If you like to see Montana represented in the NFL — and who doesn’t? — the NFL draft is a good place to start. This year’s draft is next weekend, and a couple more Grizzlies have a good chance of hearing their name called sometime Saturday.
The first round is scheduled for Thursday night, the second and third rounds are Friday, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds are Saturday.
The highest-ranked prospect from Montana, according to national pundits, is UM linebacker Jordan Tripp.
NFL.com projects Tripp to come off the draft board somewhere in the fifth or sixth round. Gil Brandt, who was part of the Dallas Cowboys’ front office for many years and now contributes to NFL.com, thinks more highly of Tripp, ranking him the 125th best player in the draft.
“Tripp has a chance to be a late third-round draft choice,” Brandt wrote after the Grizzlies’ pro day in March.
The biggest knock on the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Tripp has been his short arms (NFL draft prospects get scrutinized down to the smallest details), but it seems most see him carving out an NFL career.
From ESPN.com’s profile on Tripp (paid content): “Overachiever with great work ethic and passion. Elite football character and intelligence. Exemplary leader. You want this guy in your locker room.”
Tripp’s running mate at Montana could also get selected during next weekend’s draft. Brock Coyle is ranked the No. 10 inside linebacker by ESPN.com, and NFL.com projects him to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round.
Brandt called Coyle “a true rags-to-riches story, having gone from a prospect who might not have even received a rookie free-agent contract to a possible sixth- or seventh-round draft pick” after an impressive showing at the Montana pro day.
Coyle, listed at 6-1, 235 pounds, posted good times in the 40-yard dash and an eye-opening 37-inch vertical.
From NFL.com: “Has the physical traits to excel in special-teams coverage and could emerge as a solid role player in time. Possesses the personal and football character to carry him to a steady NFL career.”
“The football tradition at Montana is really quite special,” Brandt wrote, noting the Grizzlies have had multiple players selected in 11 different drafts. The most recent time that occurred was 2012 when cornerback Trumaine Johnson (third round by the St. Louis Rams) and linebacker Caleb McSurdy (seventh round by the Cowboys) were both drafted.
With the buzz Tripp and Coyle are generating this season, the 12th time could just be a few days away.
Other players with Montana ties who could be drafted or signed as undrafted free agents:
Danny Kistler Jr., OT, Montana
Kjelby Oiland, OC, Montana
William Poehls, OG, Montana
DeNarius McGhee, QB, Montana State
Tanner Bleskin, WR, Montana State
Preston Gale, DL, Montana State
Ryan Jones, OLB, Montana Tech
Jonathan Aiken, WR, Rocky
Max Copeland, FB, Missouri via Billings West