Whoops. - Chris Graythen
The six games I watched of Kevin Minter were not nearly as spectacular as I thought they would be. Taking a look at Minter in preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Kevin Minter #46, MLB, LSU
Weight: 242 lbs.
– Great instincts, has a good understanding of blocking schemes and how holes develop during a play.
– Excellent stack and shed ability, is capable of stoning pulling guards in the hole.
– Scrapes over the wash very well on outside runs.
– Can blitz inside well and help push the pocket with power.
– Generally a sound tackler.
– Has a knack for timing snap counts.
– Heavy feet and stiff hips in coverage, not a smooth pedal.
– Has a harder time reading routes when playing man-to-man.
– Not the best deep field speed, but has a nice short area burst that gets the job done when breaking on underneath receivers.
– Looks flat footed and clumsy at times against crafty route runners.
Kevin Minter is the most traditional 4-3 Mike prospect in this class. He won’t wow anyone physically, but the man can flat out stop the run. His solidly built 240 pound frame was extremely difficult to remove from running lanes, and his great pad level and footwork really shined when stacking giant SEC guards and tackles (00:01, 00:48, 1:34, 1:43, 4:03, 4:29, 6:34 vs. Clemson - 1:37, 7:28 vs. Florida - 00:35, 1:37 vs. A&M - 00:21 vs. Washington) . Besides outmuscling blockers at the line of scrimmage, he is also very adept at working through traffic and taking down ball carriers before they can even get to their hole (2:15, 7:56 vs. Clemson - 3:05, 4:05, 5:07, 5:19, 6:19, 8:09 vs. Florida - 00:09, 1:31, 7:25 vs. A&M - 00:35 vs. Washington). Whether blocked or not, there is no linebacker in this class better at dismantling a run game than Kevin Minter.
However, despite being terrific at stopping pulling guards dead in their tracks, Minter sorely lacks versatility in coverage. LSU often stuck him in shallow zones where he would pick up drags and stick routes while keeping an eye out for draws up the middle. His role as the cleanup crew on the LSU defense was clearly defined and rarely tampered with because, to be quite honest, he is not well suited for anything else. He lacks the open field speed to consistently get down field as a Tampa-2 Mike or spy a mobile QB. He doesn’t have the stop-start ability to keep up with hybrid RB/WR’s or H-backs coming out of the back field. His hips are not nearly fluid enough to handle athletic TE’s in man-to-man coverage (1:15, 6:15, 8:29, 9:03 vs. Clemson - 00:09, 5:49 vs. Florida - 00:01, 2:47 vs. Washington).
In addition to having physical limitations in coverage, I need to see more from him mentally when dropping back before I am comfortable calling him a Day 1 starter. What aptitude he has for diagnosing blocking schemes in the run game does not carry over to Minter’s pass defense skills. One of his most egregious errors, and something that perfectly sums up my frustrations with him, came against Johnny Manziel and the suddenly deadly Aggie offense (2:56 vs. A&M). Minter crowded the line of scrimmage, showed blitz, and then was supposed to bail out off the snap and cover the hot receiver as the slot corner fired in from the left side of the line. Everyone knew who the hot receiver was going to be--Minter, Manziel, and even the receiver himself when he pulled up for a quick stick route upon seeing his defender make a break for his quarterback. All of the other linebackers and defensive backs immediately darted into position to undercut every receiver and try to force a big play on a forced hot read – all of them except Minter. He froze at the line, watched Manziel turn towards his hot receiver in the face of the fire blitz, and didn’t close on the route until after the ball was already being delivered. Of course the gain was very limited, but that’s not the point – the interception was right there. The entire point of the defense’s play against that particular look was to give the linebackers a shot at the ball, and he missed it despite already knowing what was going to happen.
This kind of inexcusable lack of awareness in pass defense is what concerns me most about Minter. He is brilliant when prowling around the box looking for running backs to demolish. When dropping into a zone, however, he is extremely limited beyond watching for a draw off the snap, checking the receivers to see if anyone is running something underneath, and breaking on any dump off routes within five yards of the line of scrimmage. His coverage assignments, in my opinion, were probably some of the most simplistic that any SEC linebacker has had this year. Perhaps LSU never focused on developing his coverage skills as much as his run stopping skills because they tend to favor manning up across the board with defensive backs anyway. Maybe his defensive coordinator wanted him to simply act as a safety net for the front four. I don’t know the details of his development, and I probably never will, but as this juncture I can’t help but pump the brakes a little bit on his projected first round status and plant a few red flags in his resume.
Minter may yet develop this part of his game in the pros, and he may not. His growth as a player depends entirely on the scheme he is drafted in to and the understanding of his future NFL defensive coordinator about the scheme he came from. In my opinion, Minter will find success if he is used exclusively (at least at first) as a run-stopping, offensive line-abusing death machine at the line of scrimmage who can pick up underneath receivers and blitz from time to time. As long as the defense he is drafted in to has a Sam linebacker and a strong safety that can handle man-to-man coverage duties, there is no reason why Minter can’t thrive as a tackle magnet in the middle of the field. The job market might be thin for a player that comes into the league with such schematic limitations, but he is well worth a third round pick if he can be developed into a more well rounded player over the course of his rookie year.