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Top 10 Eligible Outside Linebackers In The 2014 NFL Draft

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2014 NFL Draft: Top 10 Eligible Outside Linebackers

2014 NFL Draft: Top 10 Eligible Outside Linebackers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft is the best chance for teams to upgrade at important positions, and no defensive position has become more important in the last few years than outside linebacker. What was once mainly a run-stopping player has now become a team’s go-to pass rusher.

Teams, especially those who run the now prevalent 3-4 scheme, count on athletic outside linebackers to put pressure on the opponent’s quarterback. These players need to be able to beat tackles in the passing game, but they also need to be able to stand up and make plays in both the passing and running games.

Basically, outside linebackers need to be the most versatile players on an NFL field. The skill set needed to fulfill all that is asked of them is extremely hard to find, which means you’re unlikely to get it through free agency or waiver wire pickups. If you want to find a new difference-making outside linebacker, you’re going to need to use a draft pick to get him, and an early one at that.

This year, we have a strong group of candidates for future NFL stardom. All of them possess the ability to get sacks, which is a prerequisite at this point. But, the best of the bunch also can defend receivers down the field and make tackles against the run.

The NFL game is getting more and more complex every year. That strategic arms race is unlikely to slow down any time soon, and the best weapon the defenses have at their disposal are versatile, play-making athletes who are most likely to line up at outside linebacker.

These are the top 10 eligible outside linebackers for the 2014 NFL draft.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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10. Trent Murphy

Trent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Murphy led the Stanford Cardinal with 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2012.

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9. Jeremiah Attaochu

Jeremiah Attaochu
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

A versatile playmaker who excels at getting to the quarterback, Jeremiah Attaochu is the kind of athletic outside linebacker the NFL is looking for.

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8. Demarcus Lawrence

Demarcus Lawrence
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing mostly defensive end in college, Demarcus Lawrence will have a chance at being drafted as an outside linebacker because of his pass-rushing ability. He might struggle against the run in the pros, but his ability to push the pocket in a 3-4 scheme will get him drafted.

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7. Adrian Hubbard

Adrian Hubbard
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A pass-rushing specialist outside linebacker, Adrian Hubbard would fit perfectly on any team already running a 3-4 defense.

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6. Ryan Shazier

Ryan Shazier
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Shazier has been a dominant force for the Ohio State defense since breaking onto the scene as a true freshman. His top-end athleticism makes him ideal for the new generation of NFL defenses.

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5. Kyle Van Noy

Kyle Van Noy
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Van Noy has been making plays all over the field for BYU over the last couple of years. He's a tackling machine who will continue to make plays at the next level.

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4. Christian Jones

Christian Jones
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

An excellent athlete, Christian Jones has played at both inside and outside linebacker while at Florida State. He doesn't have the size to play inside at the pro level, but he has the speed and quickness to be a difference-maker on the outside.

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3. Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Under the radar coming out of Buffalo, Khalil Mack is jumping up draft boards. At 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, he's built like and old-school NFL linebacker.

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2. C.J. Mosley

C.J. Mosley
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama keeps putting out NFL-ready linebackers like an assembly line. Next up for some lucky team — C.J. Mosley.

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1. Anthony Barr

Anthony Barr
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Barr, who started on offense at UCLA and has played both linebacker and defensive end, has the versatility and talent the NFL is looking for. He could end up being a top-five pick this spring.