WR Jerrel Jernigan: A Bad Fit?
Many mock drafts project the Falcons to target Troy wideout Jerrel Jernigan in the second round of the draft. And admittedly, I have pegged him as a potential Falcon pick in my recent 7-round mock.
But in truth, Jernigan is not a great fit in Atlanta. At least not with the way the team currently runs their offense.
The last thing the Falcons need to be looking for is another pure slot receiver. This is essentially the problem that the team has run into with Harry Douglas. Douglas has yet to emerge as a strong option on the outside. And that’s the area of most glaring need at wide receiver. The Falcons need a player on the outside that can make teams pay for paying too much attention to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
Michael Jenkins has failed to be that option. And while Jenkins had a decent season after a dismal 2009 campaign, he’s not a guy that is going to make plays if the spotlight is put upon him.
Jernigan is an explosive receiver, but it remains to be seen if he can be an explosive receiver on the outside. Primarily what he did at Troy was run a lot of shorter routes and use his speed and burst after the catch to make plays. This is the same type of receiver that Douglas is.
Now, Douglas struggled throughout 2010. But he did his best work when he was running shorter routes. On passes that went 10 or less yards, Douglas caught 15 out of 28 attempts (53.6% catch rate) and totaled 97 yards after the catch for a total of 138 yards. On passes where the ball went beyond 10 yards, Douglas had just 7 catches on 25 attempts (28% catch rate) with 31 yards after the catch for 156 total yards. Getting Douglas more work on the short passing game will make him a more effective receiver, and to a level where he’ll be at the very least acceptable if not very good in that realm.
Instead, the prototype for what the Falcons should be looking for on the outside is a big, tall, physical receiver that has speed and burst to get downfield and stretch the defense. Current and recent NFL receivers that fit this bill are Marques Colston and Plaxico Burress. Jenkins is tall with decent speed to challenge downfield, but he doesn’t separate well from corners and doesn’t have the ball skills and body control to go and get the ball. That is why Matt Ryan needs more than anything out of a big, vertical option.
Jernigan is not this type of player. Players like Miami’s Leonard Hankerson, PItt’s Jonathan Baldwin, Indiana’s Tandon Doss, UNC’s Greg Little, and Tennessee’s Denarius Moore are much more this type of receiver than Jernigan. Now each one has their own faults and weaknesses. Baldwin is similar to Jenkins in that he has the high-cut build that will make it hard for him to separate from corners under 15 yards. Doss and Little too are more used to running shorter routes despite their size, but they have very good ability after the catch. Little is fairly raw as a receiver and may take extra time to develop. Hankerson and Moore probably don’t have as much upside as the other guys do as playmakers, but are good complementary options that have very little risk involved with them.