Will Kuechly be the Pick at No. 15 for the Eagles?
It once seemed inevitable that the Eagles would use their top pick in April's draft on a defensive player.
That has changed.
Trading for DeMeco Ryans took care of the Eagles immediate need to add a linebacker, and with all the problems the Birds had at the position last season, the Eagles could still have a potential hole to fill at outside linebacker.
That would explain why several draft analysts mock drafts, like Wes Bunting of the National Football Post, Chad Reuter of NFL.com, Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com and Don Banks of Sports Illustrated still currently have the Eagles taking Boston College's Luke Kuechly with the 15th overall pick.
Kuechly had 2.5 sacks in his career but was otherwise plenty productive, but the big question is; can he play outside linebacker in the NFL?
Kuechly is a play-maker, suggesting that he could be an outside backer, leading the nation in tackles the past two seasons, making a 191 stops as a junior and 183 as a sophomore. In three seasons he averaged more than 14 tackles per game and returned two of his seven career interceptions for touchdowns.
Kuechly was last season's winner of the Lombardi Award, which recognizes the nation's top collegiate lineman or linebacker.
Many mock drafts that have the Eagles drafting Kuechly, have the Birds passing on pass-rushers like Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram, defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox, all of whom have been mentioned as possibilities for the Eagles.
Bunting described Kuechly like this at Nationafootballpost.com: "He's not the biggest, strongest or fastest of athletes. But he's instinctive, plays faster than he times, finds the football in all areas of the game and can really tackle. He's going to be a bit limited in coverage, but he's instinctive enough to play on third down in zone and should end up being one of the NFL's top tackling linebackers for years to come."
Some draft experts, including Russ Lande have said Kuechly is the best inside linebacker in this draft and "probably the most versatile one to come out in a number of years." Landre compared Kuechly to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, an eight-time Pro Bowler and one-time defensive player of the year.
Kuechly is 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds according to the scouting combine results, where he showed the speed that Eagles need to add at linebacker. His time of 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash was third among all linebackers at the combine, as was his 38-inch vertical jump.
The Eagles' perceived interest in Kuechly is tied largely to the teams poor play at the position last season. But who will the deal for Ryans effect the draft? Ryans has shown in the past that he is strcily a 4-3 middle line backer, the position that many people think Kuechly is best suited to play. Jamar Chaney, who started at middle linebacker for the Eagles last season, will move to the strong side with under-sized Brian Rolle slated to get first crack at weak-side. Casey Matthews is also under contract as are holdovers Keenan Clayton and Moise Fokou.
A unit of Ryans in the middle with Chaney and Kuechly on the outside could make the Eagles go from worst to first in terms of linebacker units in the NFC East. The real question is can Kuechly play outside and will the Eagles take him at 15 if he is there?
The answer comes April 26/