Vikings looking at Brinkley’s replacement?

The Vikings have been interested in a draft prospect that could replace Jasper Brinkley in the middle of the defense. Get the full scouting report inside.

When Jasper Brinkley signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, it opened a hole in the middle of the Minnesota Vikings defense. He played in 42.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

So far, the Vikings have been quiet in addressing that need, at least in free agency. But, according to a source, Vikings personnel have been intently interested in Stephone Anthony, a middle linebacker prospect from Clemson who is expected to be a second-round pick.

Anthony started 35 of 52 games at middle linebacker for the Tigers, recording 330 tackles (210 solos), 34½ of those for losses, with 9½ sacks and 18 quarterback pressures. He also caused three fumbles, intercepted three passes and had 13 passes defensed.

Anthony’s 131 tackles in 2013 ranked 15th in Clemson history and were the most by a Tiger since Leroy Hill posted 145 hits in 2003. With 131 tackles as a junior and 90 as a senior, he became the 11th Clemson player to lead the team in tackles during multiple seasons.

Here is the scouting report on Anthony from NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas:

All media attention has been accorded Tigers rush end Vic Beasley, but Anthony is regarded by the staff and teammates as the defensive unit’s true MVP. Having started 35 times during his 52-game career, Anthony is the team’s active leader with 330 total tackles, the 23rd-best figure for major college players that competed in 2014. His 210 solo stops also rank ninth and 34.5 stops-for-loss placed tied for 15th among active FBS performers.

Anthony stepped into the starting lineup during the second half of his sophomore season, as he tallied 77 tackles that year. He followed with a career-high 132 hits in 2013, totaling 13½ stops behind the line of scrimmage on the way to All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. Named to the All-ACC team in 2014, he led the Tigers with 89 tackles, coming up with 10½ stops-for-loss, as four of his 11 QB pressures resulted in turnovers.

Anthony is a very athletic defender, showing the hip swerve and flexibility you find in a player that some teams might feel will be more advantageous as a weak-side outside linebacker, rather than performing as a classic middle linebacker. He shows suddenness in his initial move off the ball and gets to top speed quickly. He is very quick coming off the snap, staying low in his pads while generating quick lateral movements to string the plays wide. He has the natural ability to always anticipate the flow of the ball.

Anthony is a solid wrap-up tackler who extends his arms properly to stalk and secure. He is the type that collides with ball carriers upon initial contact and has the strength to shed blocks and stay on the ball. He shows ease of movement getting to the ball when working in space. He has the leg drive and strength to get the ball carrier on the ground instantly. He takes no wasted steps in transition and is quick to turn coming out of his backpedal.

The Tiger flips his hips properly and plays at a good pad level. He shows no stiffness in his turns and this allows him to drop off quickly. He stays focused throughout the play and knows his teammates’ assignments well enough to line up other players. He plays with savvy and knows what he’s doing on every down. He spends a lot of time watching film and preparing for the opponent, so much so, his defensive coordinator allowed him to be involved with coaches in their game planning.

Anthony plays at a low pad level, demonstrating good strength. He has enough hand strength to shed blocks quickly, doing a nice job of extending to keep blockers from attacking his body. He has the ease of movement agility to flow to the ball, staying at a proper pad level to extend, wrap and secure as a tackler. He constantly keeps his legs moving on contact, doing a nice job of driving the ball carrier back.

When he takes on blocks with his hands, he will generally separate and get off blocks quickly. Anthony takes good angles in pursuit and stays low in his pads to deliver a clean wrap-up tackle. He shows explosive acceleration when closing and has a natural flow in his backpedal. The thing you see on film is his ability to run through and around traffic. He gives great effort in pursuit and still plays under control to properly read and adjust to the flow of the ball.

Anthony uses his hands well, showing good strength to jolt and redirect tight ends on pass routes. He plays bigger than his size indicates, showing good physicality in his game. He uses his hands effectively to keep blockers off his feet and get around trash quickly. In man coverage, he has the quickness of a safety, as he can turn and run with most tight ends and running backs.

The senior looks natural maintaining position on the receiver when working underneath. His quick feet allow him to shadow even the speedier receivers on deep routes, doing a nice job of opening his hips to turn and run. He has more than enough redirection agility and flow to the ball quickness to cover tight ends and backs in the short area and always seems to be in position to make plays on the ball.

Against the outside run, few linebackers in college excel in this area like Anthony. He has the speed and burst to head off ball carriers along the corners. He is a smart player who stays in control, but also shows urgency in making the play. He has the range to make plays sideline to sideline. His change-of-direction skills let him cover large portions of the field. He runs to the ball well and has the hand usage to slip off passive blocks.

When he closes on the ball, he will usually take good angles. His speed is evident when he simply explodes and accelerates to close. He has that rare extra burst (do not look at his timed speed, he carries his pads well and plays much faster than even that impressive stop-watch time indicates) to get to the outside, maintaining balance and body control as he does an excellent job of avoiding trash and cut blocks.

Anthony would stay back more and wait for the play to come to him rather than blitz, as that was part of the Clemson scheme – push action inside and let their rush ends impact the backfield from the edges. Still, he generated 39 total tackles-for-loss (28 solos, 11 assists) and it is rare to see him get caught up vs. inside trash due.

The Tiger shows effort as a blitzer, but is more effective flowing to the ball than attacking from the back side (making him a nice fit at either the middle or the weak-side inside position). In limited opportunities to rush the passer, Anthony did show the speed to close and run down plays, but is better served finding the lanes and plugging those gaps.

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