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2016 NFL Draft: Is linebacker a possibility for Arizona Cardinals?

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The Cardinals could be looking at defense in the first round...but will they pick a linebacker?

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

So last week, I looked at defensive line possibilities the Cardinals could go with in round 1. Could they go with a linebacker? There's not a lot to choose from, but there are some intriguing prospects...

Darron Lee OLB

Ohio State

Height: 6-1 Weight: 232

From CBSSports.com:

"A two-year starter in Ohio State's versatile 4-3 base defense, Lee was a 195-pound quarterback in high school and although the Buckeyes coaches weren't sure where he would play, they knew he could play.

After starting his Buckeye career at safety, he added muscle and moved to linebacker during his redshirt year, taking over for the departed Ryan Shazier at SAM linebacker in 2014 - played the "walkout" linebacker role so he was asked to cover, blitz and consistently play in space...

STRENGTHS: Above-average range, speed and athleticism. Unlocks his hips to instantly accelerate and close. Makes himself skinny and shoots through gaps on the line of scrimmage. Needs to do it more consistently, but flashes violence in his hands to punch, lock out and keep himself free from blocks.

Explosive tackler and doesn't need a runway, striking low and leading with his shoulder. Performs with an instant reactor and diagnoses play speed well. Quick-minded, recognizing tendencies and play-calling trends...

WEAKNESSES: Leaner-than-ideal features for the position with a narrow torso and maxed out build. Physical mindset with pop in his hands, but lacks ideal play strength to consistently unglue himself from blocks. Stonewalled and engulfed by offensive linemen and needs to improve his take-on technique to stay clean and gain body position..."

Leonard Floyd OLB

Georgia

Height: 6-6 Weight: 244

From CBSSports.com

"The Bulldogs' 3-4 scheme has helped pad the statistics of several edge rushers from Georgia in recent years, but few boast Floyd's raw tools. Floyd burst onto the scene as a true freshman, leading all first-year SEC defenders with 6.5 sacks (among his 55 tackles) in 2013. Floyd struggled with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery and kept him out of the Belk Bowl in 2014, but posted similar numbers as a sophomore, leading the Bulldogs with 6.0 sacks."

Kamalei Correa OLB

Boise St.

Height: 6-3 Weight: 243

From CBSSports.com:

"Sports a compact, well-built frame with room for additional muscle mass without sacrificing quickness. Possesses an explosive initial burst off the snap as well as when closing on the ball, generating a combination of speed and power to surprise ballcarriers (five career forced fumbles). Versatile edge rusher comfortable rushing out of the two- or three-point stance.

Offers a variety of tricks as a pass rusher, showing the speed to beat tackles wide as well as a powerful initial shove to generate space and rip his way into the backfield. Locates the ball quickly and has a knack for splitting gaps. Plays with his legs wide and knees bent to anchor in the running game, showing surprising strength at the point of attack to set the edge....

Starred mostly as a defensive end for the Broncos but currently lacks the bulk to remain there full-time in the NFL. A bit straight-linish as an edge rusher, lacking ideal flexibility to turn the corner in one fluid motion.

Doesn't string together his pass rush moves well enough, lacking a plan to set up opponents with a series of counter-moves. Relies on his burst and initial pop as rusher, too often failing to break free if blockers are able to latch on until the ballcarrier is downfield..."

Shaq Lawson DE/OLB

Clemson

Height: 6-3 Weight: 269

From CBSSports.com:

"Lawson entered the 2015 season with more buzz than production, but officially broke out as a junior with an FBS-leading 24.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks and now projects as a top 20 pick.

STRENGTHS: Lawson's compact frame and power make him equally effective against the run and the pass, where he shows surprising initial quickness and agility as well as a terrific motor. He has quick, strong hands to create push with his upper-body strength, showing the fluid lower body to drive his legs and smoothly change directions based on his reads...

WEAKNESSES: Lawson needs to do a better job with his recoil to reset and react to inside runs..."

