With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to start this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players listed were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
49. John Jenkins, Georgia DL
We continue this year's series with Georgia defensive lineman John Jenkins, a mountain of a man who tends to get a bit too mountainous at times. Playing anywhere from 335 to 370 pounds through his Georgia career, Jenkins at his best is a prime example of Bill Parcells' "Planet Theory" -- that there are very few guys big enough, and with enough athleticism, to play in the NFL. Jenkins weighed in at 346 at the scouting combine last week, and tried to explain the fluctuations.
“I tell them you have nothing to worry about," he said when asked what he tells NFL teams about his weight issues. "It was the only time my football career ever that I was that high. It was the highest I had ever been at in my life. I didn’t have the right knowledge of how I should have my weight and wasn’t educated enough to keep my weight down. That’s where I want to play so I can get the job down efficiently. They don’t have anything to worry about; I’m going to do it.”
If he does it, Jenkins could be an elite defensive lineman at the professional level, capable of filling more than one role -- and more than one gap at a time. He amassed 36 solo tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks during two full years for the Bulldogs, but as much as the pure numbers, Jenkins will be asked to clog up blockers and make plays in short areas. He's proven the ability to do that with consistency, against some of the NCAA's best offensive lines.
Pros: For a man his size, Jenkins has incredibly quick feet -- he'll get into the backfield with surprising speed and acceleration, and he has a legitimate ability to go sideline-to-sideline when he's pursuing running backs. Commands double-teams most of the time, especially when playing outside the guards in a three-tech or five-tech role. Will dance through trash in tight spaces and keeps the effort toward the ballcarrier even after he's blocked out of a play. Comes off the snap with good intensity and gets into "fighting stance" quickly. Can play well enough in multiple gaps, though he's ideally an interior defender at the NFL level. Played some end at Georgia and did it well enough for it to be a part of his NFL palette.
When he gets his hands inside a blocker's pads, that's when Jenkins really goes to work, and when he's very hard to stop. He understands leverage (though he comes off the ball too high at times), and he keeps his feet moving very well once he's got the positional advantage. Disengages off blockers well enough to occasionally wrap up a ballcarrier even when he's double-teamed. Can be a real pass-pressure threat even when he's in less than optimal shape; he beat Alabama's Chance Warmack for a sack vs. Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship game from the nose slot -- at 370 pounds.
Cons: Though Jenkins can occasionally just blow through double-teams with his sheer mass, he doesn't always use his hands well. I would like to see him use more rip moves to get past blockers who should have a harder time with him. Will get caught up in blockers at times because he can't always knife through with his hands, though I saw him really improve on that during Senior Bowl practices. Also, he doesn't always redirect well after he's moved past a block; this is where it's clear that he needs to keep his weight down and increase his functional agility. And while he has quick feet to run, I'd like to see him avoid chop blocks better and more consistently.
Concerns about stamina common to all bigger players apply to a point -- when Jenkins is playing heavier, he will lose a step and some power as the games go on, though he appears to be giving good effort when he looks tired.
Conclusion: Depending on the defensive schemes installed by his NFL team, Jenkins could fill a few different roles. I could see him as an elite nose tackle or one-tech shade guy (where the Shaun Rogers comparison comes in, he reminds me of Rogers in his ability to slip off blocks), a big three-tech in rushing downs, or a Red Bryant-style big five-tech run-stopping end. Rogers played at 6-foot-4 and an official measurement of 340 pounds, but that was when Rogers was on the right end of the dietary curve.
Just as Rogers made three Pro Bowls because he was simply too big and fast to stop on a regular basis, John Jenkins has the potential to be a real handful for any NFL offense. The upside is up to him, and the improvement in critical areas from the 2012 season to the Senior Bowl tells me that he understands what he needs to do.
NFL Comparison: Shaun Rogers, Detroit Lions (2004-2007), Cleveland Browns (2008)
More Shutdown 50:
#50: Markus Wheaton. WR, Oregon State
NHL video from Yahoo! Sports:
Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
• Matt Kemp backs off of 50-50 talk this season
• Spurs lose Tony Parker to ankle injury
• Notre Dame reaches out publicly to Catholic 7
• Danica Patrick, crew chief make for odd couple