NFL draft prep: A pair of potential LB targets

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NFL draft prep: A pair of potential LB targets
September 23, 2013, 10:15 am
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UConn's Yawin Smallwood and UCLA's Anthony Barr are two potential targets for an Eagles linebacking corps in need of some help. (USA Today Images)

Last week, we ran through the quarterbacks to keep an eye on come draft time. Because I truly believe the QB discussion is set to dominate Philadelphia for the next few months, today I broke down the possibility of a union between Chip Kelly and Johnny Manziel.

But the reality is that the Eagles' biggest needs are on defense. Every Birds fan knows that, and we've previously discussed some potential safety targets.

This week, we're looking at linebackers. Here are two whose recent work has stood out:

Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut, 6-4/236
Smallwood was already highly regarded before Saturday's near upset of Michigan. His effort in the loss served only to up his stock. Smallwood recorded 13 tackles -- none bigger than his 4th-and-2 stop of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner. That play had Huskies fans believing an upset was possible, but in the end Michigan stole a win. Still, Smallwood's efforts are worth noting. Along with his 13 tackles, he had a sack and a pass defensed. He now has at least 13 tackles in every game this season. The junior is a stout 236 pounds, runs very well, but most of all, he tackles. And in a defense where tackling is lacking, Smallwood is a name to keep in mind come April.

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA, 6-4/245
Barr recorded his first sack of the season in a ho-hum, 59-13, demolition of New Mexico State on Saturday, which I absolutely didn't watch. I did, however, watch Barr make play after play the week before against Nebraska. The 245-pound senior finished with 11 stops (two for loss) against the Cornhuskers. More important to Eagles fans, he forced three fumbles. His play earned him all kinds of national acclaim as he won the Bednarik, Nagurski and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. His stock is rising, and with the spotlight that figures to shine on the Pac-12 as conference play begins, Barr is a player worth watching.


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