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Part II - Onward to NFL Draft 2005: Linebackers

We've taken an indepth look at some impact defensive ends that the Cowboys could be targeting. In our latest installement we'll look at some linebacks the Cowboys may be looking at. We know Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware are "tweener" types, so we won't rehash what they can bring to the table; however, keep them in consideration when talking about LBs.

Cowboys Priorities on Day 1 should address DE ,but LB is a close second. The two guys that bring the Cowboys most versatility are Merriman and Ware. The Cowboys will have the opportunity to pick up any of these other LBs if they are still available and a need when its time to draft. The Cowboys let Coakley go, so for the 4-3 there's a hole there, and Bradie James failed to get the job done last year when given the opportunity. LB could be addressed early. Lets take a look at some linebackers the Cowboys may be targeting.

• Derrick Johnson - Texas - 6'3'' 242lbs. 4.52/40

Its unclear how much interest if any the Cowboys may have in drafting DJ. There's a good chance he may not even be available at #11, but if he still available, the Cowboys should look into drafting the playmaking LB. From all the linebackers projected to go early, Johnson brings gamebreaking plays on defense, forced fumbles, strip aways and bone crushing hits. He's all over the field and will be an impact starter. Will excell in a 4-3, and will do well in a 3-4. He has the quickness to make that outside rush a success.

Draft thought: Johnson is a sureshot pick for our weaknesses at LB, can play in a 4-3 or 3-4, very athletic to be a great linebacker in any defensive scheme. (drafted #2-15 overall)

Darryl Blackstock - Virginia - 6'3'' 247lbs. 4.70/40
Blackstock is another solid linebacker the Cowboys will have a shot at late in 1st or 2nd round. Blackstock has great size and has been very consistent at Virginia, a tackling machine with 237 tackles and 27 sacks during his 3 years as a starter. If the Cowboys draft DE early, and they are targeting a pure linebacker, Blackstock could be the guy.

Draft thought: With a gapping holes in the LB core, Blackstock will bring an immediate boost and impact starter. He will produce and make plays. (drafted #25-early 2nd)

• Kevin Burnett Tennessee 6'3'' 239lbs. 4.58/40
Looking for someone who has speed and will make the tackles anywhere in the field? Burnett could be another top notch linebacker targeted with our 2nd first round pick. Burnett brings very solid play at his position and team leadership, in addition he'll bring a solid rush on the blitz. Burnett had 120 solo tackles last season, lots of production and production is something the Cowboys need from the linebacker position.

Draft thought: Solid play is what will bring Burnett onto the Cowboys radar come draft time. Production and consistency. (drafted #25-early 2nd)

• Robert McCune - Louisville - 6'1'' 240lbs. 4.42/40
The fastest LB coming out this year, a pure speedster and makes big hits all over the field, speed to penetrate the line and will wreak havoc and makes plays in the backfield. McCune is more of a MLB. Will do well in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

Draft thought: Speed to get to the backfield and quarterback make him a linebacker of interest. (drafted mid 2nd round+)

• Barrett Ruud - Nebraska - 6'2'' 250lbs. 4.65/40
Cowboys have shown interest in Ruud, by attending Huskers Proday. Ruud has a nonstop motor and explosive attitude that encompasses field leadership and more. Has all the makings of an impact player, and steal in this years draft. Ruud may be underrated and overlooked with all the hype of other big names, but Ruud has the game experience, intelligence, and physical tools to start on opening day.

Draft thought: More of an inside linebacker and sideline-to-sideline specialist, he doesn't let many running backs get past him, his game experience and game intelligence have him on the Cowboys board. (drafted mid 2nd+)

Other Notable Linebackers to Watch:
• Channing Crowder Florida 6'0" 252lbs. 4.71/40 (knee injuries, but has recovered, risky Day1 pick)
• Jonathan Goddard Marshall 6'0'' 238lbs 4.68/40 (listed as DE and sack artist, but will play LB in pros late day1+)
• Derek Curry - Notre Dame 6'1'' 236lbs. 4.83/40 (lots of game experience solid tackler Day 2 pick)

• Keelan Jackson - Texas A&M 6'1'' 230 lbs. 4.70/40 (solid tackler and special teams Day 2 pick)
• Trent Cole - Cinncinnati - 6'2'' 238lbs. 4.78/40 (played DE will excel as passh rushing OLB in 3-4, drawn the attention of Cowboys watch for this guy, early Day 2 pick)
• Jordan Beck - Cal Poly 6'2'' 233lbs. 4.45/40 (game experiance, speed, may be drafted for FS Day 2 pick)
• Robert Rodriguez - UTEP 6'0'' 237 lbs. 4.83/40 (special teams tackling specialist Day 2 pick)

Next: Safeties


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