Highly recruited five-star high school football player, Jelani Jenkins chose to be part of the top SEC Florida Gators team. Even as a high school player, Jenkins earned many awards including being one of the five finalist for the Watkins Award. He took a redshirt year as a freshman, but afterwards contributed as a Middle Linebacker or Weak-side Linebacker racking up 182 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, 6.0 sacks, 7 pass break ups, and 3 interceptions (one every season as a starter). Though the statistics aren’t as gaudy as one would expect from a high recruit, how he put up those numbers is more impressive if you were to watch him play. Unlike his college recruitment, Jelani Jenkins will not be among the top sought-after linebackers in the upcoming NFL Draft.
6’0″, 243 lbs.
Jelani Jenkins is a versatile linebacker, capable of playing against the run, dropping in coverage against both tight ends and slot receivers, rushing quarterbacks, and playing for the Special Teams. He compliments his teammate, Jon Bostic, where Bostic would absorb blockers, Jenkins would finish the job by hunting down the runner or passer. His hands is good enough for Jenkins to be able to pick off the passer when he drops to cover the receiver. Though he many not be able to read the passes well yet or have polished back pedaling, Jenkins is doing an adequate job in covering the middle, long enough for his teammates to put pressure on the quarterback. Jelani Jenkins, unlike his deliberate calculating teammate, Bostic, he relies almost solely on his instincts when playing down hill. He has good, not great, instincts in detecting the ball carrier behind theoffensive linemen, shown in his tackle-for-loss numbers . Furthermore, Jenkins is quick and shifty in pass rushing situations, able to get into the backfield in a hurry towards the runner or quarterback.
Jelanie Jenkins is an undersized linebacker who lacks power in his tackles (though he did show off some highlight hard hits at times). Bigger running backs have an easier time breaking his tackles and offensive linemen can push him back or aside with relative ease. He also does not appear quick in coverage, and can get beat by a receiver who can run polished routes. Jenkins’ instinct is also the reason for many of his issues. First, his instinct does not always lead him to take down the wrong player; being deceived by play fakes or play-actions. Second, Jenkins sometimes overcommits to a player and ends up over-pursuing his targeted player, which leads to having a less-than-optimal angle for tackling. Lastly, Jenkins sometimes played recklessly, throwing himself against the opponent. Being a small player, he is already at a disadvantage, but his playing style led to injuries. He was not able to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, because of a foot surgery he suffered late in the season. He also missed some games during his final year, including a lingering hamstring injury and a thumb injury. Teams will question his durability in the professional level, and may not want to invest much in a player who have a history of nagging injuries.
Being an undersized linebacker is becoming less of a strike against current prospects. Recently players such as Lavonte David and Sean Spence, both equally considered undersized for the NFL, were drafted inside the top 100. Jelani Jenkins’ versatility can earn him a top 100 consideration for teams who likes his instincts and wish to develop him. He is suited best to play in the 3-4 inside linebacker role or in the Tampa-2 Weakside linebacker. His contribution as a special team players will earn him some positive points for teams who would want him to play immediately.