Draft Day Target: DE/LB Shawne Merriman

Speculation has mounted this offseason that the Cowboys will at least <i>consider</i> moving to a 3-4 defensive this offseason. Today, SSD examines an intriguing prospect that would be the perfect fit for such a move. <BR>

Defensively, the Cowboys are looking to improve their talent across the board this offseason. That fact has been established for quite some time.

And the need for additional help on the defensive line has already been well-documented, as has the need for bigger linebackers, and one more talented cornerback in the secondary.

Today, we take a closer look one player that could fill two of the needs mentioned above. He's a player that has seen action on the defensive line, as well as linebacker during his college career.

It's Shawne Merriman, a versatile defender out of the University of Maryland that could play as an outside linebacker or defensive end in the NFL.

The former Terp saw extensive action at defensive end during his last season in College Park, but he saw extensive action as an outside linebacker in previous seasons.

Merriman's 41 1/2-inch vertical jump from 2003 was the best ever by a Maryland defensive lineman.
Overall, Merriman is considered by most draft experts to be one of the best pure pass rushers available in this year's draft. He could take the mold of a true outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, or he could move up front in a 4-3 alignment as a pass rushing specialist.

During his last season with the Terps, Merriman registered a team high 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks. In addition, he's also an outstanding physical specimen, standing in at 6-feet-3 inches tall, weighing 258 pounds, and owning a 42-inch vertical jump.

Simply put, one look at this guy without his pads on and you immediately understand that he has the potential to become an impact player at the next level.

"Merriman has a tremendous upside because of his natural physical skills, not to mention his sheer speed and athleticism," and NFL Scout told SilverStarDigest. "You can also see him playing a couple of different positions. I could see him in a 4-3 as a down lineman, or in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker. It just depends on which team drafts him in relation to their needs."

For the Cowboys, Merriman is a legitimate candidate with both first round selections (No. 11 or No. 20). However, it is important to note that the Maryland native may not last past the middle of the first round.

Most early mock drafts have Merriman being selected before the No. 15 pick.

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