Mid-round MLB options plentiful for Vikings

The Vikings have no definitive starter returning at middle linebacker, but the draft should at least provide them with some competition. There are numerous Day 2 and Day 3 prospects that have a chance to start in the NFL. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage helps us sort through the options.

Vikings draft talk has been and will be dominated by quarterback prospects, but their biggest need on the team might be linebacker.

With Chad Greenway signed for two more years, he will occupy one of the three spots, but middle linebacker and one of the outside linebacker spots still present an open competition for the starter. Right now, the Vikings have plenty of candidates but no definitive starter at those positions.

Gerald Hodges is likely to compete for a starting spot on the outside. Jasper Brinkley, Michael Mauti and Audie Cole are all options at middle linebacker, but the Vikings are also likely to look to the draft to add more altnernatives.

Mauti and Cole were late-round selections – Mauti mostly because he was coming off his third surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament – but there are several options for the Vikings to consider in the middle rounds of the draft to offer additional competition in the middle.

In a recent Scout.com three-round publisher's mock draft, Viking Update selected BYU's Kyle Van Noy as an outside linebacker in the second round and UCLA's Jordan Zumwalt as an inside linebacker with the Vikings' second pick of the third round.

Zumwalt isn't the most athletic linebacker, but he showed great instincts and leadership skills at the Senior Bowl in January.

"I like him as a combination inside/outside backer. Really, really good football temperament. Understands that he'll have to play on special teams. Great attitude," said Phil Savage, the director of the Senior Bowl and former NFL scout and general manager. "I think he's a winner type that, initially, he's a backup and a glue-type role player and maybe there's enough in there for him to be a starter one day. I really like him as a guy who's part of putting your roster together."

Wisconsin's Chris Borland is more of a natural middle linebacker. He, too, was at the Senior Bowl and appeared to be one of those players that simply finds a way to the ball. He's only 5-foot-11½, which has some evaluators in NFL circles concerned.

"Chris is your classic inside backer in the 3-4 or the 4-3. Relies on his instincts, preparation. Really understands the game, fits up against the run very well, has a feel for defending the pass," Savage said. "I think Chris has got a lot of strong attributes. The biggest knock on him is going to be his height and his arm length (29¼ inches). That's problematic for some teams. He gets compared to Zach Thomas and London Fletcher. Zach Thomas was a fifth-round pick and London Fletcher was a free agent. People talk about Chris going no later than the second or third round. That's the hurdle people are going to have to get beyond is the lack of height. I don't think that matters; I'd be more concerned with the arm length at that position because it's been proven with guys like Sam Mills and London and Zach Thomas and even Ray Lewis to a degree."

Montana's Jordan Tripp has more prototypical size at 6-foot-3.

"I really like Jordan Tripp as a combination inside/outside backer," Savage said. "I think he had an understated week down there (at the Senior Bowl). He's a bit like a Zumwalt in that there's position flexibility plus he's going to play special teams. I think he's got a real good chance."

Stanford's Shayne Skov was considered one of the top middle linebackers heading into the offseason, but he wasn't at the Senior Bowl and didn't participate in the Scouting Combine or his pro day, apparently because of a calf injury.

LSU's Lamin Barrow is another of the top inside linebackers, but he too has some perplexed. He looks athletic enough to be better than he was.

"This is a player that didn't have a great senior year. He's added some weight since the season ended. He ran 4.6 at the Combine, which was good," Savage said. "There's something to Lamin Barrow that's more than what he showed on tape this year. I'd keep an eye on him."

The Vikings will have a lot of linebacker options as draft weekend plays out. They are expected to add competition at middle linebacker and the draft has plenty of Day 2 and Day 3 options from which to choose.


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

Viking Update Top Stories