Summary: Minter was a force for LSU in 2012 and was the team's most consistent defender. Safety Eric Reid and defensive end Barkevious Mingo each had disappointing a year, while the defense also clearly missed Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. Minter really improved his play from his sophomore season and led the LSU defense to maintain a high level of play.
Minter recorded 61 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, one pass broken up and a forced fumble in 2011. He made a massive improvement this year as he more than doubled his tackle total. The junior had 130 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passes broken up, an interception and a forced fumble.
Minter was an absolute animal against Florida, amassing 20 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The fumble came in pass defense as he flew across the field to punch the ball out of a receiver's hands along the sideline. It was a clutch play that came deep in LSU territory to take points away from the Gators.
Minter had other quality performances against Texas A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas. He totaled 19 tackles with a sack against Clemson in the bowl game. His pass coverage looked much improved against the Tigers, and it was a strong finish to the season.
There is no doubt that Minter is an excellent run-defender. He attacks the line of scrimmage and is very tough about taking on blocks from offensive linemen. Minter also sheds those blocks well and is an excellent tackler. He covers a lot of ground with the speed to make tackles on stretch runs to the perimeter. Minter is very fast and explosive. He could be a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker for an NFL 4-3 defense.
In pass coverage, Minter is improving. He gets good depth in his drops and shows the potential to play some man coverage. Minter can pick up backs out of the backfield and run with them. He is going to need to work on his ability to cover receiving tight ends given the passing-obsessed state of the NFL. Minter has the speed, but will need to work on his technique in running with them downfield. He is a good blitzer who can contribute to the pass rush.
Minter is a physical player. He hits ball-carriers with authority and plays the game with an attitude. Minter has a mean streak and the demeanor to be an enforcer in the middle of the field.
Minter has three-down ability for the NFL and looks like a future starter. He may need some development and therefore not win a starting spot immediately. However before long, Minter should force his way onto the field. He has the size and physicality to function on the inside of a 3-4 defense but retains the speed to play the middle in a 4-3. Minter is very versatile and looks like a good value as a pick in the back half of the first round.
Player Comparison: DeMeco Ryans The veteran Eagles linebacker is virtually the same size as Minter. Ryans (6-1, 247) is a physical, attacking linebacker who is a superb run-defender. Minter could go a little bit higher than Ryans, who went to the Texans with the first selection in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Ryans was in a more talented draft class than Minter.
I see Minter being an NFL linebacker of Ryans' caliber. That is high praise for Minter. Thus far, Ryans is a two-time pro-bowler to go along with being the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
NFL Matches: Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Denver, Baltimore
There are five teams in the latter half of the first round that could be good fits for Minter. The earliest he would probably go is to the Bears with the 20th overall pick. Chicago needs a long-term replacement for Brian Urlacher, and Minter would be a good fit in Mel Tucker's Cover 2 defense.
The Bengals could use an upgrade over Rey Maualuga, and Minter would be a good scheme fit for Mike Zimmer. Minter's aggressive, attacking style could generate some big plays behind the disruptive Geno Atkins.
Houston badly needs to improve its inside linebackers. Getting Brian Cushing back will help, but he's coming off knee surgery and the team need an upgrade next to him.
The Broncos need a long-term middle linebacker. Nate Irving has been a disappointment and veteran Keith Brooking is just a temporary fill-in. Minter would make sense in Denver.
The Super Bowl Champion Ravens have to replace Ray Lewis. While Lewis was an all-time great, he slowed down in his last few years and Minter could be an upgrade for the Baltimore defense. The Ravens would be fortunate to land Minter with their first-round pick.
If St. Louis and Seattle view Minter as an outside linebacker, he could get consideration from those teams as well.