Gatorcountry.com is reporting that redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins is choosing to bypass his final year of eligibility in order to enter the NFL Draft.
Jenkins, at 6-foot and 237 pounds, is slightly undersized for the position — especially at the next level — and suffered a series of injuries that contributed to an underwhelming individual season for the talented linebacker.
A native of Olney, Maryland, Jenkins arrived in Gainesville as one of the highest-rated linebackers in the nation. After redshirting his first year on campus, he showed the country exactly why he deserved such high marks in his first season on the playing field. Jenkins finished second on the team in tackles with 76 total, while collecting two sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss and an interception.
He finished his third year on campus and his second on the field with nearly identical numbers: 75 tackles, two sacks, 6.0 TFL and an interception.
Finally, his 2012 campaign was supposed to be his breakout season. While the team enjoyed a massive wins increase from 2011 to this year, Jenkins struggled to find a rhythm, missing time mid-season with a broken thumb that required surgery and missing the Sugar bowl with a broken bone in his foot that also needed surgery.
He finished the year with only 29 tackles, two sacks and five TFL — far below his standard of play.
Jenkins must understand that his decision to leave early will hurt his potential draft stock. If he chose to stay in school and had a monster year for Florida he would boost his stock into the range of the early- to middle-round picks. As it stands, he is still rated as the No. 7 outside linebacker on nfldraftscout.com.
Jenkins joins Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Jordan Reed as Gators undergrads to try their luck in the NFL Draft.
With his departure and the graduation of senior leader Jon Bostic, the only remaining inside linebackers with playing experience are Neiron Ball, Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor.