Wilber gives Cowboys options galore

The Dallas Cowboys picked Wake Forest linebacker Kyle Wilber in the fourth round with the 114th overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Wilber (6-4, 249, 4.86 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis) is a big, strong athlete with the versatility the Cowboys covet in players: he has played inside and outside linebacker as well as defensive end for the Demon Deacons on a defense that employs both 3-4 and 4-3 formations (he was recruited as a 4-3 defensive end, as one of the top recruits out of the state of Florida, but moved to linebacker in 2010 when Wake Forest switched its base defense to the 3-4).

After redshirting in 2007, he played in 43 games over the next four seasons, playing at least 12 in each of three seasons (he missed seven games in 2009 — his sophomore season — after he suffered a broken leg). He finished his career in Winston-Salem with 195 tackles, including 35.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. He also blocked three field goals.

Wilber is an appealing athlete who runs well and can overpower smaller blockers, despite the fact that he sometimes gets caught too upright when attacking a play. Fairly explosive, he put up 25 repetitions on the bench press with the NFL-standard 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, jumped 33.5 inches in the vertical jump and 9-9 in the standing broad jump.

Wilber has been compared a lot to former Wake Forest star (and current Oakland Raiders linebacker) Aaron Curry, and there are similarities. Like Curry, Wilber is a high-energy guy who has the proverbial "non-stop motor" that coaches seek. But perhaps because of his position switch and the Demon Deacons' switch in defensive systems, Wilber is not being the polished player many saw in Curry when he was chosen with the fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft.

The move from defensive end to linebacker was the right move for Wilber, who is explosive enough to use his strength and speed to get past blockers, but doesn't have the sheer bulk to bull-rush bigger offensive linemen. But he can line up over the tight end and shed smaller blockers, and is at his best against the run, with the ability to chase down ball carriers early (see the high number of tackles for loss) and can be a violent tackler.

Wilber likely will stay outside, although he could back up inside, if needed. He will need to improve in pass coverage, where he has appeared a little stiff at times in college.

"I think what I do best is I have a tremendous motor. I keep going," Wilbur said after being selected by the Cowboys. "I can pass rush, and I can also drop back in coverage. I like to re-route receivers, but I can always improve on my technique and everything. Study the playbook and get in there and get comfortable. That always improves players."

How he fits in with the Cowboys' long-range plans is intriguing. With DeMarcus Ware on one side and Anthony Spencer locked in as the other starter outside after receiving a franchise tender worth about $8.8 million, the starting outside linebacker spots are locked up.

Maybe the Cowboys envision Wilber as someone who could compete for Spencer's job if he is allowed to leave next year as a free agent. Until then, he will learn from Ware and Spencer, serve as a backup and contribute on special teams.

"It feels great that they actually want me to come and help them improve," Wilber said. "I know the defense is hard hitting and they play hard especially with Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware. They're great players. It's just an honor to actually feel wanted."

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