Earlier this week, I posed a number of NFC North-centric draft scenarios to Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench. Friday, I got the chance to do the same with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
I'm going to spread McShay's answers over a few posts, but we'll start with his take on the middle linebacker situation after Georgia's Alec Ogletree. If Ogletree is drafted before the Chicago Bears' No. 20 overall pick, which is quite possible given his skill set, would any of the remaining middle/inside linebackers be worthy of a first-round draft pick? And who would be worth looking at later in the draft?
The list of possibilities includes Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter, North Carolina's Kevin Reddick, Oregon's Kiko Alonso and Kansas State's Arthur Brown. McShay was unequivocal in his answer.
"I think it's Te'o and that's it [in the first round]," he said. "I know specifically at least one other team that has Minter and Te'o neck-in-neck and are debating the two. But that's a 3-4 team, not a 4-3 team, and at least in my opinion Te'o fits better as a 4-3. …
"For 4-3 teams, I think Te'o would have the advantage, but Minter is not that far behind in some team's minds. After that, there is a bigger dropoff and you get into the third round before get into Kiko Alonso from Oregon or Kevin Reddick from UNC."
Minter, according to McShay, is "maybe on the same part athletically and quickness-wise with Te'o." But Te'o "diagnoses things a lot quicker when you watch the tape." In the end, Te'o has a better chance of being a three-down linebacker in the NFL than Minter does, McShay said, and that is what you would want if you're drafting an inside linebacker in the first round.
I asked McShay specifically about Brown, who many of you suggested would be a good fit for the Bears and Vikings given their schemes. McShay projects Brown as a middle- second-round value for teams who play the Tampa-2 scheme.
"He fits the Tampa 2," McShay said. "But you've got to cover him up. You have to cover up Arthur Brown. He is a speedser that can go sideline to sideline and you get guys out on him and he gets in trouble fast."
We've long since set an ESPN.com NFL blog network record for attention spent to middle linebackers in this run-up to the draft, and I'm sorry, but I'm not expecting it to end today. Hang on if you can.