Scoping the OLBs

With Jason Taylor having moved on to the New York Jets, it now seems highly likely the Dolphins will be taking an outside linebacker early in the 2010 draft. But which one? There are a lot of candidates, among them several college defensive ends expected to make a position switch in the NFL. We break down the candidates.

JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, FLORIDA — A defensive end for the Gators, Cunningham started 38 games in college. He was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2009 when he had seven sacks. He projects as a third- or fourth-round picks.THADDEUS GIBSON, OHIO STATE — Another former college defensive end, Gilbson earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last year. He had only 10 sacks in his three seasons at Ohio State. He's projected as a third-round pick.

BRANDON GRAHAM, MICHIGAN — The star of the Senior Bowl, Graham has drawn comparisons to former Michigan standout LaMarr Woodley, who played defensive end in college before being switched to outside linebacker by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Graham is a relentless pass rusher who recorded 8.5, 10 and 10.5 sacks the past three seasons. He could be an option at No. 12.

JERRY HUGHES, TCU — Often mentioned as one of the major risers in the draft, Hughes was a stud at TCU, where he was a consensus All-American the last two years. He's a speedy pass rusher who recorded 15 and 11.5 sacks the last two years. A possibility at No. 12 overall.

SERGIO KINDLE, TEXAS — Another defensive end, but this is one different because Kindle played linebacker before switching positions in 2009. He's a more complete linebacker than most on this list, but isn't as gifted as a pass rusher, although he did get 2.5 sacks in the national title game against Alabama. He could go anywhere from 12 to 27 in the first round.

KOA MISI, UTAH — He has been described as perhaps the most talented athlete ever to perform at Utah, which certainly wouldn't please Sean Smith. Misi lined up everywhere on the defensive line for the Utes, but his NFL future is as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He only had 10.5 sacks in three years at Utah, so his pass-rushing potential is uncertain. He probably figures to be a second-round pick.

DERRICK MORGAN, GEORGIA TECH — He's been mentioned in some circles as a likely choice for the Dolphins as No. 12 if he's still on the board, but we're having a hard time believing that one. For one, he was a defensive end at Georgia Tech, which means he'll have to learn to cover or be used strictly as a pass rusher. In other words, he's another Cameron Wake. So why go with a duplicate? That said, Morgan is a great defensive end prospect, and we think he'll be gone by the 12th pick anyway.

JASON PIERRE-PAUL, SOUTH FLORIDA: Another player who has been mentioned in connection with the 12th pick, he makes even less than Morgan. In addition to the same issues as Morgan, he's not nearly as proven a commodity after playing only one year at USF. On top of that, he had only 6.5 sacks despite playing opposite proven pass-rushing defensive end George Selvie. Pierre-Paul is a guy who'll get drafted much earlier than he should because of his physical gifts but is a dangerous pick. In other words, he's a perfect pick for the Raiders.

RICKY SAPP, CLEMSON — Sapp was listed as a defensive end at Clemson, but he played a hybrid position much like a 3-4 OLB. Coming off a knee injury, Sapp didn't have a sensational senior season, although it was good enough to earn him second-team All-ACC honors. Sapp had 14 tackles for loss, including five sacks. He projects as a second-round pick.

JASON WORILDS, VIRGINIA TECH — Came out after his junior season. A second-team All-ACC selection last year as a defensive end after he recorded five sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Those numbers actually were down from the eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss he had in 2008. Worilds' stock has been fluctuating, but it's now believed he could get drafted as early as the second round.


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