As we inch closer to this year’s NFL Draft next month, our draft team here at Turn On The Jets will be running a series of individual prospect evaluations. These scouting reports are intended to provide an in-depth breakdown of individual prospects in this year’s draft class highlighting players’ overall strengths, weaknesses, potential upside, red flags, and what their best schematic fit will be at the next level. Today, we begin our series with LSU Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Measurables: 6’4″ 241 lbs, 33-3/4″ Arm Length, 9-5/8″ Hands
LSU DE/OLB prospect Barkevious Mingo has been one of the most difficult prospects to evaluate on film in recent memory. Mingo possesses some of the most impressive physical abilities out of any prospect in this year’s class. Combine that with his 6’4″ frame and it is no secret that his ceiling for development is at an astronomical level.
But there are some concerns with Mingo, despite his immense physical gifts. At just 241 lbs, can he fill out enough to defend the run in the NFL without sacrificing the athleticism that makes him such a rare prospect?
There have also been question marks about his overall production level in 2012. During his sophomore season at LSU, Mingo tallied 47 tackles and 8 sacks over the course of the year, despite splitting time with senior defensive end, Kendrick Adams. In 2012, however, Mingo saw a drop in production when placed in a full time role – 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks.So what was the primary cause for this drop in production? The most obvious answer that comes to mind is the notion that teams were adjusting their offensive game plans around Mingo, due to his success in the year prior. While that certainly may be a contributing cause, a deeper study of film and overall scheme reveals the drop in production had much more to do with his individual assignments and overall role in LSU’s defense.
The majority of the 2012 film you will watch on Mingo suggests that he is slightly timid and lacking of tenacity in his approach. There are countless instances where Mingo can be seen coming off the ball, briefly engaging with the offensive tackle, then settling in and becoming content in not gaining any penetration or rushing upfield. On the surface, there are times when he simply does not look as if he has any desire to make plays and become a difference maker.
But how could a player so explosive, tough, and aggressive in his sophomore season suddenly become a shell of his former self in just under a year? The answer, ironically, is Mingo’s selflessness.
Schematically in 2011, Mingo was allowed to utilize the immense physical tools he has. He was let loose by the coaching staff, seemingly given a kill all mentality. Mingo was used, primarily, as an attack style, rush defensive end in 2011.
Turn the page to 2012 and you’ll notice not only has Mingo’s style of play changed, but the schematics of the defense have changed as well. This past season, LSU actually put a lot more responsibility on their talented defensive end by requiring him to become much more of a contain and read type player than the attacking penetrator we saw in 2011.
What this means is that Mingo’s role in 2012 wasn’t necessarily to make plays in the backfield and rack up sacks. LSU wanted to utilize Mingo’s athleticism by containing the pocket and setting the edge.
This notion is strengthened based on opposing personnel. In LSU’s 2012 contest against Texas A&M, Mingo’s primary job was to contain Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in the pocket and not allow him to gash the Tigers’ defense with his legs, as he had done to countless opponents that season (1410 rushing yards 21 rushing touchdowns on the year). Schematically, Mingo accomplished his mission as Manziel was limited to just 27 yards on 17 carries in Baton Rouge.
Similarly, against Alabama, Mingo played in much more of a contain type role, as a primary blocking strategy for the Crimson Tide, when facing aggressive perimeter defenders, was to allow the player to run upfield, ride him out, and create running lanes underneath him. Again, Mingo succeeded in his role. Alabama’s dominant rushing offense was limited to 166 yards, nearly 62 fewer yards than their season average.
The bottom line? Mingo was the straw that stirred the drink for the Tigers’ defensive front seven in 2012. Week to week his assignment changed as the LSU defensive staff utilized him to eliminate the opposing offense’s biggest threat. In most cases, that did not include making tackles in the backfield or sacking the quarterback. It was more about protecting the defense, while being the key figure in each week’s game plan.
While may see this style of play as a knock on Mingo’s overall skill and drive, it is more of a testament to his willingness to sacrifice individual statistics for the overall good of the team. It becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that he did this in the year prior to entering the NFL Draft.
But what exactly was different from this style of play in 2012 compared to what he was asked to do in 2011? Let’s take a look using a sample from LSU’s 2011 contest against Kentucky.
The photo below is one particular play from this game that stood out. Mingo crashes on the tackle using a hard inside move, demonstrating the deceptive power that he possesses when he plays with the proper leverage.