Noah Spence DE/OLB

Western Kentucky

Height: 6-2 Weight: 251

From CBSSports.com:

"Spence displayed first-round talent at Ohio State, but was banned by the Big Ten for repeated failed drug tests and ended up at Eastern Kentucky in 2015.

Spence spent one year rebuilding his image off the field and dominating on it at EKU, earning co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Ohio Valley Conference. He finished the season with 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks to go with 63 tackles, 15 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries. That was enough to forego his senior season...

STRENGTHS: Fluid, balanced athlete with smooth lateral quickness and change of direction ability to avoid blocks. Gets upfield quickly with his first step burst and closes fast, staying low to the ground with above average coordination. Wins the corner and controls his momentum extremely well with his natural leverage giving him an added advantage. Displays deadly dip to flatten to the quarterback.

Spence is a versatile front-seven defender, lining up at left and right end, standing up or putting his hand on the ground. He appears comfortable on his feet and has dropped in space enough to show that he can do it...

WEAKNESSES: Needs to improve his snap discipline and anticipation. Needs to show heavier hands to jolt blockers at the point of attack, struggling to consistently convert speed to power. He has a light anchor and can be moved by blockers and his lack of height hinders his backfield vision at times.

Needs to improve his instincts and experience in coverage, especially with several teams with a 3-4 base defense scouting him as a stand-up linebacker. Needs to improve his functional strength, play with more of a mean streak and keep his nose clean..."

Emmanuel Ogbah DE/OLB

Oklahoma St.

Height: 6-4 Weight: 273

From CBSSports.com:

"Ogbah was named an All-American, the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award after leading the conference in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (16.5) while setting a school record with 19 quarterback hurries as a junior. He finished his career with 28 sacks...

STRENGTHS: Already has the look of an NFL player with a well-proportioned build and the grown-man strength to bully blockers off the edge. A disruptive presence whether lining up on the right or left side, sporting an exciting combination of speed, length and power. A power defender who plays a physical brand of football, but also looks comfortable in space when asked to drop and cover.

WEAKNESSES: Still learning the nuances of the position. While highly thought of in the scouting community, Ogbah is battling the history of high-round picks from Oklahoma State who have failed to live up to expectations in the NFL."

Alright, so there's a few guys for the Cardinals to consider for sure. Just because they added Chandler Jones doesn't mean we shouldn't try to further upgrade the linebacking corps.

With that in mind, let me say that I highly doubt that either Lee or Lawson will be available. Lawson definitely fits the mold of an OLB that Bettcher would like. And Lee is very fast, and we all know how difficult it is to find speed at that level. So if either of them is available, I'd be a little surprised to see Arizona not take them.

But for the sake of argument, let's say they are off the board. What about the others?

Well, I'm not going to talk about Ogbah. I just don't think the Cardinals risk it. If you don't believe me, just read this great article Revenge of the Birds wrote earlier this week.

I also don't care much for Floyd...but I'm not a Cardinals scout. He didn't have great production in college. What he is, however, is athletic. And you can't coach that. So there's a small chance that they could take him. I personally just don't see it.

Correa was mocked to us a few times, most notably by Mel Kiper of ESPN, and has a great motor. However, most pundits seem to agree that the 2nd round is a better place for him. Still, I heard a comparison from Daniel Jeremiah of Clay Matthews, and that's a very positive review. The Cardinals could trade back and get a guy who could be a dedicated 3rd down guy at first and then coach him up on coverage and all the other things they want their 3-4 OLB's to do. He already has a great motor, though, and that's a huge plus.

As for Spence, we all know about his being kicked off the Ohio State team. That shouldn't bother the Cardinals too much, although they may be wary of another Daryl Washington. Yes, they succeeded with Tyrann Mathieu, but he was also an overwhelmingly talented player in college who came in with a support system in Patrick Peterson. Spence wouldn't necessarily have that. Still, if the Cardinals are looking at their pick for a pure pash rusher who may be ready to play from Day 1, Spence may be their best bet. And yet they passed on guys like Shane Ray and Randy Gregory last year (that looks smart for the most part...Ray could still have an impact).

So what do you guys think? Should Arizona draft a linebacker?