Kevin Minter is one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft, due in large part to a breakout 2012 season in which he registered 111 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks.
Minter is an instinctual linebacker who sees and anticipates plays. He’s frequently a step ahead of the other defenders on the field, rarely getting fooled by a play-fake. Minter’s aggressive, downhill style of play is certainly a positive, although he can over-pursue at times, leaving cutback lanes.
At 6’1’’, 245 pounds, Minter is a somewhat short, well-built linebacker who is strong at the point-of-attack. He takes on blocks as opposed to running through them, and he does a really good job of fighting through traffic to make plays. He’s also one of the best blitzing inside linebackers in this class.
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Minter’s primary weakness is that he’s not an incredible athlete. He’s not going to impress anyone with his 40-yard dash time or vertical leap. That lack of elite athleticism can show up in coverage. While Minter is a really intelligent player who understands coverages and does a good job of positioning himself to make plays, he’s not going to succeed running down the seam with today’s top tight ends. He’s better in zone than man.
Minter made a number of key, game-changing plays at LSU in 2012, and that’s something that actually scares me. While certain players can obviously be bigger play-makers than others, the timing of those plays is generally random. A lot of Minter’s best plays came in clutch situations—but that’s probably due more to luck than any “clutch” factor of Minter’s—and I’m afraid people might weigh those plays too heavily when grading the linebacker. In short, Minter might be overvalued because of something that might not be repeatable.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Spikes
Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes is a bit taller than Minter and the LSU linebacker is a superior athlete, but both players’ skills sets are made to excel playing the run and to “get by” in coverage.
Minter could very well get selected in the back of the first round. That’s too high for a linebacker who doesn’t necessarily cover well and one who will test as poorly as Minter. Minter can certainly be a productive football player—and I do think he’s going to record a bunch of tackles in the NFL—but you can find productive linebackers in each of the first few rounds of the draft.
Fit In Dallas
If Minter were to come to Dallas, he’d play the “Sam” position on the strong side of their 4-3 defense. I actually think he’d be a good fit there because he’s stout against the run and could occasionally blitz off the edge. Adding Minter to a linebacker corps that already includes two of the league’s best tacklers could give the ‘Boys the best 4-3 linebacker trio in the NFL. If Minter falls to the Cowboys’ pick in the second round, which is certainly possible, he’d be worth a look. His weaknesses could be covered up on the strong side.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.