While Mingo seems to be tangled up with this tackle and guard, who stepped out quickly to give his teammate help, Mingo demonstrates the ability to adjust and regain leverage, in order to execute an effective bullrush to get to the quarterback.
As you’ll see in the image below, this results in the tackle being driven onto his back, with Mingo gaining a clear path to the quarterback.
Due to the ferocious rush by Mingo, the quarterback recognizes that he needs to get the ball off before being sacked. Mingo, demonstrating great awareness, realizes the quarterback is going to rush the throw, so rather than take a shot at him after he gets the ball off, he smartly utilizes his long reach to get a hand in the quarterback’s face as he delivers the ball.
The result of this heads up play by Mingo is what should have been an LSU interception, due to the altered pass (below).
Although this is just one sample, there were countless occurrences of this style and quality of play from Mingo in 2011.
So the question then becomes, why did 2012 limit him from attacking like this?
In a contain role for a defensive end, the primary responsibility is to prevent anything from getting to the outside. As you can see from the images above, when a player attacks the pocket or backfield, they are usually on a straight line to their target. It is because of this that this style of play would be unsuccessful when in a contain role. Taking a straight lane to the pocket or backfield ultimately neutralizes the contain player, as it is extremely difficult to recover from an aggressive upfield rush to trying to get back to the outside and work the play back in, particularly in a conference with tremendous speed like the SEC.
So what type of player is Mingo and how good of a prospect is he? Let’s break it down:
Clearly, Mingo is physically gifted. His massive frame and incredible athleticism alone will give him a chance to succeed at the next level, regardless of what position he is asked to play. What really separates Mingo from his counterparts in this draft class is his football IQ. He displays elite recognition based on formation, blocking, and tendencies, while showing very good and fast reaction skills to whatever comes to him. This will bode well for a transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme where he will be required to read and react with his eyes, rather than just his hands and feet.
Mingo’s speed, athleticism, intelligence, and ability to maintain good leverage are strengths that are much more apparent on the 2011 film due to the reasons aforementioned. His film reveals deceptive power, considering his lean body type, which was helped by his ability to use proper leverage. What he may lack in strength, he makes up for in technique.
Obviously the weight and overall strength is a concern. While he was able to use physicality due to his technique, will he be able to get by like this in the NFL? He will likely need to add weight, but considering his frame, it is unlikely he will have trouble doing so. Still, a valid concern, but he can eliminate some of the question marks on his overall strength with a strong showing on the bench press at his pro day.
Consistency is also somewhat of an issue. Even considering 2011 when his attack style of play was at its best, Mingo has a slight tendency to be a bit reckless in his pass rush. Too many times was he caught running aggressively upfield, only to be driven out past the quarterback. There have been comparisons to Aaron Maybin, but this is the only one that seems to be somewhat legitimate. The good thing for Mingo is that he has shown success using other techniques. He just needs to stick to these, rather than becoming careless and allowing the offensive lineman to neutralize him using his own momentum.
Against the run, Mingo has shown he can avert blockers with his athleticsm more than taking them straight on. This does not mean that he isn’t capable of fighting off defenders using his physicality, but the sample size of him doing so is not as large. Considering his technique, however, this should not be as big of a problem as some seem to think.
Mingo is a tremendous prospect. While there are certainly valid question marks, the coachability he displayed in 2012 by sacrificing himself for the greater good of the team proves that he is a player who can absorb a lot of teaching and translate it onto the field. His athleticism, coupled with displayed football intelligence, should allow for a relatively seamless transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, where he will fit best at the next level.
Surely, there is risk/reward here, as is the case with every prospect. Considering everything aforementioned, Mingo has a ceiling similar to a player like DeMarcus Ware. There is no doubting the fact that, if developed properly, he can become one of the league’s most dominant and respected outside linebackers.
Conversely, his floor is likely an average at best role player. If he does not add some bulk to his frame and continue to develop his fundamentals, he could hit a slippery slope that effectively results in him becoming a 3rd down pass rush specialist and special teams contributor.
All things considered, it is difficult to believe Mingo will not become a good professional football player. As is the case with every player, there is always the possibility that his development isn’t handled properly, stunting any potential growth. Being drafted into the right scheme and environment will be crucial for him, but as previously noted, it is difficult to see him underachieving, albeit a possibility. If a General Manager estimates correctly, he will be lauded as a genius. Incorrectly? He could be on the road to analyzing the draft on NFL Network.