Inside linebacker went from minor concern to glaring need for the Baltimore Ravens because of one bad decision. Given the outlook of their roster, should they take a serious look at Kevin Minter in the NFL Draft?
Rolando McClain will never get to prove if he could replace Ray Lewis
Ozzie Newsome knew he had to do something. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, it was a given that Ray Lewis would retire. That was bad enough. However, when Baltimore also lost Dannelle Ellerbe to free agency it created a big problem at inside linebacker. That is why the Ravens GM rolled the dice on the discarded Rolando McClain from Oakland. His time with the Raiders was marked by off-the-field problems and heated confrontations with the coaches. His talent was one of the few things nobody doubted despite his struggles on the field. That is what Newsome gambled on, hoping head coach John Harbaugh could whip the young man into shape. Sadly it seems that won’t get a chance to happen. McClain burned his opportunity early when police arrested him for disorderly conduct in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama. A clause in his contract with Baltimore stated he needed to stay out of trouble. That hasn’t happened. With his stay likely over, has linebacker become top priority for the Ravens in the draft?
Minter may have a leg up on Manti Te’o and Alec Ogletree in the draft
Linebacker in fact is one of the more interesting positions to watch heading into draft day. It is a deep area in terms of talent but doesn’t have any elite types. None offer more intrigue than the inside linebackers. Alec Ogletree of Georgia holds the torch of being the most talented. His rare blend of size and speed make him an excellent choice for covering the middle of the field. However, like McClain he has concerns about his history off-the-field. Manti Te’o of Notre Dame came without a few votes of the Heisman trophy and took his Fighting Irish to the national title game on the strength of seven interceptions. Then a horrific championship performance and the famed “fake girlfriend” hoax took some nasty shots to his draft stock, leaving some to wonder if he has the athletic and mental prowess to succeed in the pros. One player that hasn’t gotten as much attention is LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. While he doesn’t have ideal size for his position, he does have other key qualities including speed, instinct, lateral quickness and above all the ability to tackle. He also has leadership qualities teams covet. While Ogletree has the upside and Te’o had the better college season, Minter may prove the most worthy investment of the post Ray Lewis era.
The Baltimore Ravens pride their NFL draft ways on finding value in hidden places. Kevin Minter won’t catch headlines, but unlike Rolando McClain, he can play football the right way.
Photo Credit – Beyond the Combine