Unless the Saints believe John Jenkins is a pass-rusher, the team fooled everyone. From careful film review, it is clear Jenkins is not a pass-rusher. He's really not much of a run-stopper either.
What does Jenkins do well?
Well, first and maybe most importantly, Jenkins is a "scheme fit." Jenkins excelled both at nose tackle at the five-technique defensive end spot at Georgia under Todd Grantham (who, remember, Sean Payton courted for the vacant defensive position).
Grantham ran the exact same defense that Rob Ryan brings to New Orleans. Both use a lot of two-down lineman looks. Both use their outside linebackers as glorified defensive ends.
Both thus require versatility and flexibility from their defensive linemen. There isn't really a true nose tackle on the field in this defense for more than 25 percent of the snaps in one football game.
That is where Jenkins' value to this defense arises. His ability to play over the center will help. More, though, his ability to move out over the guard, or even an inside-shade over the tackle, will allow him to operate from a position of familiarity and strength.
Jenkins does not possess the strength one would expect from a man his size. But he does show great lateral agility and quickness. That is likely what endeared him to Ryan and Payton.
Even so, he'll need to play lighter on his feet in the NFL. One reported development from Scott Walker (h/t Pro Football Talk) should help that.
Dropping the 38 pounds ought to allow Jenkins to stay more on balance and keep his feet with greater regularity. His athleticism, which has been a positive trait even despite the excessive weight, can now be a huge benefit to his game.
The issue to Jenkins, and this entire defense as a whole, which requires much lateral quickness, is that the NFC South is a power run division. Jenkins, then, must prove he can do what he could not against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
In that game, he was knocked off the ball six or seven yards (maybe a slight exaggeration) by the interior of the Alabama offensive line. If he wasn't in the chest of his own inside linebackers, he was likely eating turf on the ground.
The Crimson Tide brought a bunch of quality offensive linemen to the dance. They beat Jenkins up and made him look silly. If this was the only example of such a thing, one could chalk it up to Jenkins just having a bad day.
Unfortunately it was not.
Still, Saints fans should be looking for the positives. The "scheme fit" is outstanding. And Jenkins already knows the defense. He has talent and an ability to fill every role Rob Ryan requests of him.
Finally, Jenkins will not be asked to start right away. Instead, he'll fill a rotational role with Brodrick Bunkley and Akiem Hicks. If he's asked to play 20 plays a game, he ought to make a nice contribution at some point during his rookie year.
Yet at the end of the night, no Friday pick has me scratching my head as much as this one. Sure, he fits, but for what the Saints gave up, and the obvious need and availability of one or two elite (in my opinion) pass-rushers on the board, this pick just didn't make sense.
The Saints hope Jenkins fits and lives up to the high billing they, as a franchise, have placed on him.