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Bucs Draft Profile: Wide Receiver, Jauan Jennings

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One of Tennessee’s better players in recent memory is on deck.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Tennessee
Jauan Jennings could certainly carve out a role in Bruce Arians’ offense.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

We all know Bruce Arians likes to air the ball out. Therefore, you need as many viable pass-catchers as you can get.

The Bucs just lost Breshad Perriman - the third option at receiver in 2019 - to the New York Jets. They still have options in Justin Watson, Scotty Miller, and Bryant Mitchell even though they are unproven. But after what happened to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin last year, the Bucs should probably add more depth.

That’s where Jauan Jennings comes in.

Jauan Jennings’ Collegiate Career

Jennings was recruited to Rocky Top in 2015. He came out of Blackman High School as a 4-star dual threat quarterback, but many thought he’d be more effective playing safety at the collegiate level.

That changed, quickly, however as Butch Jones moved him to receiver before the 2015 started. Issues with then-receivers Von Pearson and Preston Williams left the Vols with limited options, so Jennings was inserted into the position group.

His freshman year didn’t blow anyone way stat-wise, but Jennings had some good moments. He finished the year with six starts and 11 total appearances. He was able to record 14 catches for 149 yards and a 58-yard touchdown pass.

It was Jennings’ sophomore season that made him a household name for Vol fans. Jennings’ 2016 campaign ended with 40 receptions for 780 yards and seven touchdowns. All three marks were good for second-best on the team.

But it wasn’t the stats that sold Jennings to the fans and coaching staff. His two signature plays as a Vol happened that year and he will forever live in Big Orange infamy because of these two plays.

The first was his go-ahead touchdown that put the Vols ahead against the Florida Gators. The Vols were down 21-3 at halftime and rallied back to win the game, 38-28. It was the first victory over the Gators since the 2004 season and Jennings’ touchdown gave the Vols their first lead of the game (shoutout to @JBP_Official for the video).

You will eventually see Jennings (#15) at the bottom of your screen:

Here’s the full angle of the moment where he breaks Jalen Tabor’s ankles en route to the touchdown:

The second catch is easily regarded as one of the biggest plays in Tennessee history. Just a week after the Florida victory, the Vols held a late lead against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason found receiver Riley Ridley for the go-ahead score with :10 seconds left in the game, leaving the Vols in a desperate situation.

Thanks to a great kick return, Evan Berry was able to get the team near midfield. There was about four seconds on the clock when the Vols’ offense came onto the field for the last shot to win the game.

Just when all hope seemed lost, the combination of Joshua Dobbs and Jennings came through:

Yea. I literally jumped off my couch when that happened.

The 2016 season ended with disappointment, however, as the Vols squandered a great shot to play in the SEC Championship game by losing to South Carolina and Vanderbilt over the final five games of the season. That disappointment bled into 2017 when Jennings suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the season opener. He was forced to take a redshirt and watch from the sidelines.

The Vols finished that season with their worst- and first-ever record of 4-8. Jennings went on a profanity-laced rant via Instagram that targeted then-interim head coach Brady Hoke and the coaching staff at the end of the year. As a result, Jennings was dismissed from the team.

He worked his way back into the good graces of Jeremy Pruitt, who eventually reinstated him for the 2018 season. Jennings’ redshirt junior year involved a lot of nagging injuries that held him to just 30 catches and 438 yards, but he still tied for the team lead with three touchdowns. Jennings decided to return for his senior year, but injured his knee during a summer workout and had to have surgery. He missed a little bit of summer conditioning, but was eased into fall camp and was ready to go by the season opener against Georgia State.

With the injuries and the suspension in the rear view, Jennings went on to have the best year of his career in 2019. His 59 catches for 969 yards and eight touchdowns were all career highs and all three marks led the Vols. He ranked fifth in the SEC in receiving yards, sixth in touchdowns, sixth in yards per game, and eighth in receptions. He was a key leader/component in helping the Vols overcome a 2-5 start and win the final six games of the season to finish 8-5.

But 2019 wasn’t without a little bit of drama. Jennings was suspended by the SEC for the first half of the Vols’ bowl game after stepping on an opponent’s head. It happened during the season finale against Vanderbilt and the SEC couldn’t officially determine if there was malicious intent, but it was severe enough to warrant discipline, especially since Jennings already had an incident in the past.

Here are three anlges of the incident. I’ll let you determine your own opinion. Jennings comes flying in from the right-hand side of your screen to make the tackle on returner Justice Shelton-Mosley:

Jennings caught a five-yard pass in the comeback victory over the Hoosiers. After an up-and-down career at Tennessee, he now has his eyes set on the NFL.

