About a week ago I did a similar entry on QB prospects to watch. Seemed to get good enough reviews so let's jump onto the next position of interest for me. Outside Linebackers, more specifically, I want to look at potential SAMs in our system rather than Predators.
Our situation - OLB doesn't look like it could be a terrible need for us in the future. Just signed C.Barwin to man the SAM side, and both Trent Cole/Brandon Graham have potential to be fantastic predators. The SAM in Billy Davis's version of the 4-3under is asked to do a lot. Your not just looking for a pass-rushing machine like most 3-4 defense's, having pass protection skills is crucial as they take on the TE quite often. Occasionally teams look for strong hard hitting safeties who are big enough to convert to SAM, just to have the added bonus of pass protection. Chances are Barwin may flop in Phi and be another free agent failure so I'll be watching potential SAMs closely. Here's the list I got going currently that I plan to watch as many snaps as possible for.
Jadaveon Clowney - DE - SC - Clowney is an absolute freak of nature. I got him pegged more as a DE/Predator type. As a sophmore he racked up 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 3 FF, 2 PD, and 13 Sacks. Explosive, but still have a ton of power to just throw blockers aside. I swear in some games it looks like he gets "fear" sacks. The RB's who have the task of doubling on him just crumple over. Clowney has even already developed pass-rush moves like swimming, bull-rushing. Not that common for a college sophmore. I don't see him as a SAM, at all, make that clear. Top 3 pick, should be number 1 overall if not for the high price on QBs these days.
Anthony Barr - OLB - UCLA - Also view Barr as a predator only type. Curious if he could be a SAM though based on raw talent. Compare last years stats to Clowney's stats - 83 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 4 FF, 5 PD, and 13 sacks. The scary part, he just converted last year to OLB and was his first year playing it, prior to that he was a FB. Extremely raw player with a ton of upside, very fast. Fun fact - his father was a 4th round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992 (FB). Top 10 pick. Could of been a one year wonder though.
Kyle Van Noy - OLB - BYU - This is my ultimate pick for SAM next year. Every draft their is a prospect I fall in love with in this is him so far. I was watching film for Ansah this year to see if he'd be worth the number 4 pick or not and found myself watching Van Noy the entire time. Great in pass coverage, and very explosive off the edge. Last year he put down 53 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 6 FF, 5 PD, and 2 INT. Van Noy has shown consistency as well though, in 2011 his stat sheet was - 68 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 3 FF and 3 INT. Currently he's being mocked around pick 20.
Jeremiah Attaochu - OLB/DE - GT - Georgia Tech is moving to a 4-3 defense this year and converting Attaochu to DE. He has good physical ability and is fast. Has been a productive play maker for Georgia Tech the last 2 years and if he shows another productive year switching positions his versatility may be something for Chip Kelly to covet.
Shayne Skov - OLB - Stanford - Versatile LBer for the Cardinals. He lines up all over behind the line. Good blitzing ability but better suited covering the pass/taking on the run. Some character concerns, was suspended first game of the year last year but still racked up 80 tackles, 9 for loss, 2.5 sacks and a PD. Had a fantastic game late in the season shutting down the Oregon offense, and Chip has shown a knack for drafting players who beat him up.
Adrian Hubbard - SAM - Alabama - Adrian Hubbard got the start last year and seemed to play better as the year went on. Has tremendous physical ability but it seemed it took him some time to realize his potential. Ended the year with 41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 3 FF, and 1 PD. Curious to see if he builds on his strong finish last year. Is only a junior and may do well to stay for another season. Round 2 or 3.
Dion Bailey - OLB/S - USC - Dion Bailey is a very intriguing prospect to me. Last year he played as OLB for USC and they are converting him to Safety this year, based on team need. Great speed and is a ball hawk. Last year as an OLB he put down 80 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 INT, and 5 PD. Currently got him around round 2 or 3.
Josh Shirley - DE - Wash - Shirley was a situational player for Wash as a DE. He's too small to play DE in the pro's and will need to convert to OLB. I'm so interested in Shirley for one reason only, in his limited playing time, it seems he has mastered the strip sack. In his first two years he has 8 FF and 13 sacks. Rounds 4 or 5.
Honorable mentions -
Ron Powell - OLB - Florida - Coming off injury, was top recruit in 2010.
Vic Beasley - OLB - Clemson - Situational pass-rusher, shown tremendous ability last year.
Eagles haven't been known for having a great group of line backers in long time. I'd love for that to change being a defensive person myself. I miss the Gang Green days when we had a defense that intimidated and scared the opposing offense. Adding a key LBer may just be the next step to accomplishing this.