Book-ending the UCLA picks with picks from Penn State, the Vikings continue to find ways to get players from the same school. With Rick Spielman having selected pairs of players from Notre Dame (Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton), USC (Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison) as well as Arkansas (Greg Childs and Jarius Wright), the Vikings continued to pair up with two players from UCLA (Jeff Locke and Jeff Baca) as well as linebackers from Penn State (Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti). Naturally, they followed this up by selecting another Florida State player, to pair Everett Dawkins with Xavier Rhodes.
This could show a preference for chemistry. While Jeff Locke and Jeff Baca (or Dawkins and Rhodes) won't be expected to work together, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges could well be the future of the Vikings' linebacker corps. The communication that they've established together could go a long way to solidifying the second line of the Vikings defense.
Before the knee injuries, Mauti could have been a first-round pick, according to CBS analyst Dane Brugler. Another linebacker from "Linebacker U," Mauti has preternatural instinctive ability who has a mix of skills as both a run plugger and pass defender.
With a strong build, Mauti can take on lead blockers with strength, using his excellent hand work to shed blockers and make the play. At other times, he has the ability to navigate through traffic and find the ball-carrier to win the tackle. He has a natural ability to figure out where the running lane is and fill it, but will at times play a little high and let a pulling lineman take him on. Nevertheless, his natural ability to take excellent angles on running backs gives him value.
Mauti understands how to drop into coverage and has a fine backpedal to reach the appropriate depth for his landmark. At times, he will display good zone coverage capability and reacts quickly to the ball, following the eyes of the quarterback and tracking the ball well. He has the agility to work against complex offenses attempting to flood the zone and plays with discipline, although he will occasionally be susceptible to deceptive cuts from running backs. In coverage, Mauti only allowed 30.4% of passes thrown in his coverage to be caught and limited opponents to 6.0 yards per completion, which comes out to an absurd 1.83 yards per attempt allowed. No inside linebacker in the NFL could beat those numbers in NFL play in 2012.
He knows how to tackle well, breaking down well in space, making sure to sink his hips and drive through the tackle while wrapping up. He looks to be a fantastic fit for the Vikings with built in chemistry with another teammate, but his biggest problems may hold him back. Three ACL tears—one in his right knee and two in the left—kept him off the field in 2009, 2011 and for some of 2012.
In addition, Mauti has suffered from shoulder and ankle injuries in 2010, which limited. Injuries plaguing every year of play at Penn State will hold him back and make him a hopeful more than a starter. If he can make it through camp and an NFL season, the pick will be praised as genius. If he doesn't, he'll merely be just another 7th-round pick who didn't make it.
He played all three linebacker positions at Penn State, but played more outside than in. Nevertheless, he projects well as a middle linebacker. His natural leadership skills and role in making sure that Penn State kept all the talent it could after the Paterno scandal show that Mauti has the intangibles to do well if his body holds up. Mauti workout
Also, if you want video of his recovery click to download: Michael Mauti Workout.