The Minnesota Vikings are facing some significant turnover at linebacker this offseason, as Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley are both headed for free agency. One or both could be re-signed, but under the assumption at least one of them signs elsewhere there are no obvious replacements for either currently on the roster. 2012 seventh-round pick Audie Cole could be in line for an expanded role, but other than that the depth chart looks dismal.
That means Minnesota may turn to April’s draft to add some depth, though linebacker is not at the top of their needs at this point. It is also not considered be a position of strength in this year’s draft class, so unearthing a viable mid-round prospect may prove difficult. But having a director of college scouting like Scott Studwell, who himself had a nice career as a NFL middle linebacker, should work to their advantage if they target a linebacker or two in the later rounds.
Kiko Alonso had a productive all-round senior season at Oregon, with 81 total tackles (including a team-leading 14 tackles for loss) along with four interceptions. He was at his best in critical games during that lone year as a full-time starter, and he also had an MVP performance in the 2012 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
Alonso heads into the draft with some durability concerns. He did not participate in the Senior Bowl in order to allow a wrist injury to heal, and a torn right ACL that caused him to miss the 2010 season has to be a concern as well. Off the field issues have also plagued Alonso, with a 2010 DUI charge and a 2011 arrest for burglary, criminal trespass and criminal mischief on his record. But he did earn praise from Oregon’s coaches for his re-dedication to the program, so those past bad decisions appear to be behind him.
Let’s take a closer look at Alonso, and then see how he may fit with the Vikings.
Weight: 238 lbs.
– Plays aggressively-shows good closing speed
– Shows good awareness and all-around athleticism in coverage
– Has excellent straight-line speed and flashes explosive hitting ability
– Shows excellent hand-eye coordination and ball skills
– Has long arms, which helps him to create leverage at the line of scrimmage
– Plays with passion and high effort
– Has limited experience (just one full season as a starter)
– Has character and durability concerns
– Struggles to take on and shed blockers at the point of attack; plays too upright at times
– Is not a particularly strong tackler in terms of drive-through and wrap-up power
Alonso is theoretically just tapping into his potential, so he may have the most upside of anyone in this year’s group of linebackers. His coverage ability should allow him to be a three-down linebacker at the next level, and he could play all three spots in Minnesota’s base 4-3, Cover-2 defensive alignment. If the Vikings have him in for a visit prior to the draft that is a clear indicator of some interest in him, and at that point he can dispel any lingering concerns about his character and durability.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.