The refrain about the Green Bay Packers for years has been that they don’t draft college interior offensive linemen. While that was a trend, it’s fair to call it a preference rather than a hard and fast rule. Corey Linsley was one of the first players to break that tendency back in 2014, but the door is wide open now in 2019.
Through that door walks Elgton Jenkins, an All-SEC center from Mississippi State. While Linsley is manning the center position, the Packers view Jenkins as a guard on day one, with the ability to back up several positions — center among them. But while the interior is where he played in recent years, Jenkins’ time as a college tackle does give him a leg up on some other interior players in this year’s class, and it appeared to factor into the Packers’ evaluation on the player who became the 44th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday night.
Packers area scout Charles Walls discussed the Jenkins pick shortly after the card came in, and he used some words that would become a common refrain about Jenkins right away. “=We took him as a guard,” Walls said, “but with a guy with that size and athleticism, if you watch the tape, you’d feel comfortable putting him anywhere you need him to be.”
Later, general manager Brian Gutekunst gave a little more clarity to the role he sees for Jenkins to start out: “I think he’s ideally suited inside, and that’s what we drafted him as,” Gutekunst said, “but I think if he had to get you out of a game at tackle, I think he could do that.” Those comments suggest that they do not see Jenkins competing for a starting tackle job or even perhaps a primary backup job, but rather that he can be called upon on the outside in an emergency.
Starting tackle ability or not, with “off the charts” athleticism, Jenkins becomes an instant fit for the Packers’ zone-blocking run game under Matt LaFleur. “In this scheme that we’re gonna run, that’s gonna be a premium for us,” Walls said. “His ability not only to control the line of scrimmage but get up on the second level, get up on third level, cover up guys in space, he’s unique at that. And he’s smart, he’s intelligent.”
Jenkins the man is just as impressive as Jenkins the player as well. The Packers have a member of the organization who got a first-hand look at Jenkins for two years in Starkville and could vouch for him. Luke Getsy, who returned to the Packers this offseason as quarterbacks coach, spent those two seasons as Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator. Getsy provided the personnel department with “all positive feedback (as) a player and a person,” and was apparently “fired up” when they turned in the pick. Getsy’s familiarity with the big lineman should be an added bonus when practices begin.
Ultimately, despite the Packers’ need on the offensive line, the team viewed Jenkins as a terrific value on their draft board. “Definitely a light bulb goes off when a guy falls to you with that much value,” Walls said.
He isn’t a college tackle. He wasn’t one of the names that popped up on most analysts’ draft boards when examining the Packers. He wasn’t one of the slew of linemen who came to Green Bay on official visits. But the Packers are thrilled to have Elgton Jenkins coming to town.