NFL Combine 2014: Linebackers to watch

Kyle Van Noy of BYU - Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some of the linebackers worth paying attention to at the 2014 NFL Combine

Linebackers. New York Giants' fans -- at least the ones who are around here (aren't all Giants' fans here?) -- love to talk about 'em. The Giants hate to draft 'em. At least, they hate to draft 'em early, having not used a first-round pick on one since taking Carl Banks third overall in 1984.

A fair share of pre-NFL Combine mock drafts have had the Giants selecting a linebacker with the 12th overall pick. My personal belief is that is a pipe dream -- I simply won't believe it will happen until it does happen. That is especially true this year when so much of the focus is on fixing the Giants' "broken" offense.

My instinct as of now -- with free agency and much evaluating still to come -- is much more in line with that of NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock. Whether it ends up being offensive line, wide receiver or running back my feeling today is that at No. 12 the Giants take the offensive player they think will have the biggest impact. The exception might be a cornerback they can't pass up.

With that as a backdrop, let's look at some of the linebackers who will be on display at the Combine. I am going to put them in some 'subjective' categories.

Wishful Thinking

Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo -- Enjoy watching the best linebacker in the draft at the Combine, Giants' fans. It's almost certain that the 6-foot-3, 248-pound Mack will be off the board long before the Giants are on the clock. Mayock thinks Mack could be one of the first five players selected.

In his profile of Mack, 'Invictus' practically froths at the mouth at the prospect of Mack in a Giants' uniform, while admitting there is virtually no chance of that happening:

He can move around. He can play with his hand on the ground. He can do anything he wants. The Giants could use that type of foundational piece.

Guys You Love To Argue About

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA -- Some folks seem to think Mack is a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 SAM. Talk about Barr and there also seem to be arguments about whether or not he should still be on the board for the Giants at 12.

'Invictus' concluded in his profile that Barr and the Giants seems to be an unlikely marriage:

The reason I said he doesn't likely fit is because he's a risk. The Giants need to develop him. They need to make him stronger, need him to get better against the run, and they need him to develop his instincts on the field. That's a lot of development for a first-round pick. His ceiling could push the Giants defense over the edge and into dominance, but the chance of him busting would be a crushing blow to a team that right now needs all the help that it can get.

C.J. Mosley, MLB, Alabama -- Is 12 too early for Mosley? Do the Giants want to draft a middle linebacker if they re-sign Jon Beason? Could Mosley slide over to the SAM position? NNFL.com's Gil Brandt says Mosley "does everything you want on the field out of a linebacker." Could he end up doing those things for the Giants?

Day 2 Possibilities

Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU -- Sports on Earth thinks the 6-foot-3, 244-pound Van Noy might be "the most overlooked man in the NFL draft." SOE also says "If he has a strong combine, Van Noy could overcome concerns about whether he possesses top-level athleticism and vault into the first round, which is where he belongs."

CBS Sports compares Van Noy to Chad Greenway of the Minnesota, whom CBS says "might just be the best all-around outside linebacker in the NFL." CBS adds that Van Noy "ranks among the safer prospects in the 2014 draft."

Shayne Skov, OLB, Stanford -- Just go read the film study by '56 4life.'

Chris Borland, MLB, Wisconsin -- Mayock calls Borland "one of my two or three favorite players this draft."He adds that "I think he's going to start for whatever team takes him and as long as he stays healthy, he's just going to keep making plays. The kid makes plays. He's around the football all the time."

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State -- The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Shazier is considered a borderline first-round pick by some. NFL.com speculates that where he lands could depend on the speed and athleticism he shows at the Combine.

Another Name To Know

Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota -- 'Raptor' recently profiled Starr, and thinks he could be one of those freakish athletes GM Jerry Reese falls in love with and takes a late-round flier on.

There are plenty of other linebackers to check out, as well. This is hardly a comprehensive list, just a 'whet your appetite' kind of list. See our complete list of Combine invitees.

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