and isn’t as effective in space since his injury. His stock will likely be affected as a result.
5. Michael Mauti, Penn State. 6-1, 235. He has some knee issues that are going to drop his stock, but the tape on Mauti is impressive. He is a strong player at the point who also can slip blocks. He can drop. His instincts are keen. His father Rich Mauti played in the NFL.
6. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina, 6-2, 240. A very productive college player, Reddick has range and athleticism. He can get off blockers and has some blitzing ability. He is not the most physical linebacker.
7. Nico Johnson, Alabama, 6-2, 245. He has lost some playing time this year but still should have an NFL future. Johnson can get off blocks and find the football. He has good instincts. His speed is average, but he plays physically.
8. Jon Bostic, Florida, 6-1, 246. Bostic is a consistent player who makes a lot of tackles. He is tough and physical, and a good run defender. He has played well in 2012 and improved his draft stock.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com