Who would have guessed that the Minnesota Vikings would be 6-4 heading into their 2012 bye week? I can assure you that I didn’t. Despite exceeding expectations, they still have a number of holes that must be addressed when the upcoming offseason arrives.
Of those holes, one of the biggest remains at the defensive tackle spot. That’s why a player like Georgia run-stuffer John Jenkins would be an outstanding pick for the Vikings when the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft finally rolls around.
The Vikings boast one of the best defensive tackles in the game in Kevin Williams, but the tread is wearing thin on his tires. As for the adjacent nose tackle spot, veterans Fred Evans and Letroy Guion have filled the hole that was once occupied by big Pat Williams. Neither, however, has stood out and it’s shown as the defense continues to get gouged by opposing ground games.
By adding a player of Jenkins’ size and athleticism, the Vikings would in essence be getting back the type of talent that Pat used to provide.
Measuring in at 6’3’’, 358-pounds, Jenkins is a mammoth of a man in the middle. He swallows up double teams and clogs running lanes, something that the Vikings could benefit greatly from seeing how their run defense has fared in 2012. When engaged, he does a good job of using his hands to get free and will show off the occasional finesse move. To top it all off, Jenkins has shown the ability to make plays in pursuit and has improved his effort drastically since 2011.
Surprising considering his size, Jenkins is a fairly decent pass rusher as well. He’s improved greatly over the past year with using his hands and getting leverage on blockers, and will notch the occasional sack. Although he’s never going to crack double digits, Jenkins has the skills and motor to tally three or four sacks per season.
Some people are wary of Jenkins being a first-round option due to his lack of conditioning and fickle production, but someone will certainly see enough upside in him to pull the trigger early. His impact and disruptiveness are unparalleled when he wants to work hard; the only question is the frequency at which that happens.
Prior to his senior season, there were concerns about his character and dedication to staying in football shape. Although some of those questions have been answered in 2012 with impressive outings and an improved motor, there are times where he wears down and gets gassed. Overall, Jenkins has taken the necessary steps this season to assert himself as one of the top defensive tackle prospects. A big factor in the Vikings’ interest in Jenkins will be whether or not GM Rick Spielman feels he’s ready to focus on football and avoid off-field distractions.
Unless he tanks at season’s end and disappoints during pre-draft festivities, Jenkins will remain a late first-round talent. If the Vikings like what they see, he could be their new defensive anchor in 2013.