Pros

There’s a lot to like about this kid. He is everything you want in a football player. He works, he’s tough, he’s a leader, he’s a great teammate, he will play any position asked of him, and he’s a good receiver.

When it comes to the locker room, he would provide an immediate shot of toughness and an alpha mentality. I’m not saying that’s a need or anything for this Bucs team, but there is no such thing as too much toughness in football.

When it comes what he can do on the field, Jennings is best at working the intermediate and middle areas of the field. He’s not shifty, nor will he outrun anyone, but he is a good route runner and knows how to use his 6-foot-3, 215-pound to shield defenders. He plays with extreme physicality and isn’t afraid to take a hit. High-pointing balls is also a strength, as well.

But the dude is a monster when it comes to what he can do after the catch. It’s almost impossible to take him down, especially when he has a head a steam. Just watch the first few highlights of the video below (but also stick around for the whole thing!) in order to get an idea of what I’m talking about:

He’s versatile, too. He took snaps at quarterback and was more than just a decoy during most of those plays. He was also used in end-arounds, screens, etc., so he’s more than just a guy who can make those grimy catches over the middle that Arians talks about. He’s also proficient at blocking in the run game, which always helps when you’re trying to make a NFL roster.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says the following about Jennings in his 2020 Draft Profile:

Big slot target with size, savvy and toughness, but lacking in functional speed and general quickness. Jennings can be clever in stemming and tilting coverage enough to open throwing windows, but getting away from press coverage is going to be difficult for him. What he can’t do may keep him from being drafted, but competitiveness at the catch point, with the ball in his hands, and as a blocker should get him into camp and give him an outside shot as a big, possession slot.

Think of him as a much more limited Deebo Samuel. Jennings isn’t going to become a No. 1 receiver in the NFL and that’s fine. He’s a backend prospect who will at best be a WR3 in the league, but will likely be a big special teams contributor and a WR4 wherever he lands.

Cons

Before we get to the on-the-field negatives, let’s start with the obvious negative: Jennings’ attitude issues and his suspensions.

There’s definitely reason to be concerned with Jennings’ past. While it’s great that he has a “dog mentality”, it can get him into trouble at times. It’s perfectly reasonable for a team to be wary about what could possibly happen on the field.

At the same time, Jennings has never had any kind of trouble in terms of his personal life. His two incidents have been football-related. He’s always been attributed as a good kid and has a great reputation in the Knoxville community. It’s likely that GMs/coaches/scouts could chalk his incidents up as a passionate kid playing football, but that’s obviously subjective at the end of the day.

As Zierlein points out, he doesn’t have great speed, quickness, or shiftiness. That will give him issues with creating separation in the NFL and he obviously won’t be as hard to take down after the catch due to the improved skill level of his opponents.

He also has concentration issues at times. There were several moments where Jennings dropped passes that should have been caught and some of those moments have resulted in disaster.

Jennings is at the bottom of the bunch formation on the right-hand side of the screen (#15):

For what he lacks in speed/skills, he makes up in toughness, work ethic, and other intangible qualities. But his lack of speed/skills will likely render him a 5th-7th round draft pick.

Why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Jauan Jennings

The Bucs need depth at receiver and the special teams unit was one of the NFL’s worst in 2019. Jennings could certainly provide help in both regards. He could also add to the Bucs’ passing attack in the redzone, which tied for the third-most passing touchdowns in the redzone in 2019. Adding Jennings to the mix would give the Bucs another big-bodied target for Tom Brady.

He would also be an effective blocker in the run game and is smart enough to learn Arians’ complicated offense.

And don’t forget the unrivaled toughness and physicality he would bring, as well.

Should It Happen?

There’s a lot to like about Jennings, but it’s also understandable if people have reservations when it comes to the former Vol. The good thing is that the Bucs won’t have to spend a lot of draft capital on Jennings, which should help mitigate any potential risk that may come with him.

But what do you think? Should the Bucs draft Jennings? Let us know via the poll and the comments below!

Poll

How do you feel about Jauan Jennings for the Bucs in the 2020 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Draft him no matter what
    (21 votes)
  • 4%
    Trade back candidate
    (6 votes)
  • 36%
    I wouldn’t mind it
    (47 votes)
  • 29%
    There are better options
    (38 votes)
  • 13%
    Nope
    (18 votes)
130 votes total Vote Now