NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Timmy Jernigan

With the NFL draft kicking off Thursday Night I will be posting a series previews of the top prospects from Florida State

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Timmy JerniganDuring his career at Florida State nose tackle Timmy Jernigan proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defensive lineman in the country. A high four-star recruit coming out of high school, Jernigan amassed 139 tackles (25 for loss) and 8.5 sacks during his three years at Florida State. A rotational player for his first two years, Jernigan became a full-time starter his junior year and proved to be one of the most important players in the Seminole’s dominant defense.

Jernigan recorded 63 tackles, third on the team, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks during his all-American junior season. The best game of his career came in the   National Championship game when he finished second on the team with nine tackles.

Jernigan’s ability to clog the middle of the line was a key part of Florida State’s 3-4 nickel defense. Jernigan frequently took on multiple blockers freeing up the linebackers to make plays behind him. His value to the team quickly became apparent when he wasn’t in the game. For example, a minor injury caused him to miss sometime late in the championship game and Tre Mason, the Auburn running back, took advantage with a 37 yard touchdown run through the hole Jernigan typically occupied.

At 6 feet 2 inches and 299 pounds the biggest knock against Jernigan throughout the draft process has been his lack of size. He is smaller than the prototypical nose tackle and he also lacks some of the necessary skills to be moved to other spots on the defensive line.

Jernigan struggles at times with his initial step once the ball is snapped. He lacks the necessary explosion to beat the offensive lineman to the point of attack forcing him to play catch-up at times. He makes up for his lack of explosion with brute strength though. He completed 27 reps of the 225 pound bench press at the NFL combine and he uses this strength to wreak havoc in the interior of the line.

Jernigan will need to improve his conditioning as he struggled with stamina issues during his time at FSU. If he is picked by the right team with a system that fits his skills sets Jernigan has the potential to be a very productive player at the next level.

Projection:

Since declaring for the draft Jernigan has been projected as a mid-to-late first round pick. Reports recently surfaced that he was among the players who was flagged by the NFL for a positive drug test at the combine. Jernigan’s agent Sunny Shah told the Sun Sentinel that his client was flagged for a “diluted sample due to over-hydration” and not for a banned substance. Recently a number of mock drafts have Jernigan falling out of the first round and he made the decision late last week to not attend the draft In New York as previously scheduled.  Pitts’ Aaron Donald is expected to be the first defensive tackle drafted, but Jernigan has a realistic chance to be the second DT to come off the board.

Best fit:

Due to the limitations in his game Jernigan fits best as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. His best asset to a team is as a space-eater in the middle. He does have the ability to pin his ears back and get to the quarterback when needed, but he really flourishes when he is simply asked to plug the middle of the line and take on multiple blockers. The team he has been tied to the most often is the Dallas Cowboys who own the 16th pick in the draft.

By: Brandon O’Connor

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