Today we’re going to cover the Tide’s third round NFL Draft selections. Then, next week, we’ll wrap up our Draft coverage with the final installment, covering the Tide’s undrafted free agents.
If you missed the previous editions, here ya’ go:
- Hometown Hot Takes: NFL Draft reactions and analysis of Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Wills
- Hometown Hot Takes: NFL Draft reactions and analysis of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III
- Hometown Hot Takes: NFL Draft reactions and analysis of Alabama’s 2nd round selections
In a league that is perpetually starved for pass rushers, the Crimson Tide saw its two edge players taken relatively early — both Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis were third round selections. This despite that fact that Lewis has all of the athleticism you could possibly want, but a nasty injury history that led to diminished productivity. And this despite the fact that Anfernee Jennings isn’t the most athletically-gifted OLB, but nevertheless had the productivity when he was healthy.
It was the Jack Sprat of pass rushing for the Tide.
Anfernee Jennings, New England Patriots
It seems we forget it because they occurred a lifetime ago, but Jennings had an injury history early in his career: first a bulging disc in his back, then a PCL and arterial damage in 2017. But, over the past two years, he had been healthy and, not coincidentally, productive.
Anfernee Jennings isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism. But, Jennings’ length and versatility, his excellent ability to set the edge, and willingness to do the dirty things, translated to making plays on the field.
Jennings played in a total of 48 games over the next four years at Alabama, logging 193 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and 18 passes defended. In 2019 he earned first-team All-SEC honors after gathering 83 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five passes defended in 13 games started.
This year, he graded out as an 88.2 pass rusher, “just shy of elite territory,” but had the knock on him for not being consistent throughout his career.
However, I think you really do have to dig a little deeper in those numbers: No. 33 wasn’t a day-one elite starter; he improved his pass rush every season going from 0 to 1.5 to 6.5 to 8.0 sacks in his four years. The last two healthy seasons, he registered double digit TFL, and he improved his tackling numbers each season as well.
Being compared to Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, he is a very physical player with good overall technique and an outstanding motor:
Strengths: Solid frame allows him to be physical in setting the edge; versatility to play OLB or DE, depending on scheme; instinctive and quick off the ball at the snap; hard-hitting, intense competitor.
It was that versatility that caught Bill Belichik’s eye. And, in a recent interview, Jennings revealed how the Pats plan on using him. SPOILER — The same way he was used at Alabama. Since the two teams run the same defense, that’s not exactly a surprise either.
“I talked to Coach Belichick [on Friday night]. He plans on using me kind of the same way that I was used at Alabama — using my versatility, being able to stack it back off the ball and line up on the edge and move around, making the most of wherever he puts me,” Jennings said during his introductory presser. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity, and I look forward to it and I’m ready to get to work.”
His versatile skillset and experience in a pro-style organization are just two of the positives about Jennings that likely caught the Patriots’ eye during the pre-draft process; his maturity may very well be another.
Overall? The analysis is quite favorable:
There is a lot to like about the 23-year-old, from his experience — he appeared in 54 games for the Crimson Tide — and his maturity to the positional versatility he brings to the table after having lined up all over the front seven in college.
I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Jennings. I suspect that he is be just the kind of hard worker, with the right balance of skills, that landed in the right system for his abilities, and will improve even more with the right coaching over the next few seasons.
There could not be a more Bill Belichick draft pick than this one.
Grade the Pick — Anfernee Jennings
This poll is closed
Terrell Lewis, Los Angeles Rams
The Athletic really nailed it. Fair or not, Terrell Lewis did not live up to expectations, certainly not the ones commensurate with his formidable physical skills. Remember: Lewis was rated ahead of Joey Bosa.
After missing two seasons at Alabama with serious injury, Number 24 returned to the field in 2019, yet did not show nearly the consistency or productivity you’d expect for someone who lost two seasons of guaranteed starts.
There’s no more accurate example of what could have been than Terrell Lewis’ career at Alabama. He missed the better part of two seasons when he was set to be a starter (2017-18), and in 2019, he showed flashes of what he could have been.
But his potential? My goodness, the potential is off the chart.
Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White gushed when breaking down Lewis’ tape, saying that if he is healthy, he could be the next elite edge rusher:
In addition to being pretty much the perfect size for an edge rusher, Lewis also possesses uncommon athletic ability. That is evidenced by Alabama using him in so many different ways. He lined up on the edge and rushed the passer, and he dropped back into coverage quite a bit as well.
And I’m not talking about some bullshit, half-assed zone drops. He played man-to-man out of the backfield several times, and looked damn good doing it for the most part.
Rams Wire was similarly effusive in its praise:
The consensus when the Rams took Lewis at No. 84 was that they may have gotten the biggest steal of the draft. He likely would’ve been a first-round pick if not for the injuries, which is an indication of the value the Rams got in the third round.
The Rams were smart to take a chance on him, though, even if he does come with major durability concerns. Lewis has as high of a ceiling as just about any pass rusher in this class who’s not named Chase Young and could become a double-digit sack player early on in his career.
And that potential and athleticism is just too tempting to pass up if you’re sitting there with the 84th pick and facing cap issues:
The LA Rams selected Terrell Lewis with the 84th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as a potential replacement on the edge for Dante Fowler Jr or Clay Matthews. If there’s one major criticism for drafting Lewis that high — outside of but related to his injuries — is that the Rams are taking him for what he could be when we really have no idea what he is.
We rarely, if ever, saw what a fully healthy and integrated Lewis on the Alabama defense and then when the NFL Scouting Combine came around in February, we only got his size and not his speed or any other measurables other than a 37” vertical and a 10’4 broad jump. A pro day opportunity to measure Lewis would never come either. He did get a chance to showcase some of what makes him unique at the Senior Bowl, however, with teammate Hale Hentges calling him “an absolute freak.”
Speed, size, power, skill. Lewis has the ability to have it all...If he can stay healthy...and if he can put them all together. And if that happens? Then LA may have just snatched a pro-bowler in the third round.
Those are quite a few what-ifs, to be sure, and far too often potential goes unrealized when NFL GMs gamble.
To me it seems as though Lewis is the anti-Anfernee Jennings; he is much more like Tua Tagovailoa. You don’t see him having a quiet-but-productive career for 7 or 8 seasons. Like Tua, it’s going to be a superstar or selling State Farm in four years. And, aside from Tua, Lewis is the most enigmatic, boom-or-bust player in this Tide draft class.
Good thing I’m not a GM. I’m not sure I could make that call. But, the consensus among the folks who do write the checks is that the Sexy Pterodactyl’s potential is worth betting on.
Grade the Pick — Terrell Lewis
This poll is closed
See ya’ on Monday or so with the Tide UDFA’s. Have a great weekend and be safe. Roll Tide.