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Draft Primer 2014: Linebackers

Posted Apr 17, 2014

Finding a young pass rusher would be worth it for Cardinals

UCLA's Anthony Barr should go in the first round, although the chances he could be there when the Cardinals pick at 20 might be low.

The NFL draft will be held from May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Cardinals addressed several needs in free agency and are now zeroing in on their draft targets. We’ll take a look at each position over the next few weeks. With the Cardinals playing a base 3-4 defense, lighter defensive ends that would project to be a linebacker in the Cards’ scheme are included here and not with the defensive linemen.

More draft analysis: S I OL

Draft primer: Linebackers

Cardinals under contract: ILB Daryl Washington, OLB John Abraham, OLB Matt Shaughnessy, OLB Sam Acho, OLB Lorenzo Alexander, ILB Kevin Minter, OLB Marcus Benard, OLB Alex Okafor, ILB Kenny Demens, OLB Adrian Tracy, OLB Kenny Rowe, ILB JoJo Dickson.

Prospects by projected draft round:

First: OLB Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo; OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA; ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama; OLB Dee Ford, Auburn; OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State.

Second: OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU; OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State; OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech; OLB Trevor Reilly, Utah; OLB Carl Bradford, Arizona State.

Third/fourth: ILB Chris Borland, Wisconsin; OLB Marcus Smith, Louisville; OLB Telvin Smith, Florida State; OLB Jordan Tripp, Montana; ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford; OLB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA; ILB Christian Jones, Florida State; OLB Christian Kirksey, Iowa.

Fifth or later: OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama; ILB Preston Brown, Louisville; OLB Devon Kennard, USC: OLB Khari Fortt, California; ILB Max Bullough, Michigan State; OLB Howard Jones, Shepherd; OLB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College; OLB Ronald Powell, Florida; ILB Lamin Barrow, LSU; ILB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut; OLB Prince Shembo, Notre Dame; OLB Morgan Breslin, USC; ILB Avery Williamson, Kentucky; OLB Carlos Fields, Jr., Winston-Salem State; ILB Brock Coyle, Montana; OLB Denicos Allen, Michigan State; OLB Jonathan Newsome, Ball State; ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State.

Analysis: One of the Cardinals’ top needs for the future is a pass-rushing outside linebacker. John Abraham filled that role perfectly last season, registering 11½ sacks, but he is heading into the final year of his contract and will be 36 next season. If an impact talent is available at No. 20, the Cardinals could certainly go in that direction. While Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack will be long gone, Anthony Barr could be a possibility if he drops, as could Ryan Shazier or Dee Ford. Kyle Van Noy leads a sizable group of outside linebackers who could be second-round selections, which includes former Arizona State standout Carl Bradford. Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy are solid starters, and the return of Sam Acho, Alex Okafor and Lorenzo Alexander from injury gives the team depth at the position, but an outside linebacker could still be an option early in the draft.

There seems to be less of a need at inside linebacker. Daryl Washington has one starting position locked up for the foreseeable future, and the front office wants to see how last year’s second round pick, Kevin Minter, fares at the other spot vacated by Karlos Dansby. Alexander figures to also play inside, but depth is a question, so a later-round pick could make sense. C.J. Mosley is the clear-cut top-rated inside linebacker in the draft. Shayne Skov is a well-known name and he could be available in the middle rounds.

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