After extensive analysis.....
I have come to the 'unquestionable' (remember that word please) determination that Kevin Minter is the best Inside Linebacker in this draft.
I preface my reasoning with the acknowledgment that Minter is not a true first round prospect (By true, I mean no doubt about it in any year). If Tavon Austin is off of the board by 32, Minter is certainly worth drafting in a trade back move.
The top three names that most have discussed at Inside Linebacker, are Alec Ogletree, Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter. Kevin Minter is the best pro prospect of the three.
I have found that much of Ogletree's high praise as an NFL prospect, comes from the reality that his athleticism translates better to the new passing league. However, that is where it ends for Ogletree.
Yes, Alec Ogletree is the best coverage prospect of the three. However, if he is asked to be a three down Inside Linebacker, it will be difficult for his best skills to shine, because he will struggle to get teams to those third downs and obvious passing situations. His technique needs a lot of work and, through extensive research, his character is not one that will lend itself to him working 'Raven hard' to improve it.
Coverage is his strength, but it's more or less his only one. He can line up against a TE spread wide in man coverage and can handle deeper drops into zone coverage than most ILBs. His ball skills are unquestioned and his instincts in coverage are much better than in run defense.
He is a 'reactive' run defender who plays like a man when he has a free run at the ball carrier. However, he plays way too high and lacks the explosion on the field that his athleticism should dictate. As a result, whenever he does make tackles, ball carriers tend to get that extra yard or two before going down.
Now, when he has to deal with taking on a blocker, he does not play with the same intensity.
1.) He is not powerful at the point of attack with blockers.
2.) He can't get off of them
3.) Many times, he will try to run around the block to get to the play, preferring to chase the play down from behind.
4.) He actually tends to give up on plays when he has to deal with getting off of good blocks.
The one move that he has against blockers is using his speed to angle himself in a way that he dips his shoulder and rips through to the ball carrier, if he can get a running start.
Again, he plays big when he's got a free run, but completely different when he can't bully his target. His effort is certainly in question.
His vision and instincts are lacking in run defense. He struggles to stay at home and, again, plays too 're-active', instead of pro active, dictating to the offense.
Along with his previous drinking issues and the word around town that he lied to front office guys in interviews at the combine, there is not much about him to rave about right now.
If you are looking at him as an ILB prospect, he is all athlete.
Oddly enough, the system that would best suit Ogletree, a converted safety (It shows in his tendencies), would be a Tampa 2/Cover 2 scheme.
Two teams that will be running that type of scheme in 2013 come to mind, Dallas and Cincinnati. Go figure.
As far as Manti Te'o is concerned, there are things to like and things not to like.
Effort is not a question with Te'o. He is always in pursuit of the play and is far from shy about taking on blockers. The instincts that people rave about, definitely show up on tape. Even in the Alabama game, he often had the right idea on the play.
In run defense, he is a more reliable tackler and stronger at the point of attack, with more power and better technique. His closing speed is notable as well, in short quarters. If you give him a short zone coverage, he can handle it. If you ask him to cover an RB out of the backfield, he can handle it. In all, Te'o does a very good job of playing his assignment. In run defense, he focuses on his hole, plugs it and forces RBs to go outside, instead of worrying about someone else's job.
Te'o's problems, on the field, are more 'coachable'. You can teach Ogletree how to properly take on a blocker, but you can't teach the desire to. You can't teach effort.
Now, while Te'o has the instincts to hang in coverage, his body just can't get him to where he needs to be more than about five or so yards down the field. While he embraces taking on blockers, he struggles to shed them. He doesn't do very well using his hands to deal with them. He tries to power through them upon impact and when that does not work, the problems come. As many plays as Te'o made last year, he left many on the field, because he tends to lunge and lower his helmet when homing in on a target. Particularly, in the backfield. Again, coachable problems.
What isn't coachable is this developing tendency of his to make excuses for what is going on around him. When you think he is past the hoax, he uses the rigors of getting up for the combine and all surrounding it as a reason for his poor forty yard dash time. He claims that, leading up to the combine, he was running in the 4.5s/4.6s. The 4.5 definitely does not show up on tape. He did, however, shed significant weight for the combine.
