The NFL continues to get bigger seemingly every year and guys who were once hovering around the 300lb mark are now getting closer to 350lbs and in some cases more. Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins is one of those cases of being over that mark and may have come relatively close to climbing Mount 400. For people who subscribe to the Planet Theory, the idea that are only so many people of this size on the planet, Jenkins is an intriguing player, but the discussion with Jenkins and players like Jenkins is at what point the weight becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Jenkins junior season was substantially more productive than his senior year with 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 4 hurries an interception compared to 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 10 hurries as a senior and teams are going to have look into why there was such a difference between the two years.
Jenkins measured 6’3 7/8” 358lbs at the Senior Bowl. He has impressive quickness for a man his size and has incredibly broad shoulders and strength that enable him to take up a ton of space in the middle. The problem is his weight. When it comes to players of Jenkins’ size, it is impossible to know how much their weigh fluctuates throughout the year. It unclear if Jenkins was hovering closer to 400lbs at times and then lost weight to try to get in better shape for the Senior Bowl and then continue to do so for the combine and individual workouts. It is hardly surprising that Jenkins has a bad motor and lacks stamina. It takes a ton of He needs to lose a ton of weight and keep it off, which becomes a fear in the offseason. He would be a far better player if he could get down to the 320-330lb range. The only problem is that much of his ability at that weight range is a projection and teams that could want Jenkins will have to make the judgment to see if the player at a lower weight is worth picking and if so, which round of the draft. He does have a substantial amount of potential.
Whether it is against the run or the pass, from nose tackle or the 5-tech, Jenkins basically gives the same thing on any given play. He flashes an impressive first step, then tries to just build up momentum and work his way to the backfield, locate the ball, and then if they are close enough, try to make a play. Jenkins has long arms and can reach well that he will surprise ball carriers and make tackles. Amazingly, he will occasionally slip blocks and get to the quarterback. The negatives tend to outweigh the positives. Jenkins should be demanding a double team on any given snap. The amount of double teams he actually forces are few and far between. Plenty of teams were able to single block him with a center or guard depending on where he lined up. Jenkins almost never showed the ability to collapse the pocket. He plays with terrible leverage, ends up standing up, and becomes a blocking sled more than a football player. And when he is going up against the shortest players on the line in the middle that rely on leverage to operate, it puts more stress on Jenkins to play low, which he has not shown he can do. It is not fun for players to move him, but it happens far more than it should. At this point, Jenkins just functions as a boulder that needs to be moved or avoided rather than a threat to make plays. Too often, Jenkins’ stops his legs and will lean on opponents. His balance is poor and he is on the ground far too often. These are the problems he has faced in college; he will not be able to survive in the NFL with this type of play.
Whatever ability he has for the NFL, it is being reduced by his weight. Not only would he have more stamina and more energy from play to play, he should be able to fire off the ball lower because there is less of him in the way. If he could drop down to around the 320-330lb range, he could be a productive football player; even 340lbs would be an improvement. His balance should also improve, which is a huge problem currently. He has to be able to force double teams consistently to be effective to take pressure off of his teammates around him. The surprising athletic feats he periodically displays could be even better, but at least should be more frequent. What could give teams a gleam of hope this would happen is the week of the Senior Bowl as well as his junior year where he played at a listed 351lbs. He looked better, lighter on his feet, and more effective. This could lead teams to believe that he was playing heavier during the season, which is a concern. It also gives teams the hope that if they interview him and he makes them feel like in their nutrition program he would lose weight and stay in better shape, he can be an effective player.
In terms of fit, Jenkins’ size says he should play nose tackle in a 3 man front. The athleticism he occasionally shows suggests he might be able to contribute as a nose guard in the 4-3. For all of his weight issues, Jenkins is a remarkable athlete and can contribute in multiple schemes. He has shown an ability to rush the passer at times and while his size might cause people to pigeonhole Jenkins as a 3-4 nose tackle, that attribute could make him attractive to 4-3 teams. Either way, his first job is going to be force teams to double team him and have him collapse the pocket.
The best case scenario for Jenkins could be Pat Williams, the 340lb nose guard who played his college football at Texas A&M. Williams was a monster of a man who was incredibly strong and played at a high level in the NFL for fourteen years. That is an incredibly high bar for Jenkins to meet, but he does have the potential to do it. On the other hand, he could end up being like Gerard Warren, the former Florida Gator. Warren had incredible athleticism, but never played up to his potential and became a serviceable player, but never anything like he should have been. The last possibility is he eats himself out of the league, which would be incredibly disappointing, but it happens.
There are always going to be people intrigued by Jenkins’ combination if size, strength and potential, but his senior year tape was not good. If there was a candidate to be this year’s Vontaze Burfict, Jenkins could be that guy. A player that had some high expectations coming into the year with good tape in previous years not having playing at the same level and having some concerns dramatically impact their draft stock. In addition to the on field concerns, Jenkins allowed his grades to slip to a point where he was ineligible to participate in the team’s bowl game. While grades may not have a huge impact on the NFL, he did let down his teammates by being unable to play in the game. Jenkins may not fall as far as Burfict did and like Burfict has the talent to come in and be a good player. He just has to decide how important football is to him. Based on the tape and his current shape, Jenkins looks like a day three prospect with the chances of going undrafted, but his junior tape and potential could cause a team to pull the trigger earlier.
South Carolina 2012
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