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Jeremiah: Aaron Donald will be better pro than Timmy Jernigan


The old basketball saying that you can't teach height is just as applicable in other sports. While it's true that you can't teach size when it comes to defensive tackles, the big bodies in the middle of defenses need plenty of skill if they're to make it to the next level.

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In the wake of Florida State's big pro day on Tuesday, NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" turned its attention to guys up front and had a notable discussion of NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's top two defensive tackles, Pitt's Aaron Donald and the Seminoles' Timmy Jernigan.

"I think there's a little bit of a drop off after those first two guys," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I'm going to say Jernigan gets picked ahead of Aaron Donald, but I'm not so sure that Aaron Donald doesn't end up being the better pro because he's so dynamic and electric as an interior rusher."

Donald's stock has soared since the NFL Scouting Combine, but he was already a darling in some scouts eyes after a dominant season for the Panthers in which he collected nearly every major award outside of the Heisman Trophy. About the only knock people can find on him is his overall frame, which checked in a little on the short and light side at 6-foot-1, 285-pounds.

"I think it will really come down to fit and scheme," fellow analyst Charles Davis remarked. "Geno Atkins ... I think he's done a lot with his play in the NFL to boost the stock of Aaron Donald, who plays a similar type of game. Less than 300 pounds, but he gets up field and makes plays. He could work as that under tackle."

Jernigan on the other hand is a little closer to the prototypical size associated with the position in the NFL, at 6-foot-2, 299 pounds, with the frame to add more weight. He was a big reason why Florida State's defense was so dominant last season in its run to a championship and figures to be the first off the board when the draft rolls around.

In his latest mock draft, Davis has Donald landing with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks (just Pete Carroll's luck to land such a player), but others see him going much higher. It might be a simple case of which three or four teams that need a defensive tackle fall in love with Jernigan or Donald, and which has the higher pick.

"I think around 12 with the New York Giants, 14 with the Chicago Bears, that's when we're really going to start to see debate about these guys coming off the board," Davis said. "If it's the Bears, who really need help in the run game, it will be Timmy Jernigan because they need a little bit of a stouter guy."

No matter where Donald or Jernigan land or what kind of pro careers the pair has, they will at least have plenty of hardware to remind them of how good they were in college.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.



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