NFL Hot Press: Many Teams See Round 1 for Kris Jenkins Jr.

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During Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan, the Wolverines have become a factory for first-round defensive linemen. Some recent first-round picks have included Aidan Hutchinson, Mazi Smith and Rashan Gary – and David Ojabo would have been if not for a pre-draft injury. Next April, the tradition should continue as sources from four NFL teams project defensive tackle Kris Jenkins to go in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

“He’s top 10% in run stops over the last two seasons,” said an AFC director of player personnel. “I don’t know if he’ll ever be an elite interior pass rusher, but he’s athletic, has quickness, strength, and is very instinctive.”

The instincts could be hereditary, as Jenkins is the son of Carolina Panthers four-time All-Pro defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. The younger Jenkins’ uncle Cullen Jenkins had a good pro career as well, winning a Super Bowl with Green Bay. His father and uncle have been tutoring Kris Jenkins. Out of high school, Jenkins was a defensive end and weighed 240 pounds at the start of his time at Michigan. He has set weight room records for the Wolverines while adding 60-70 pounds in the process of moving inside to defensive tackle.

In 2022, Jenkins had a strong debut as a starter next to Mazi Smith, totaling 54 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. The senior has 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception this season. Despite not generating big sack numbers, sources say Jenkins has produced reasonably steady pressure and note Michigan’s scheme does not have him rush freely constantly.

“If Mazi went in the first then Kris should,” said a NFC director of player personnel.

Having a big performance in the college football playoff would help Jenkins, and he should do well in the testing and interviewing before the 2024 NFL Draft. Sources view Jenkins has having three-down starting potential for the NFL with tough run defense and some ability to contribute to the pass rush. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Jenkins looks like a prospect for the back half of the first round.