TEMPE, Ariz. – Conventional wisdom had the Cardinals selecting a pass rusher with their second-round pick Friday, but they instead went off the charts a bit by opting for physical LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter at No. 38 overall. The redshirt junior finished third in the SEC and 14th in the nation last season with 130 tackles (15 for loss).
“I’m passionate and I’m about business,” Minter said on a conference call immediately after the selection. “They asked me if I was ready to come down to Arizona and bust some heads and I said, ‘Yeah.'”
Minter may have some added motivation after the Chargers swapped second-round picks with the Cardinals so they could move up and draft controversial Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o — instead of Minter.
The Cards slid down seven spots, and that was enough to pick up an additional fourth-round selection (110th overall) from the Chargers, a pretty good trade-off by most standards.
“It was a hunch,” general manager Steve Keim said. “We felt like there was an opportunity to go back a few spots and pick up an additional pick and still get the player we wanted. Obviously, there is always some risk that comes along with that, but we felt like it was a risk worth taking, and obviously it worked out well for us.”
Arizona has had some success in the fourth round in recent years, selecting cornerback Greg Toler, outside linebackers O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho and offensive tackle Bobby Massie in each of the past four seasons.
Last season, Minter had four sacks, five pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. He was a consensus All-American, a first-team All-SEC selection and a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the best defensive player in the country.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had this to say about Minter’s specific role with the Cardinals.
“It adds depth that we need inside,” he said. “He can play both (inside) linebackers for us, Mo and Mike. His position flexibility, again, was something very advantageous for him.”
The Cards signed free-agent Jasper Brinkley recently, and he is expected to start alongside Daryl Washington. They also have solid veteran Reggie Walker, whom Arians praised Friday, but Minter could work his way into the rotation very early this season with Washington suspended for the first four weeks of the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“It should be a very healthy competition in that room right now,” Arians said.
Minter’s reputation is something Keim and Arians like.
“He’s a thumper,” Arians said.
At 6 feet, Minter is a bit short for the position, but he packs 246 pounds and is viewed as a two-down guy who likely won’t see much action in nickel situations.
“He is not the longest athlete but is a squatty, explosive player on impact,” Keim said. “He’s got some natural explosiveness to his hips.”
Minter said his decision to leave school early was partly motivated by a tough family financial situation.
“We’re not necessarily in the best situation back home,” said Minter, who was considered one of the top inside linebackers in the draft. “It’s nice to be able to retire my mother and take care of her. It’s something I had to do for me and my family.”