Given Bowman's injury and Willis getting close to 30, I think this is the year we invest a top 150 pick on a good backup ILB and potential longterm starter.
Of all the linebackers I've looked at (especially those whose value lines up with where we'd take a LB), the prospect that stood out the most is Jordan Tripp the LB for Montana. He reminds me very much of a mix between Navarro Bowman and Kiko Alonso coming out as he's instinctive, slightly undersized (at 234), and can flat out fly.
Like Bowman, Tripp spent most of his career at OLB in a 4-3 (though has played some interior as well). Based on the lb's we've added under this regime (Willis, Bowman, Moody, Wilhoite) it's clear that we value players with speed/instincts over bulky/stout backers. This only makes sense as the NFL has become a speed league and if the guys upfront can take on double teams, those linebackers will shine.
I would bet money that we have Tripp pretty high on our linebacker rankings and can only hope that we pull the trigger on him. Going to D1-AA there isn't a ton of videos available online, but here are some highlights from just 1 playoff game.
CBS sports: Tripp was a relative man amongst boys at the FCS level, earning a spot among the finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award as the best small school defender in the country. The third-generation Grizzly also proved that he could handle the jump in competition by enjoying a solid week at the Senior Bowl.
In some respects, Tripp is the stereotypical small school linebacker, as he is highly instinctive, tenacious and a team captain.
Don't sell Tripp short, however. Besides sporting a legitimate NFL frame, he's also a fluid athlete with good closing speed. He possesses the length and burst to intrigue as a pass rusher but only posted 11 sacks over 40 career games (25 starts) because he was more dangerous handling the run from the middle and dropping back into coverage.
Jordan Tripp- LB, Montana
6-2, 235 lbs
Bench: 22 reps
20 Yard Shuttle: 3.96 (fastest at combine)
3 Cone: 6.89 (4th fastest at combine)
[ Edited by 49oz2superbowl on Apr 2, 2014 at 5:42 PM ]