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2022 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Linebackers

View photos of potential linebackers the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.

In the leadup to the 2022 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings by those national outlets, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.

Vikings status at linebacker

The Vikings are returning Eric Kendricks, a central figure to the middle of their defense as they transition to playing with more 3-4 principles in 2022. To help facilitate this transition, Minnesota signed veteran inside linebacker Jordan Hicks as free agency opened.

The other linebacker added during free agency, Za'Darius Smith, is expected to do most of his damage as an edge rusher.

Minnesota is young throughout the rest of the position group. Ryan Connelly is under contract for his fourth pro season, while Troy Dye and Blake Lynch are preparing for their third Vikings campaigns.

Chazz Surratt, a third-round pick a year ago, played exclusively on special teams, and Tuf Borland appeared on special teams in two games after joining the 2021 Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

The offseason program should provide more details as to where and how the new coaches envision playing linebackers.

Ask the analyst

Pete Bercich is an analyst with the Vikings Radio Network and Vikings Entertainment Network. A former linebacker and assistant coach, Bercich was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round of the 1994 NFL Draft.

We asked Bercich to review film of seven linebackers who landed in the top seven rankings by at least two draft experts.

"My favorite guy would be Devin Lloyd. Then I would put Quay Walker," Bercich said. "Third, I would have Nakobe Dean, and that's because he's so explosive and fast. After him, I would put Leo Chenal. Then I'd put Damone Clark. I would think Christian Harris would be the next to go, just because he's such a good athlete, and then I'd put Chad Muma."

We also asked Bercich if he'll have his eye on any linebackers who are more "under-the-radar." He named Channing Tindall, who teamed with Dean and Walker at Georgia, and Troy Andersen from Montana State.

Bercich said there's potential value of Tindall who has been projected as a fourth-round selection by some.

"He could be a later-round guy that, if you get him, he could definitely become a starter in the NFL," Bercich said. "He's physical, reads well."

Andersen put up impressive numbers on both sides of the ball for the Bobcats, finishing ninth in school history with 2,260 rushing yards despite focusing on defense in 2021 when he was named the FCS ADA National Defensive Player of the Year.

"This kid is 6-foot-3, 243, runs a 4.42, but he played quarterback and linebacker," Bercich said. "He's like Taysom Hill [with the Saints]. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, just because of his versatility."

View the best linebacker photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

Recent history says the Vikings will select at least one linebacker in this year's draft, extending the team's streak to 11 consecutive years.

"It's interesting because the number of linebackers on rosters has been decreasing, and the number of DBs has been increasing, but you still need linebackers for special teams, so because of that, you need bodies," Bercich said.

He predicted the Vikings will seek linebackers who play with physicality that can be felt.

"I think that has a lot to do with the guys who play outside, and the guys who play inside, but especially the guys that play on the outside," Bercich said. "What's nice is you can get a lot more role-specific with the 3-4, meaning you have guys that play outside and on the line of scrimmage and you have guys that play off the ball. That helps a ton. The guys on the outside aren't going to cover as much, but they're going to rush the passer a lot more."

Expert rankings

NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah currently has four linebackers in his overall Top 50: 12. Devin Lloyd, 13. Nakobe Dean, 33. Quay Walker and 39. Christian Harris.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., only has one inside linebacker in his overall Top 25: 22. Lloyd.

Rankings for linebackers by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Prospects

LB Devin Lloyd
LB Devin Lloyd

School: Utah | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 237 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.ColuPro Football Focusmn 4Dane Brugler
LB1LB1LB1ILB1LB1LB1

2021 stats: 110 tackles (third in Pac-12); led Pac-12 and ranked second in FBS with 22 tackles for loss; topped Pac-12 linebackers with 8.0 sacks; recorded four interceptions and returned two for touchdowns; named Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and The Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year; served as a team captain and named a finalist for Butkus Award for second consecutive season

LB Nakobe Dean
LB Nakobe Dean

School: Georgia | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt: 229 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
LB2LB2ILB2LB2LB2

2021 stats: started all 15 games, helping the Bulldogs win the CFP National Championship;totaled 72 tackles; led Georgia with 10.5 tackles for loss and ranked second with 6.0 sacks and two interceptions; credited with 31 QB hurries and six pass breakups; became third player to ever win a college Butkus Award after previously winning the high school category (joined Manti Te'o and Jaylon Smith); one of the team's four permanent captains

LB Quay Walker
LB Quay Walker

School: Georgia | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 241 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
LB3UnrankedILB3LB11LB3

2021 stats: started all 15 games, helping the Bulldogs win the CFP National Championship; totaled 67 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 25 QB pressures and three pass breakups; led Georgia with eight tackles in CFP National Championship Game and was credited with six QB pressures against the Crimson Tide

LB Christian Harris
LB Christian Harris

School: Alabama | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-0 | Wt: 226 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
LB4LB3OLB7LB6LB6

2021 stats: ranked fifth on the Crimson Tide with 79 tackles and second with 12.5 tackles for loss; recorded 5.5 sacks, four QB hurries, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles

LB Chad Muma
LB Chad Muma

School: Wyoming | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 239 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedLB5ILB5LB5LB4

2021 stats: led FBS with 85 solo tackles and ranked second with 142 total tackles in 13 games in 2021; totaled 8.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions

Bercich's breakdown: "He's got really good footwork, no false steps, great fundamentals; reads the run very well, stays square. He's a great effort guy. I think the question with him is just going to be more of the man-to-man coverage stuff. He's a great fundamental linebacker. He can hit but doesn't hit as hard as Chenal does. Good player."

LB Damone Clark
LB Damone Clark

School: LSU | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 239 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedUnrankedILB6LB13LB5

2021 stats: tied for fourth in FBS with 78 solo tackles and ranked fourth with 135 total tackles, the fourth-most by a Tiger in a single season; recorded double-digit tackles in eight of 12 games, including five consecutive contests; finished season with 15.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended and one interception

Bercich's breakdown: "He's a great athlete. All of these guys are pretty much great athletes. He reads well, gets where he's supposed to be, but he doesn't quite do anything when he gets there. He'll bump with his chest instead of making contact with his helmet and shoulder pads. He gets where he needs to be. I think his lack of physicality is a thing. I like him better than [Harris]."

LB Leo Chenal
LB Leo Chenal

School: Wisconsin | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 250 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
UnrankedUnrankedILB7LB3LB7

2021 stats: led Badgers in solo tackles (59), assists (56), total tackles (115) and tackles for loss (18.5); ranked second on the team with 8.0 sacks and tied for Wisconsin lead with two forced fumbles; won Big Ten Linebacker of the Year honors and earned Second-Team All-America designation from The Associated Press despite missing the first two games of the season because of COVID-19 protocols

Bercich's breakdown: "Chenal is big, he's physical, he keeps his feet going on contact, especially when he's tackling. He's fundamentally very sound, reads everything in front of him very well. Counters, guards and all of that kind of stuff. He's not a huge take-on guy at the point of attack. He'll run around a guard or a lineman, so that may have to change, but he's physical when he needs to be. The question with him is, how is he going to do with running backs and stuff out of the backfield if he has to cover them man-to-man, but he's a good football player."

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Vikings Draft Party is making its return to in-person festivities at U.S. Bank Stadium! The party will kick off at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday, April 28.

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