NFL Draft 2012: Eagles Should Target Linebacker Ahead of Defensive Tackle

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2012

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Virginia Tech Hokies scrambles with the ball as Luke Kuechly #40 of the Boston College Eagles defends on September 25, 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

As speculation runs rampant over who the Philadelphia Eagles will select with the 15th pick in next week's NFL Draft, one thing remains clear: No one has a clue who the Eagles will select.

By all accounts, the Eagles appear most interested in defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, but once again, it's all speculation. The Eagles have also brought in defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers for visits, but as our own Dave Stoessel noted, the Eagles rarely pick players who they show public interest in.

The Eagles have also been linked to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd, but both players would appear to require a move up in the draft—a move that Peter King of Sports Illustrated notes would be quite pricey.

So where does this leave the Eagles in the grand scheme of things?

While many are pointing to defensive tackle as the Eagles' most glaring need, it would appear outside linebacker is ultimately the weakest link in an otherwise strong defense.

With Mike Patterson, a healthy Antonio Dixon, Cullen Jenkins and the newly re-signed Derek Landri anchoring the interior of the defensive line, the Eagles would appear to have a pretty formidable rotation in the works.

The story at linebacker is quite different.

While DeMeco Ryans was a pleasantly surprising addition at middle linebacker, a rotation of Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews at outside linebacker will not suffice for a second consecutive season.

Before the Ryans deal, it was a foregone conclusion that the Eagles would target Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round. I would argue that the addition of Kuechly would still be a reasonable one. While Kuechly is considered an inside linebacker, there's nothing out there that says he can't adjust and move to the outside.

Kuechly is known as being a cerebral player, and he proved so at BC. Kuechly amassed over 100 total tackles in each of his three seasons at Boston College, and notched a career high 191 total tackles during his junior campaign.

If the Eagles are truly believers in players adjusting to new roles, then they may target one of two Alabama linebackers. Both Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower are highly touted prospects, however both are known more for rushing the passer than stopping the run. Neither would be a reach for the Eagles at 15 as they are both projected to be mid-first round selections.

With enough depth at positions like defensive tackle and cornerback, the Eagles would be wise to consider adding a linebacker despite the premature consensus selection of Fletcher Cox.