With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and a lockout battle now in the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan. Despite a very productive time as a running quarterback in Eufaula High in Alabama, Jernigan was spurned by the larger colleges in the area and went to Troy instead. Switched to receiver there, he broke out in his freshman season when he caught 10 passes against Georgia and caught 30 passes in the season despite starting just five games. He spent the next three seasons as a constant first-team All-Sun Belt selection and made his name as one of NCAA's most productive receivers at any level.
Saving many of his best performances for competition against elite opponents (Oklahoma State will most likely be happiest to see him gone; Jernigan caught 16 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in two games in 2008 and 2010), Jernigan should be able to transcend the small-school bias for those smart enough to give him a good look and take what the tape shows them.
Running in the 4.3s at his pro day after logging a 4.46-40 at the scouting combine, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Jernigan is one of the new speedsters popping up higher on draft boards with the success of Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. In 50 games at Troy, Jernigan caught 262 passes for 3127 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also returned 29 punts for 372 yards and a touchdown, and returned 67 kicks for 1,580 and another score. Add in the 892 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 132 carries, and you have one of the more productive collegiate players of the last few years.
Pros: As a receiver, Jernigan shows good, tight cuts on slants, crosses, and comebacks out of the slot, and he gets upfield very quickly after catching the ball. Very sudden player who can get into a gap or zone seam in a hurry. Not just a straight-line speed guy off the snap — has a repertoire of foot-fakes and double moves. Not an especially physical player, but has a long history of breaking half-tackles — defenders need to form-tackle him, or things can get chaotic. Downfield, he's really exceptional at keeping defenders off balance with an assortment of quick, fast cuts. Good hands catcher who will extend to grab errant passes — good for the occasional circus catch, and he doesn't fear traffic.
As a pure runner on end-arounds and other plays, he absolutely shoots out of the gate, blasts past when taking the ball, and has a great sense of where and when to cut. Can cut back against the grain at nearly full speed. Potentially devastating weapon in Wildcat and read option packages.
Cons: Success in a rudimentary offense means that he'll need some help with the route tree. Jernigan's speed is a disadvantage when it causes him to get sloppy with his feet — he's not always sure on quick stick screens, and he could use a little patience when it comes to waiting for his blocks on returns. Doesn't fear contact, but he's not going to break a lot of tackles with his build.
Conclusion: Jernigan hurt his ankle in the New Orleans Bowl, which prevented him from taking part in Senior Bowl week, and that week might have helped him a lot in a pretty iffy receiver class. There's a lot to like about him — first and foremost, his consistent game-to-game production in impressive given his status as the team's well-known primary offensive weapon.
The growth issues are fixable, as common as they are to receivers playing in less complex offenses — Jernigan's just going to have to spend some time getting used to more routes and better press coverage. But the skill set flies off the tape, and in the right system, he could be a real impact player in time. Jernigan has said that he models his game after DeSean Jackson's, and through he doesn't explode off the tape quite the same way Jackson does, any debits against him for his size or opponent strength are completely erroneous.
NFL Comparison: Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina