Over at my blog, Fester's Place, (link here:http://tinyurl.com/t3a2c ) I am looking at the Patriots and Steeler's future linebacker needs. Both teams need at least one more high quality linebacker, and the free agent market does not look like it is swimming with a large number of starter quality 3-4 backers. Therefore the draft is the most likely place for a significant number of starters to be found. The ideal 3-4 passrushing linebacker is not a collegiate linebacker. The overwhelming majority of collegiate linebackers are too small to fulfill the run responsibilities of a 3-4 linebacker, and the few that are big enough are usually playing in the middle where they tend to be too slow to be effective edge rushers. The few who are big enough and fast enough to both set the edge and speed rush against elite left tackles tend to get drafted in the first ten picks as these guys are atheletic freaks. Instead the ideal 3-4 passrushing linebacker is an undersized defensive end who is used to setting the edge against the run already, and has the demonstrated quickness to beat good tackles. The more experienced 3-4 teams, especially the Steelers, had been able to leverage their unusual scheme into higher draft values. They targeted players that they considered elite passrushing prospects that the vast majority of the league did not consider elite. Therefore they were able to grab very good players for them much later in the draft than if the Steelers were a 4-3 team. This advantage is dissipating as the 3-4 has dispersed throughout the league with at least ten teams playing some form of the defense. Today, the tweener DE/OLB prospect with the same exact relative draft grade can expect to be drafted signficantly higher than a comparative prospect from five years ago as more teams are looking for that skill set today than before. I think that there might also be another factor which could push tweeners higher up the draft board. The CBA places limits on the duration of rookie contracts, [6 years max for picks #1-16, 5 years max for picks #17-32, 4 years max, everyone else]. Conversion projects take time. I wonder if we will be seeing a reshuffling of the draft to overemphasize positions with longer and shallower learning curves near the two inflection points of contract length. Should we expect to see more 3-4 OLBs, quarterbacks and wide receivers drafted between picks 13-16, and 27-32 than we otherwise would expect and then a dearth of these long learning curve positions until late in the second round or early in the third round?