Quickly Improving LB Gets Vikings Interest

Although the Vikings don't have a pressing need at the position, they were investigating the possibilities of at least one linebacker at the Senior Bowl.

The Vikings were spotted setting up interviews or talking to about a dozen players at the January's Senior Bowl, but immediate team needs had little to do with which players they interviewed.

Linebacker was a solid and consistent position for the Vikings in 2007, as Ben Leber (on the strong side), E.J. Henderson (in the middle) and Chad Greenway (on the weak side) made all the starts at the linebacker position and performed admirably. But when it comes to successful drafts, need doesn't always trump picking a talented player.

One player the Vikings were talking to at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., was Georgia Tech's Gary Guyton, a quickly improving linebacker over the last year.

Guyton's first three seasons with the Yellow Jackets were hardly stunning. In his first season, he played sparingly and tallied only two tackles. In 2005, he started only one game and had 19 tackles, including one for a loss and a sack. Even his junior season didn't portend an NFL career, as he made 12 starts but had only 29 tackles – eight for losses and one sack. However, his collegiate career blossomed quickly in his senior season, when he switched from the strong side of the Yellow Jackets defense to the weak side. When the conference games started, Guyton's production ballooned. He ended 2007 with 78 tackles, 13.5 for losses. Maybe even more impressive was a sudden propensity for the sack late in the season. In three consecutive games, he registered 1.5, three and one sacks.

In January, his performance at the East-West Shrine game earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl the following week, where the 6-foot-3, 242-pounder finished as the South team's second-leading tackler.

But even with his impressive senior season, Guyton may end up being a late-round draft choice or even an undrafted free agent, according to some draft analysts. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl when it was learned that Miami linebacker Tarvares Gooden wouldn't play or practice.

One deficiency, according to NFL Draft Scout, is that Guyton lacks in coverage skills. "Guyton is not particularly swift getting back into coverage in drills, and it shows by his not being able to cut off the inside curl," they said in one analysis. "He also lacks the change of direction to quickly come forward when the ball is in the flat.

In high school, Guyton was named one of the top 50 players in Georgia by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and in the top 100 by Scout.com, but making the move to the professional level may not come easy. He generally isn't considered one of the top 10 linebackers in the draft, so it's possible he may have to prove himself with a post-draft rookie free-agent contract.

With potential losses in the depths of the linebacker corps in free agency, the Vikings might end up being a team interested in Guyton's services. The Vikings' best special teams coverage man the last few years has been Heath Farwell, who is scheduled to become a free agent, and the team could lose Dontarrious Thomas to free agency this year if they don't get him signed to an extension before the start of free agency.

What happens with those two players could determine just how much interest the Vikings have in a player like Guyton, but at least now they know more about him after visiting with him at the Senior Bowl.


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