That tells me one of two things. Either he is a dishonest person who lacks accountability or he doesn't handle pressure well. Neither one translates well to the NFL and the Ravens in particular.
Kevin Minter is the better of the three, albeit not by a significant margin. However, as they say, this is a game of inches.
Like Te'o, Minter is stronger at the point of attack. Also, his vision and instincts are very good in run defense. He has the ability to see where the play is going, get there and stop it where it stands, much like Te'o. His ability to shed blocks is where Minter begins to separate himself. Minter has a better understanding of leverage in his game, and also shows a better use of his hands to get off of blocks and still get to the ball carrier at that. He also has a spin move that he sometimes uses well, although he could use some coaching on when to use it.
His tackling is a little better than Te'o's and more reliable.
In coverage, he handles zone coverage well, although his ball skills are lacking. Unless it is tipped or thrown right to him, he will not get you many interceptions. He too does a good job of playing his assignment and staying in his gaps, forcing backs to bounce off tackle if they want yardage.
His pursuit on the field displays more athleticism than you see in shorts, chasing more mobile QBs. His instincts are better deeper down the field in zone coverage. Whereas, Te'o tends to become stagnant after a certain point, Minter remains active.
Minter's game best translates to the responsibilities of Ray Lewis' spot. He is the more versatile of the three ILBs and is a day one starter at Ray's spot if drafted. Te'o is not a bad prospect, but better suited for the responsibilities of Ellerbe's spot. Ogletree really doesn't fit the system here.
Now, you also have an ILB like Kevin Reddick from Duke, who is another guy better suited for Ellerbe's role. He is a safe pick who may not wow you, but will play his assignment well.
Arthur Brown is another intriguing prospect, but his vision is lacking and, while he's scheme diverse, you would not get the most out of him by keeping him at ILB. I can see why analysts are torn between where to place him. When I looked at the tape, I saw a guy who is indeed better suited in the 4-3 as an Outside backer.
The guy to watch out for later in this draft, who is now my second favorite ILB prospect in this draft, is another scheme diverse talent whose athleticism at the combine definitely showed up on tape. That would be Sio Moore.
Sio Moore may not be as fluid in his movements on the field as Kevin Minter, but he may have the best feet of any ILB in this draft. However, he's still plenty fluid and, for starters, is another guy who is not shy about taking on blockers. He does a decent job of using his quick feet and quick hands to move in and out of blocks. The only problem with him is that he lacks upper body strength on tape, and could use a little more power in his lower half. So, when blockers get their hands firm on him, they can put him on his back. A small problem for a prospect with his potential.
The man is a heat seeking missile when he diagnoses where the run play is going. I mean, really, the man can do it all. He can blitz, although he could use some work on his edge rush. He tends to get pushed up field. He can defend the run. He can drop into a zone coverage and he can cover in the slot. His ball skills are very good as well. He tackles with good form and his explosiveness lends itself to authoritative hits.
Now, he is a guy who could develop into a three down inside backer in a year or so, who is also used in space for coverage purposes.
For example, if the Ravens were to draft Minter, I could see them taking Moore later in the draft. Both would make this team, in my opinion, without question.
So, if you want to monitor Minter's snaps to help against the 'rookie wall', Moore is a guy who could come in on third down and be an asset. He would be an instant upgrade in coverage.
I know that we all want better coverage linebackers. Let's just remember that Ravens defense is at it's best when it forces teams to be one dimensional. When teams enter the stadium with the thought in their mind that they aren't even going to bother with trying to run the ball. If you put together a linebacker group of Suggs, Ellerbe, Minter and Upshaw, that is as good as you are likely going to get in run defense. The obvious hole would be at NT and it remains to be seen how Ozzie will fill it.
Minter is not a complete liability in coverage and his athleticism is better on tape than in shorts.
Moore is a guy that I would take regardless.
Last edited by The Excellector; 02-28-2013 at 06:50 AM.
"Please take with you this final sword, The Excellector. I am praying that your journey will be guided by the light", Leon Shore