NFL Draft Review 2011: The pros and cons of making Jarvis Jenkins the 41st overall pick

I did not know a lot about Jarvis Jenkins before the 2011 NFL Draft.

I did not do extensive pre-draft tape study on the second best defensive lineman on the Clemson Tigers.  I saw Jenkins play football a couple of times, which isn’t an evaluation in and of itself.  I reviewed his statistical resume at Clemson prior to ranking him as the 87th best player in the 2011 NFL Draft.  If you’re thinking that I’m actually saying that he’ll be a better professional football player than Edmund Gates, but won’t have quite the career of Allen Bailey or Chris Carter, you’re taking my rankings way more seriously than I do.

In any case, Jenkins’ impressive resume plus his unremarkable play during a couple of Clemson games made him squarely a third round pick in my eyes.  When the Redskins picked Jenkins, 14 of my top 41 players were still on the board.  Here are the breakdown of those players by position:

  • Quarterbacks (2): Ryan Mallett, Pat Devlin
  • Runningbacks (1): Mikel Leshoure
  • Wide Receivers (4): Leonard Hankerson, Torrey Smith, Jerrel Jernigan, Randall Cobb
  • Tight Ends (1): Kyle Rudolph
  • Offensive Line (2): Rodney Hudson, Ben Ijilana
  • Defensive Line (2): Da’Quan Bowers, Stephen Paea
  • Linebackers (1): Justin Houston
  • Cornerbacks (1): Brandon Harris

Revisionist history allows us to throw out running back and wide receiver as positions the Redskins “should” have addressed with this pick.  If you had asked me to pick any wide receiver or running back who should have been the pick at no. 41 for the Redskins, I would have told you “Leonard Hankerson.”  Mr. Hankerson is a Redskin anyway.  So the outcome justifies taking Jarvis Jenkins over him at no. 41.

However, I am less convinced that the pick definately should have gone to the defensive side of the ball.  The Redskins were unable to address their needs at quarterback or offensive line in this entire draft.  Due to this, I think one could look back on the 41st pick, with Ryan Kerrigan already in the fold, and suggest that they missed their only opportunity to pick Ryan Mallett, Rodney Hudson, or Ben Ijilana with this selection.  I would have felt better about this draft given any of those three players in the second round instead of Jarvis Jenkins.

But the number one criticism I’ve read about the Jenkins pick is that the Redskins passed over a universally higher rated player in Stephen Paea (who the Bears eventually drafted in a trade up with the Redskins) to draft Jenkins.  The one stat that people keep worrying about is bench reps.  Jarvis Jenkins only did 17 bench reps, while Stephen Paea did a record-breaking 49 bench press reps at the combine.  Thus, people have surmised that Paea’s dominant upper body strength makes him a far better selection at no. 41 than Jenkins.  Bench reps though fail to conclusively prove the very thing that they supposedly are a measure of, which is isolated upper body strength.  When you compete in contest of repetition, such as bench pressing 225 lbs as many times as possible, you’re isolating upper body strength in a confined plane of motion.  It’s probably not a ridiculous conclusion to suggest that Jenkins is giving strength in the pectoral region compared with Paea, but trying to tie that value back into the context of a football game is fruitless.

Put another way: if you got to start 16 games in five consecutive seasons for the Redskins on the defensive line, you would have some sort of positive sack total just by opportunity.  Sure, you’d look awful on film against behemoth offensive lineman in the NFL, but on the plays you got to the quarterback, you’d be able to register a couple of sacks.  Now consider your bench press max.  I’ll bet fewer than 15% of the US male population can put up 225 pounds even once.  Jarvis Jenkins put that up seventeen times.  If you can manage a couple of sacks over many years in the NFL, perhaps without the ability to bench 225 pounds, you can imagine that someone who can put it up 17 times is probably on a level playing field with most NFL tackles, regardless of how their bench max compares.  Jarvis Jenkins could easily bench press the average NFL tackle, so I’m not sure why his relatively low reps total would be a concern.  If anything, it really puts into perspective the kind of pectoral endurance Paea has, but it’s kind of hard to just assume that makes him the better football player.

And even if he was the better college football player, Paea got injured at the senior bowl and Jenkins was remarkably healthy in his college career.  As pointed out earlier, there’s no correlation between bench press repetitions and NFL success, and the increased injury rate amongst muscle bound players is a reason why.  Compared to Paea, Jenkins’ pass rushing ability is a work in progress, but as a run stopper he will certainly justify his top two round value, and that makes him a good scheme fit.  Whether he justifies his draft position has to do with how quickly his rushing skills develop.

The only defensive player who I would have wanted over Jenkins then, perhaps, is CB Brandon Harris of Miami, now a Texan.  But Harris is a player that I had rated lower than Hankerson, and it’s unclear whether the Redskins considered CB a need, especially with Barnes in the fold.

In conclusion, Jarvis Jenkins was not one of the top five players I would have picked at 41st overall.  But given the need for a defensive lineman, I’m not sure there was a better player for the Redskins on the board than Jenkins.  Lower down on my board, there was the mercurial Allen Bailey (also of Miami).  Most sources had nearly identical post-combine, post-pro day ratings on Bailey and Jenkins, as did I.  Defensive lineman ahead of Jenkins on most boards included Da’Quan Bowers, Paea, and DT Marvin Austin of UNC.  The value picks may have been on the offensive side of the ball.  That makes sense.  But the Redskins were in it to address defense, and beyond the fact that Ben Ijilana, Rodney Hudson, and Ryan Mallett were all available and may have helped the Redskins offense more than Jarvis Jenkins helps the Redskins defense, I doubt there’s a player on the board that would have been more wanted by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett than Jarvis Jenkins.  For when it came time to send in the pick, that was the bottom line.