(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their 11 picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 8 features the linebacker position.)
This position is loaded with question marks from top to bottom. That uncertainty also puts the level of priority to address this position in question as well.
From Sean Lee to DeVonte Holloman, with both Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber in between, the Cowboys aren't exactly sure what they'll have to work with in terms of the linebacker personnel.
As productive as Lee has been when healthy, his injury issues have plagued him in all four years of his career. The Cowboys still signed him to a lucrative contract last year, but had injury stipulations included. Last year, Lee missed five of the last seven games with two injuries, and failed to finish the other two. The neck injury that forced him out of the final three games and will likely be mentioned all through the summer and up until training camp when he starts taking regular hits.
Carter hasn't lived up to second-round expectations so far in his three years and it's uncertain if Wilber can continue to make the jump from defensive end to outside linebacker. Holloman was a safety in college who also missed some time last year with a neck injury but returned to replace Lee in the final two games at middle linebacker. Maybe that's not his best position but it's clear Holloman flashed enough potential as a rookie to give him a shot to start at one of the three spots.
What They Need:
Since they have so many question marks, you can argue how much they really need at linebacker. But healthy, productive players are good for all spots, including this one. The fact is, come draft day, not even having Sean Lee should prevent the Cowboys from passing on a certain linebacker. Lee's injury issues will probably open the floor of discussion for all linebackers.
The Cowboys could use speed at the position, especially considering backups are the core of a special teams unit. [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys tried to sign Will Herring to a one-year contract back in March but the deal fell through the next day. The club was looking for some special teams help but at this point, it makes sense to probably wait until after the draft and see how the position shakes out.
Most of the top available free agent linebackers have signed with other teams. Names such as Stephen Nicholas, Blake Costanzo, Russell Allen, Marvin Mitchell and even Ernie Sims, who has been with the Cowboys the past two years, are the top linebackers available.
In terms of 4-3 linebackers, Buffalo's Khalil Mack is the best in the draft but he might be better-suited for a 3-4 scheme as a pass-rusher off the edge. C.J. Mosley from Alabama has some injury history but has been very productive for one of the nation's most consistent and dominant defenses.
Another first-round prospects is Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, who was among the 30 national visitors who came into Valley Ranch in April. Other linebackers to watch out for in Day 2 include Wisconsin's Chris Borland, Iowa's Christian Kirksey and Telvin Smith, a speedy prospect from Florida State.