Inside linebacker Michael Mauti comes to the Vikings at a position of greater need than that of his teammate, Gerald Hodges. The Vikings have a hole to fill after last year's starter, Jasper Brinkley, signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
During his collegiate career, Mauti tore the ACL in both of his knees—the right one in 2009 and the left one in 2011. He came back strong and played well for Penn State in his senior season until another injury. Last season, Hodges and Mauti were the top two tacklers for Penn State. Mauti finished with 96 tackles, four for a loss, 2.5 sacks and led Penn State with three interceptions. Unfortunately, he re-injured his left knee again this past season.
That injury prevented him from working out at the combine with the exception of the bench press, where he finished with an impressive 28 reps—the third most in the combine. Unfortunately for the Vikings, he doesn't run on his arms.
In Mauti, NFL.com identifies great instincts and poise in both the running and passing games. At 6'2" and 243 pounds, he has a thick build that helps him to stand his ground against linemen. Durability will be a factor as to how well he will be able to play at the next level.
Just like Greg Childs from Arkansas, who the Vikings drafted in the fourth round last season, Mauti has a chance to compete for a starting position as a rookie. But also like Childs, he will need to prove he can fully recover from multiple knee injuries and play consistently at a high level.
Don't be fooled by that statement, thinking the Vikings got a steal in the seventh round. The truth is, there is little competition on the roster right now. If the Vikings make no other moves, the battle for the starting middle linebacker position will be between a couple of seventh-round draft picks and a career backup.
Audie Cole, who the Vikings drafted in the seventh round last year, was active for only five games last season. Marvin Mitchell, who the Vikings signed as a backup last season, has three career starts in six seasons. This could be a competition of deciding who is the best of this mediocre bunch.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has this so say about the Penn State linebacker:
Mauti is a good, not great, athlete with adequate physical tools for the next level, but his best attributes are his natural awareness and decisive read/react skills. Based on his instincts and playing temperament, Mauti reminds scouts of former Lions Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee (both second round NFL Draft picks), but his durability, including a healthy senior season, will determine his NFL draft value.
Where does Mauti line up in 2013:
He was available to the Vikings in the seventh round based on the fact that he didn't finish his senior season.
Here's hoping Mauti is able to fully recover and has a long, productive career in the NFL.