For the second consecutive draft, the Baltimore Ravens focused on upgrading the middle of their defense. A big part of that improvement—literally—is reigning BCS national champion Timmy Jernigan from Florida State, and that’s who we’re examining today.
Somehow the 2014 NFL draft is still dominating air time and sports coverage because draft grades are all the rage, but let’s be real—those grades are pretty meaningless at this point. Instead, it’s far more useful to break down the strengths and weaknesses of every pick, and that’s what’s going down right here.
Over the next few weeks, scouting reports for all of the Ravens draft picks will be published based on film analysis. I’m no scout, but I have watched a number of games for each prospect and hope to give you a clearer idea of their skills, how they fit in with the team and what you should expect from them in 2014 and for the future.
Every player’s evaluation will be categorized by important traits/requirements of his position. For example, Jernigan’s game—as a defensive tackle—will be broken down into:
- Physical Tools and Scheme Fit: How will his physical gifts help/hurt his transition to the NFL? Where does he fit along the Ravens defensive line?
- Run Defense: How well does he anchor the middle against the run? How does he deal with double teams? Can he shed blocks well?
- Pass Rushing: What can he give the Ravens as an interior pass-rusher?
Physical Tools and Scheme Fit
For the majority of his time at Florida State, Jernigan lined up as a 0-technique (directly over the center) or as a 1-technique (on one of the center’s shoulders), but he doesn’t have the size you normally see for NFL nose tackles. As a comparison, here are the other nose tackles on the roster:
|Ravens Nose Tackles|
|Haloti Ngata||6'4"||340 lbs|
|Terrence Cody||6'4"||340 lbs|
|Brandon Williams||6'1"||335 lbs|
|Timmy Jernigan||6'2"||299 lbs|
He doesn’t have the typical weight of a nose tackle or the height of a 3-4 end. At the combine, he measured in at 6’2” and 299 pounds, so he definitely needs to put on some bulk to play as a full-time nose guard but he has the upper body strength to compensate for some of that “slight” (relatively speaking, of course) frame.
That upper body strength is his money maker since he’s not a quick-twitch athlete. He displayed decent speed but he is not at all explosive off the line of scrimmage. His contributions at the next level will be the result of his tremendous strength, stout frame and an impressively high motor for an interior defensive lineman.
Because so much of his game is reliant on strength, it would be surprising to see him receive significant playing time at nose tackle on early downs—although he could slide over there on passing downs.
Instead, it seems more likely that he’ll factor into the rotation at defensive end this season with an eye on bulking up and switching to nose tackle in the next couple of years.
This is where Jernigan can contribute from Day 1. It will be an adjustment to deal with NFL blockers that are much stronger than his opponents over the last few years, but he has the sturdiness to anchor against the run and absorb double teams.
In his scouting report, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports explains how he’ll be a factor versus the run:
Does a nice job using his hands and footwork to sidestep blockers and collapse gaps, and has active hands and the upper-body strength to bully blockers. Jernigan also shows improved ball awareness and can anchor against multiple blocks.
His hands in particular separate him from the rest of the defensive line prospects because he uses them so well to shed blockers. See the clip below for some examples of how he manhandled the Auburn offensive line in the national championship game to stop running plays at the line of scrimmage.
Because of that ability, he should be able to stand up linemen and shed blocks in either direction—fulfilling the role of a two-gapping lineman.
This is the weak area of his game, but it’s not like he’s a non-factor. As was discussed in the physical tools section, he’s not quick, which limits his ability to pick up sacks. The lack of upper-tier closing speed in particular means that QBs will generally be able to see him coming and get rid of the football in time.
At Florida State he did get involved in numerous stunts, but that’s where his lack of speed showed up in a big (and almost laughable) way, so the Ravens will not use him in that fashion.
That said, his strength and bull rush should allow him to collapse the middle of the pocket and help his teammates pick up sacks.
The bull rush is his most effective pass-rushing move (and the usefulness of that move against NFL linemen is still unknown) but he does use his hands violently to get by blockers with some raw swim moves and by simply knocking them out of the way. Check out the short clip below for evidence of his pass-rushing potential.
Furthermore, he will pick up some sacks purely because he plays with such a high motor. For plays that take a long time to develop, Jernigan doesn’t give up and he also displayed natural instincts for jumping up and batting away passes at the line of scrimmage.
Generating pressure will never be the strongest part of his game, but he will be a more effective rusher than Terrence Cody was and he will at the very least be a disruptive presence that occupies blockers and frees up teammates for sacks.
As you can tell, the purpose of this scouting report was not to grade this pick but to give you an idea of the player the Ravens are getting. He has plenty of upside and room to develop—both technically and physically—but he looks ready to contribute (at least against the run) right away.
His high motor and versatility along the D-line are traits that Baltimore fans will love, but his reliance on strength is a concern. He was a productive college player because he was able to physically dominate his opponents, and he definitely won’t be able to do that with the same kind of consistency in the NFL.
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN wrapped him up nicely in his scouting report (subscription required):
Jernigan is tough, physical and can fill a lot of holes in this hybrid defensive front. He can play tackle in the 4-3 and end or even NT in the 3-4. He might be asked to replace Arthur Jones, who departed during free agency. He is not a real two-gap power guy, but his one-gap penetration skills will mesh nicely with this scheme. The Ravens like guys who can play a variety of roles; Jernigan certainly falls into that category.
Getting Jernigan midway through the second round was tremendous value since he has top-20 talent, but he’s a work in progress. He should be a rotational player in 2014, but he has the traits to be a high-quality starter at either nose tackle (with some bulking up) or defensive end.
Note: All scouting combine results and measurements are courtesy of Jernigan’s official NFL combine player profile.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:
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