NFL Draft 2021

Mike Gundy: Bears' Teven Jenkins Maybe Best OL in This Draft

Why Teven Jenkins could be best O-Lineman of 2021 draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears felt they got another player with first-round talent when they traded up to draft offensive tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round on Friday. Ryan Pace revealed after the pick that he felt fortunate to grab Jenkins at No. 39 since the Bears had him graded so highly. But when it’s all said and done, Mike Gundy, Jenkins’ coach from Oklahoma State believes Jenkins could exceed even those lofty expectations.

“I would not be surprised in two years if people are looking back and saying he is potentially the best offensive lineman taken in this draft,” Gundy said. “I say that because he has phenomenal athleticism, strength, he’s highly intelligent, and he’s just started to really get into football over the last 18 months.

“Now I know that sounds funny, but when you’re as gifted and talented as he is, you can get by being a good college football player without having that grit and toughness like he’s just developed over the last 18 months. So he really brought that to our program just recently.”

Since Gundy is Jenkins’ former coach, you’d expect him to heap praise on the prospect before he begins his NFL career. But Gundy didn’t stop there and even offered up a truly surprising comp for Jenkins.

“We had a first-round pick, Russell Okung, gosh I bet it’s been 12 years ago now,” Gundy said. “I think he was the sixth player picked in the draft and he’s been in the league for, I don’t know, 10 or 12 years for Seattle, been tremendously successful. I think he’s with the Chargers now. Teven is more talented than him in my opinion. He just hasn’t scratched that surface yet.

Part of the reason Gundy believes Jenkins isn’t anywhere near his ceiling yet, is because Jenkins didn’t fully appreciate his own potential until recently. When Jenkins addressed the media on Friday night he came off as a guy born to play football, a guy who knew from the time he could toddle that he was meant to throw other men around on the gridiron. But according to Gundy that was not always the case.

“I used to joke with Teven when we were in the weight room and there’d be 60 or 80 players in there and a coaching staff, and I would ask him, I’d say, ‘You know, Teven, there’s one guy in this room that could be worth $30 or $40 million dollars some day.’ And he would look at me, and I would say, ‘Do you know who that is?’ And he would say no. And I would say, ‘It’s you, Teven. That’s who it could be.’

“Teven is an interesting young man and at that point, you know, you look at him and you say, ‘It took that long for you to realize that you were a special talent?’ It really did with him because he had a such a laid back personality, and I don't think he ever saw himself being that good of a football player. That's why I'm saying within the next couple years, the NFL is going to be really shocked at what you have.”

Related: Teven Jenkins could be Bears’ future left tackle

Once Jenkins developed the mentality that he could succeed in the NFL, Gundy says the grit and toughness which became hallmarks of his scouting reports quickly followed. 

All that said, Gundy does think Jenkins will have a challenge ahead of him as he enters his first NFL training camp. But Gundy also believes that the growth Jenkins showed at OSU will have him well equipped to take another jump at the next level.

“I'm guessing based on not ever coaching in the NFL that when he gets into training camp there's going to be some of those rush ends throwing him around a little bit. I think Chicago's still got one that can rush the passer pretty good and they might sling him around, slap his head a little bit but here's what's going to happen. He'll eventually learn that he has to fight back, and when he has to fight back he has a physical, uncanny presence that will allow him to be successful.”

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