Surely the Eagles aren't averse to taking a linebacker with the 23rd pick if they deem one to be the best player available, but there may not be a linebacker worthy of that selection. Without knowing exactly what free agency will look like when it comes and with Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither all possibly in line to hit the open market, linebacker is a position where some added depth could be of value.
The one linebacker generally expected to go mid-to-late first round is UCLA's Akeem Ayers, but NFL Network's Michael Lombardi said on a conference call Wednesday that if the Eagles took Ayers, he expects they would make him more of a pass rusher.
So perhaps the Eagles will look to add to their stable of young linebackers in the middle rounds. Last year, the Eagles took two linebackers, Keenan Clayton in the fourth round and Jamar Chaney, who would end up starting and impressing at the end of the season, in the seventh round. Both Chaney and Clayton had one attribute that is always appealing to the Eagles - speed. Chaney, in fact, topped all linebackers at the 2010 scouting combine with a 4.54-second 40-yard dash.
That need for speed gels with an Adam Caplan report that the Eagles plan to work out Marshall linebacker Mario Harvey. Harvey, 5-11, 250, is said to have run between a 4.39 and 4.46 40-yard dash during his pro day, elevating his status from a sixth- or seventh-round pick to the middle rounds, according to Caplan.
Who are some other linebackers to keep an eye on for Eagles fans beyond round one? ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay answered that question on a conference call.
"Round two, Bruce Carter from North Carolina," Mcshay said. "I don't know if he's going to last that long. If he does, I think he would be a perfect fit ... as a weakside linebacker who can run sideline to sideline. If he's there at (pick No. 54), great. If not, Martez Wilson from Illinois. Different people have different reads on him, but one thing that you can't debate is that he's fast. He's clocked a time at the high 4.4's and he's 6-4, 250 pounds and he can flat out run. So, I think those are two players who kind of fit what they're looking for.
"When you start to get later on, obviously there are more question marks. The guys like Ross Homan (from Ohio State), fourth-round range ... He's 6-0 1/2, 240, he runs pretty well but he struggles to get off of blocks. I think for their need it's an outside linebacker in that second-third round range, or even one of the inside linebackers that potentially could play outside like Quan Sturdivant, another North Carolina linebacker who ran in the 4.5's. Or even Mason Foster from Washington. But I think both of those guys, Sturdivant and Foster, would both be best suited to play middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme."
Carter is ranked as the fourth-best outside linebacker prospect by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, while Sturdivant is Mayock's third-best inside linebacker prospect.