Draft Daily: Inside LB Targets For the Eagles
From now until the draft, we’ll try to hit on some key positions with our previews. Monday was outside linebacker, and yesterday was safety. Today we’ll take a look at inside linebackers.
Chip Kelly admitted earlier this offseason that adding pieces behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks is a priority.
“I think you’d like to develop depth behind those guys so that they’re not playing every snap, but you’re still gonna play your best players,” Kelly said. “So you always have to make decisions. Is putting someone else in… is it just to get him out of the game? Or is that a good matchup for us? But I think that’s kind of a priority for us is developing depth behind those two guys [Ryans and Kendricks].”
Ryans played more snaps than any other linebacker in the NFL last season, and he’ll turn 30 in July. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles try to find someone who can spell him in obvious passing situations and potentially take over the starting job down the line.
Keeping that in mind, here are some potential targets on Days 1, 2 and 3 of the draft.
C.J. Mosley, Alabama (6-2, 234) – We wrote about Mosley in-depth a couple weeks ago. He’s got long arms, huge hands and has been described as a film junkie. Mosley played inside linebacker in Alabama’s 3-4 and was previously a sub package player. He’s a superb tackler, can cover well and has the ability to deliver big hits. The question with Mosley is his health – and specifically, a knee injury. If his medicals check out and Mosley slips, the Eagles could pounce at No. 22.
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (6-1, 237) – On the surface, the size doesn’t seem like much of an issue. But one scout suggested to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Shazier bulked up during the pre-draft process and played last year under 220. Shazier is a fantastic athlete and was productive for the Buckeyes, piling up 39.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons. He might be best-served as a 4-3 WILL, but I’m not ready to rule him out as a potential option for the Eagles.
Kyle Van Noy, BYU (6-3, 243) – I debated whether to include him with the outside linebackers or the inside linebackers. Van Noy is a versatile player who could fill a number of different roles. As a junior, he had 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles. Last year, he was asked to play a lot in coverage, and some believe he could be a productive inside ‘backer in the NFL. I’m not sure exactly where Van Noy would fit for the Eagles, but my guess is they are intrigued by his versatile skill set.
Christian Jones, Florida State (6-3, 240) – Another versatile player to keep an eye on. Jones played inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end while with the Seminoles. With 33.5-inch arms, he would have unique length for an inside linebacker in the Eagles’ 3-4. Jones reportedly failed a drug test at the combine. He could be a nice option though, especially if he slips out of the third round.
Jordan Tripp, Montana (6-3, 234) – He called himself the most versatile linebacker in this year’s class. The Eagles had Tripp in for an official visit. Considered a fantastic athlete who holds up well in coverage, there’s a chance Tripp could go off the board on Day 2.
Christian Kirksey, Iowa (6-2, 233) – The Eagles had him in for an official visit too. Kirksey was a three-year starter and a two-time captain for the Hawkeyes. He had 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles as a senior. The measurables don’t jump off the page with Kirksey, but he could be a Day 3 pick who adds depth and contributes on special teams.
Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA (6-4, 235) – He played in a 3-4 with the Bruins, starting 17 games inside and five outside. Tommy Lawlor over at Iggles Blitz compared Zumwalt to a Kelly favorite: Kiko Alonso. He’s another player who could intrigue the Eagles on Day 3.