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May 06, 2014

Cowboys would love to give SLB Bruce Carter some competition

Linebacker

Overview

With Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr included in the group of linebackers, the position looks a lot better than it otherwise would. It is a solid group with star power at the top in Mack and Barr, both expected to be off the board in the top 15 picks. But while there is quality talent, the position doesn’t have scouts jumping up and down with excitement.

Cowboys’ needs

When Sean Lee is healthy, he is one of the top inside linebackers in football. But staying healthy has been the hardest part for Lee. He has missed 18 games with injuries in his four-year career, including five last season with hamstring and neck injuries. Lee, 27, has yet to make it through a 16-game season. Kyle Wilber started the year at defensive end, but he found a home at strongside linebacker. The move was necessitated by veteran linebacker Justin Durant’s hamstring injury in a Nov. 10 game against the Saints. The Cowboys want more production from the weakside spot, where Bruce Carter was a major disappointment in his third season. Carter ended up with 122 tackles and two sacks, but if he does not play better, he likely will find a permanent spot on the bench. The Cowboys will look to add depth, and perhaps competition for Carter, in this draft.

Top five

Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo, 6-3, 251, 4.65, He had 100 tackles, 19 for loss, with 10.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, three interceptions and five forced fumbles in 13 games last season.

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA, 6-5, 255, 4.66, He switched from running back in 2012, so scouts believe he has upside after making 41.5 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks in past two seasons. The Cowboys had him in for a pre-draft visit.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama, 6-2, 234, 4.65, He led his team in tackles the past two seasons, including 108 in 2013.

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State, 6-1, 237, 4.58, He had 317 career tackles, 45.5 for loss, with 15 sacks and nine forced fumbles. The Cowboys had him in for a pre-draft visit.

Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU, 6-3, 243, 4.71, He had 223 career tackles, 61.5 for loss, with 26 sacks, seven interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Sleeper

Howard Jones, OLB, Shepherd, 6-3, 235, 4.60, He had 71 tackles for loss, four blocked kicks and a school-record 34.5 sacks. The Cowboys had him in for a pre-draft visit.

Top Texas tie

Terrance Bullitt, OLB, Texas Tech, 6-3, 226, 4.71, He could be a seventh-round pick, but his size and strength are questions.

-- Charean Williams

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