Position: Defensive tackle
College: Florida State
Height/weight: 6’2”, 299 lbs.
It’s no secret that defensive line is a position of need for the Cowboys, one year after the front office passed on the opportunity to add to the defensive front via the draft. A whirlwind of injuries plagued the front seven in 2013, and Dallas could very well be losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to free agency. At the no. 16 pick in this year’s draft, the ‘Boys are in a perfect position to make an immediate upgrade in the middle.
The former five-star recruit out of high school from Lake City, Fla. started just two games in 2012, but emerged as the anchor of the Florida State defense the following season. The Seminoles lost three of their top pass rushers to the draft before the 2013 season, but Jernigan shouldered the load by amassing 63 total tackles with 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for a dominant front seven. The junior claimed All-ACC honors and finished his college career on a high note, totaling 9 tackles in the Seminoles’ National Championship win.
Why he’s a good fit for the Cowboys
While Jernigan’s 40-yard dash time was just 5.06 seconds at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, he shows lateral quickness in stopping the run all along the defensive line. Jernigan is a versatile three-technique tackle who is effective in stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, and would be an asset whether or not the Cowboys bring back Hatcher. He thrived in a FSU defensive scheme that primarily utilized four down linemen, as the Cowboys do. NFL draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. had this to say about Jernigan, according to SB Nation:
“I'm a bigger fan of Jernigan in a 4-3 look, where he's using his power to go through a blocker and not trying to beat people off the snap and use quickness. He's not a blow-by rusher, but has the strength and quick feet to eat up a running play before it goes anywhere.”
If Jernigan is still on the board at no. 16, the Cowboys would be making a wise pick in grabbing Jernigan. CBS Sports projects him to go either at no. 14 to Chicago, or no. 16 to Dallas.
Jernigan has all the tangibles of an NFL defensive tackle -- size, quickness, strength and playmaking ability -- but also has the intangibles. According to Pro Football Talk, Jernigan has said he wants to play like Ndamukong Suh in the NFL.
“I love the way he plays the game, his mindset, the mentality, the nastiness he plays with. The guy’s lethal… If you don’t play the game with an attitude, you really won’t make it too long playing inside,” Jernigan said in the PFT article.
If he can play with the tenacity of Suh, without the outrageous penalties, Jernigan will be an asset to any team in the League. And the ‘Boys need some of that tenacity on a defense that was historically bad last year.
Timmy Jernigan would be a natural fit in the Cowboys' 4-3 system, and he could make an immediate impact in the first year of Rod Marinelli's defensive regime. If he drops to no. 16 and the Cowboys take him, I would grade the pick an A+.