It can be a tough going for first-round defensive tackles in the NFL, particularly those who don’t play the three-technique position. Their teams fuel serious expectations from fans due to their investment of premium picks, and even if the players do their job, they still often end up getting criticized if they aren’t elite pass rushers.
Florida State‘s Timmy Jernigan is a player who may end up falling into this trap, but any serious football evaluator should be able to see beyond his lack of premium pass-rushing ability and recognize his potential to become an elite run-stuffer. He’s ridiculously strong and has a propensity for throwing offensive linemen to the ground with little effort.
If he just had some more skill in the pass rushing department, he could be a top-10 draft prospect in the realm of someone like Ndamukong Suh.
Jernigan’s biggest detractors, both in his quest to be a high draft pick and his attempts to succeed in the NFL, will likely be his lack of size or elite athleticism. While the NFL is definitely trending towards taller interior linemen on both sides of the ball, Jernigan’s 6-foot-2 frame won’t be as much of an issue as the 292 pounds he carries on it.
Especially at the nose tackle position, where Jernigan has spent most of his time as a Seminole, a 300-plus-pound build is usually necessary to succeed, so it would be highly beneficial for him to add some weight.
There’s also the possibility, however, that pro teams will see Jernigan as more of a prospect at the three-technique position, since he’s shown more playmaking ability in college while lining up over the guard, along with the fact that his weight wouldn’t be quite as much of a factor.
With that said, Jernigan will need to improve his coordination if he’s going to play the three-technique on a regular basis. His running technique needs to be corrected as he doesn’t move well from sideline to sideline, and becomes much less of a threat when the play moves to the outside.
Jernigan is certainly a possibility to be taken in the first round because of his strength, run-stuffing ability and potential to become a good pass rusher. Multiple scouts have told Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell that Jernigan has a good chance to go during the latter part of round one. However, he’ll need to have a good showing at the combine and pre-draft workouts to assure this status.
- Extremely strong; has little issue throwing blockers to the ground at the collegiate level
- Can be a very effective playmaker against both the run and pass when he lines up over the guard
- Very disciplined; consistently gets to heel depth and is there to stuff the run if necessary
- Experienced with 0, 1, and 3-technique positions
- Undersized, particularly if he wants to stay at nose tackle
- Less-than-stellar athleticism and has bad running technique
- Not very good at sideline-to-sideline pursuit
- Doesn’t have great awareness and tends to take bad angles on directional plays
- When playing head-up on the center, gets good push but doesn’t come off blocks well
- Somewhat injury-prone; has missed most of last two springs with MCL and ankle injuries
Jernigan has been very steady during his junior season and has made a very smooth transition into his role as the Seminoles’ primary nose tackle. He’s been solid as a pass rusher, but hasn’t made an earth-shattering impact as he has 4.5 sacks, 2.5 of which came in FSU’s 80-14 rout of Idaho.
Rather, his greatest impact has come as a run-stuffer, and he had 44 total tackles coming into the ACC Championship Game against Duke. Jernigan will presumably have one more huge stage to prove himself on in the BCS Championship Game, and it would serve him very well to take advantage of the opportunity.
2014 Draft Projection: Second Round