Kiper assesses early 4-3 LB possibilities

As the Vikings consider their options with Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley scheduled to be free agents, ESPN's Mel Kiper gave his opinion on a few inside and outside linebackers in the early rounds of April's draft.

The Vikings face a somewhat unique situation this offseason at linebacker. Two-thirds of their starting crew at the position is scheduled for free agency.

Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, coming off his first full season as a starter, is at the end of his rookie contract that he signed in 2009.

Outside linebacker Erin Henderson signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract last year in free agency and is headed for unrestricted free agency if he and the Vikings don't work out an extension before that.

The Vikings didn't invest a lot in either of them. Henderson was an unrestricted free agent when he entered the league and worked his way up from a fringe roster player trying to catch on with special teams to a full-time starter. Brinkley was a fifth-round draft pick.

But with both of them scheduled to hit the open market, the Vikings could be looking to invest in the position in April's draft.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper mentioned a few possibilities for 4-3 linebackers in the 2013 draft during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Khaseem Greene (6-1, 234, Rutgers): Greene did it all at Rutgers, averaging just over 10 tackles per game (including 22 against Army) and added 5½ sacks, two interceptions and had a fumble returned for a touchdown. He is fast, athletic and a reliable tackler.

Arthur Brown (6-1, 228, Kansas State): After transferring from Miami (Fla.) because he wasn't playing much, Brown hit his stride at Kansas State, garnering 110 tackles (9½ for a loss), two sacks and an interception in 2011. In 2012, he had 100 tackles, one sack and two interceptions in the regular season.

Kiper says: "Arthur Brown played inside at Kansas State, will project outside in the NFL because of the size situation for him. All Arthur Brown did was make play after play. That's the brother of Bryce Brown with the Philadelphia Eagles."

As for inside linebackers, Kiper also mentioned a few early-round possibilities there:

Kevin Minter (6-1, 245, LSU): He opted to leave school early after making 130 tackles (15 for loss) and four sacks in 2012.

Kiper says: "The guy that's moved up a lot is Kevin Minter from LSU. Was a tackling machine. He was kind of like Luke Kuechly was two years ago. That's what Kevin Minter was this year at LSU. I think he could be a great pick for Baltimore at the end of the first round."

Kevin Reddick (6-2, 240, North Carolina): In his senior season, he 85 tackles and 6½ sacks.

Kiper says: "Inside-wise, Kevin Redick of North Carolina I think is the third-round possibility."

Jon Bostic (6-1, 246, Florida): In his senior season, he had 67 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

Kiper says: "Jonathan Bostick had a lot of big hits. Rangy linebacker at Florida, so there's a lot of guys like that this year that, depending upon the schemes, are going to draw a lot of interest."

The Vikings will almost certainly draft at least one linebacker, no matter what they do in free agency. For now, the only thing guaranteed is that Chad Greenway will return as one of the three starters. Beyond that, the youth infusion could be implemented at linebacker.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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