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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
2014 NFL Draft Rankings: Rush Linebackers
By Matt Horkman

1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr is an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker. He explodes off the ball, accelerating around the edge to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. He’s discipline against the run, not allowing runners to get outside of him. He gets off blocks well and shows terrific pursuit. Overall, Barr exhibits all the qualities in a No. 1 pass rusher. Most of his interest should come from 3-4 teams, but he displays the talent to adapt to any scheme. He could consistently achieve 10 or more sacks each season.

2. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
A college defensive end who’ll standup and play outside linebacker in the pros, Attaochu displays excellent acceleration around the edge. He also exhibits good awareness, as seldom is he caught napping by a misdirection or screen. He’s an immensely productive player, who earned third-team AP All-American honors. His tape against rival Georgia is outstanding. Good athleticism, production, and size make Attaochu a likely day two prospect.

3. Marcus Smith, Louisville
The 2013 American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Smith can play with his hand in the dirt or standup and play outside linebacker. Sometimes he’s too anxious to rush the passer, making him susceptible to screens. His outside containment is inconsistent. Smith is an excellent athlete. His athleticism allowed Louisville to play him in a variety of positions in their attempt to create mismatches. In conclusion, Smith is versatile enough to rush with his hand in the dirt or standup and play outside linebacker. He needs to show more discipline against the run, but he has the upside to develop into a three-down player.
Trent Murphy
4. Trent Murphy, Stanford
Murphy led the nation with 15 sacks last year. He can rush the passer by putting his hand in the dirt or from a two-point stance. He fights through blockers, playing the game with great physicality. His hips are stiff when dropping into coverage and he’s a limited athlete. Murphy’s body of work is impressive, however. He’s a productive, intense rusher who hunts down quarterbacks.

5. Dee Ford, Auburn
After performing well throughout Senior Bowl week, Ford emerged as a potential first-round pick. He’s an explosive upfield rusher, who does an excellent job of anticipating the snap count. He also accelerates around the edge well. He struggles against the run, but his pass-rushing keeps him in conversation as a day one pick. Overall, he’s a situational 34 outside linebacker that’ll impact the game during passing situations.

6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Jeffcoat is coming off a productive senior season, as he earned Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors for his efforts. Injuries had prevented him from reaching his true potential prior to last year. His versatility makes him a valuable commodity in the NFL, as he’s capable of rushing from several positions, including inside linebacker. He does an excellent job of using his hands to get off blocks.

7. Chris Smith, Arkansas
With good athleticism and size, Smith projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He started all 12 of Arkansas’ games in 2013, earning All-SEC second-team honors. He is quick, strong, and shows consistent hustle. He’s never going to dominate and his upside is limited, but he could push for playing time rather quickly into his career. 

8. Carl Bradford, Arizona State
Coming off a productive junior season, Bradford opted to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. Bradford is an ideal candidate to convert from college defensive end to professional 3-4 outside linebacker. He displays enough athleticism to drop back into coverage and plays the game unrelenting. Sometimes he’s a little too aggressive, though he recovers well.

9. James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Gayle is an excellent size, speed outside linebacker prospect. At 259 pounds, he ran a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash. He is explosive around the corner, hunting down quarterbacks and running backs. His best football is ahead of him.

10. Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Shembo was a defensive end in college, but he’ll likely convert to outside linebacker in the NFL. He is a good tackler, but his athleticism will limit him in the pros. He’s a three-year starter. His biggest impact will likely be on special teams. 

Best of the Rest
Kasim Edebali, Boston College
Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Ronald Powell, Florida
Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
Larry Webster, Bloomsburg

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