Linebacker & Patriots draft

We continue our position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the draft with an examination of the linebackers.

Current personnel: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Niko Koutovides, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian, Marcus Benard (could play end too)

Need level: Moderate

Overview: As it relates to the Patriots' base defense, it would be no surprise to see Mayo, Hightower and Spikes once again serve as the starters in 2013. But it's not so much the Patriots' base defense that ties into their need for a linebacker; it's about the sub defense, where both Spikes and Higthower struggled alongside Mayo in some coverage opportunities in 2012. The Patriots need to find a counterpart to Mayo who can ably defend running backs from the backfield and tight ends, something that hurt them down the stretch in 2012 and in the AFC Championship Game. Spikes is also due to be a free agent after next season, and the Patriots are one of the very best in the NFL in developing depth at a position with an eye toward the future. Finding a coverage linebacker who can play in space and on special teams would serve the team for both 2013 and beyond.

Scouts Inc.'s linebacker prospects of note:

1. Alec Ogletree, Georgia. 6-3, 242 pounds. 2012 stats: 99 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception.

2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame. 6-1, 240 pounds. 2012 stats: 101 tackles, 1.5 sack, 7 interceptions.

3. Kevin Minter, LSU. 6-0, 246 pounds. 2012 stats: 130 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception.

4. Sio Moore, UConn. 6-1, 245 pounds. 2012 stats: 72 tackles, 8 sacks.

5. Arthur Brown, Kansas State. 6-1, 241 pounds. 2012 stats: 91 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions.

For additional information on these prospects and more, CLICK HERE to check out Scouts Inc.'s player database (Insider content).

Extra Point: On a recent conference, we asked ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. to identify top coverage linebackers, and his response can be found HERE.