The Minnesota Vikings have not had adequate play from their middle linebackers since E.J. Henderson broke his leg in 2009. Henderson tried, but was never able to regain the explosiveness and athleticism that made him one of the better tacklers in the league.
Over the last two seasons, the team tried Jasper Brinkley in 2012 and E.J.’s younger brother, Erin, in 2013, but still could not excel in the Tampa-2 defensive scheme of former head coach Leslie Frazier.
Out with the coaching staff and system. Enter new head coach Mike Zimmer and an emphasis on stopping the run.
With the new scheme designed to play downhill and in the backfield, Brinkley was brought back after he spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals. His time in the desert didn’t exactly work out. He will be battling with third-year veteran Audie Cole and and second-year veteran Michael Mauti.
Cole and Mauti were seventh round draft picks in each of the last two drafts. Brinkley was a fifth round draft pick. All three have exceeded their draft positions, but the Vikings still need to upgrade the top end talent. Here are the top five inside linebackers in the draft as well as an underrated, an overrated and a sleeper prospect.