Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 4/20/13
Today is the tenth day of two weeks of Minnesota Vikings coverage leading up to the April 25 beginning of the NFL Draft. April 12: Five best draft moments in the past 25 years April 13: Five worst draft moments in the past 25 years April 14: Quarterbacks position preview April 15: Running backsfullbacks position previewApril 16: Offensive tackles position previewApril 17:Guardscenters position previewApril 18:Tight ends position preview April 19:Wide receivers position previewApril 20:Defensive linemen position previewToday:Linebackers position preview April 22:Cornerbacks position preview April 23:Safeties position preview April 24:Rick Spielman's draft strategy April 25:Forecasting the first-round picks TODAY'S POSITION: LINEBACKERS Importance (1-to-10 scale): 8 On the roster Linebacker is arguably the weakest position on the Vikings' roster. It is inarguably the only spot left that lacks a starter. Minnesota re-signed Erin Henderson, so the two outside starters return. Last year's middle linebacker, Jasper Brinkley, signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent. Going into the offseason, it was likely that the Vikings would only re-sign one of Brinkley and Henderson, and they brought back Henderson, who has developed into a starter after being an undrafted free agent out of Maryland. Last year, Henderson had 112 tackles while starting on the weakside. Chad Greenway led the team with 191 tackles as the strongside linebacker and has been to two straight Pro Bowls. Greenway is one of Minnesota's defensive leaders. The middle becomes a question with Brinkley going to Arizona. Brinkley was a full-time starter for the first time last year after replacing E.J. Henderson. Right now the starter in the middle would either be Audie Cole, who played very little defense in his rookie season last year, or veteran Marvin Mitchell. Cole spent most of his time on special teams after being drafted in the seventh round. Mitchell is a journeyman who started two games last year while Henderson was out with an injury. He's was re-signed mostly to provide a veteran backup and play specials teams. Larry Dean, who has played mostly special teams the past two years, is also on the roster. Last five linebackers drafted 2012: Audie Cole, North Carolina State: seventh round (210nd overall) -- still with Vikings 2011: Ross Homan, Ohio State: sixth round (200th overall) -- released, September 2011, out of the NFL 2010: Nate Triplett, Minnesota: fifth round (167th overall) -- released, August 2010, out of the NFL 2010: Ryan D'Imperio, Rutgers: seventh round (237th overall) -- moved to fullback, released Aug. 31, 2012; currently with the Kansas City Chiefs 2009: Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina: fifth round (150th overall) -- signed with the Arizona Cardinals on March 14 Philosophy at the position Minnesota needs a starter and will likely have to grab one early if they want to solve the position. Chad Greenway is the only linebacker the Vikings have selected in the first round in the past 15 drafts. Henderson was undrafted and Brinkley was a fifth-rounder. The last linebacker taken in the first three rounds besides Greenway was Dontarrious Thomas, a second-rounder in 2004. Minnesota took linebackers in the second round in three straight drafts (E.J. Henderson in 2003 and Raonall Smith in 2002). Thomas and Smith were busts. Greenway is one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the league and Henderson is a solid starter. In the middle, the Vikings need a player able to stop the run, but also drop back into coverage in the team's Cover-2 system. Greenway and Henderson both played nickel linebacker last year, but Minnesota likely could add competition for Henderson as a nickel linebacker. Day 1 name to remember (Round 1) Alec Ogletree, junior, Georgia (6-2, 242). Everyone knows about Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, and he could be a definite possibility for the Vikings, but many believe Ogletree is the best prospect among inside linebackers in the draft. Ogletree comes with his issues though, which could mean he slides down the first round. Ogletree reportedly failed a drug test while at Georgia he was suspended the first four games of last season for a violation of team rules and then was charged with a DUI a week before the Scouting Combine in February. He was also arrested and charged with theft as a freshman at Georgia. No other draft-eligible players at linebacker have the physical gifts that Ogletree does, though. A former safety, he's one of the best athletes at the position. He has great speed and quickness, and can chase down plays from behind. Ogletree likely could play any of the three linebacker spots in Minnesota's defense, as well as be a prototype nickel linebacker. He likely needs to get stronger and learn how to take on blocks. He missed six games in 2011 because of a broken foot. The Vikings haven't been shy about taking on players with off-field issues in the back half of drafts and it's paid off with successes like Randy Moss and Percy Harvin. Is Ogletree the next character concern that ends up rewarding Minnesota? Ogletree says: "I'm a good person at heart. Everybody makes mistakes. I feel real bad about the situation (and) I'm learning from it and I'm moving forward." Day 2 name to remember (Rounds 2-3) Jon Bostic, senior, Florida (6-1, 245). Kansas State's Arthur Brown would fit Minnesota's needs well, but he likely will be gone before the Vikings pick at No. 52 overall in the second round. He could be an option if Minnesota chooses to trade back from one of their picks in the first round. However, sticking where they are at, the Vikings might find their middle linebacker of the future in Bostic. Bostic was a two-year starter for Florida and turned into one of the team's leaders. While he lacks the height of many middle linebackers, he's thickly built and strong. He really flashed at the Scouting Combine by running a 4.61-second 40-yard dash. He has good coverage skills and awareness in being able to drop as a middle linebacker into coverage, but he can really attack in run defense and in sniffing out the screen game. He had five interceptions at Florida. He's considered a big hitter both in the run game and to receivers going over the middle of the defense. Bostic has a tendency to overrun plays. Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7) Kiko Alonso, senior, Oregon (6-3, 238). Alonso is another player with off-the-field concerns. He missed the 2010 season because of a team suspension for a DUI arrest. Reportedly, he missed the season opener in 2011 because he was arrested in the spring for breaking into an apartment and passing out while intoxicated. On the field, he is a versatile player with the ability to play middle or outside in a 4-3 system. He has good speed and is said to have good awareness when dropping into coverage. Alonso is considered a high-effort player and plays with intensity. He will need to get stronger to not be overwhelmed by blockers and will need to learn how to disengage from blockers and still make a play. The off-field issues could push him into the third day of the draft, where he could develop into a good Cover-2 starting linebacker if he's able to avoid any further issues. FOXSports.com's draft expert Taylor Jones says: "Everyone kind of within the back third of this draft is in the inside linebacker market. Is there a run on Ogletree, Te'o, (LSU's Kevin) Minter, those are the three guys you can see going in the first round. All are a little bit different. Ogletree, I think, has the most athletic upside. Don't get me wrong, I think Teo's a great athlete, but I think he's been slammed for not being a great athlete because he hasn't tested so well. But (Te'o) is the most fluid and comfortable looking player on tape of all three of those guys. It's kind of one of those things where you have to say, Combine, Pro Day aside, the guy's just a good football player. I don't care what his measurements were. "The girlfriend hoax aside, I'd rather have that sort of off-the-field issue than somebody who is buying drugs and getting arrested for beating their wife and girlfriend. A girlfriend hoax, for me, is easier to handle than the other. Kevin Minter, he's more of a traditional middle linebacker, which I think hurts him a little bit because he's more of that run-stuffing thumper type of player. Whereas in the NFL now and how its ever-changing into an offensive-minded game with multiple receiver sets and spread offenses, you've got to be able to be able to rush the passer from the middle linebacker position and you've got to be able to drop back both in man and zone. I think Te'o and Ogletree do that a little bit better, actually a lot better than Minter does." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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