As reported by The Advocate’s Rod Walker, Notre Dame Defensive Tackle Jerry Tillery got a formal interview with the Saints this weekend at the NFL Combine.
Tillery grew up in Shreveport, LA and could fill a large need the Saints are facing at the top of 2019. With 2016 first round pick Sheldon Rankins set to miss time as he recovers from his achilles tear suffered in the Divisional Round of the 2018 playoffs. The need is further emphasized by the potential of fellow 2016 draft pick David Onyemata might miss time as well for his recent marijuana possession charges.
Tillery is a 6’5″ 309-pound interior defensive lineman who played his early college career with the Fighting Irish as a nose tackle before swinging out to become a three-technique DT this past season. He registered 7 sacks in his 12 games as a senior. That included 4 against Stanford alone and another pair against Michigan to close out the season. He also added 8.5 tackles for a loss this year as well.
The young DT has a reputation as a -traveled and cultured prospect as well. He’s studied abroad in South Africa studying racial inequity, Ireland for a hedge fund internship, and Japan and has vacationed in Canada, Poland, Germany, and Italy with a trip to Australia on the books. According to Fox Sports, he was also in Hawaii (for the fourth time) when the false alarm took place last year warning of an incoming missile on its way to the islands.
But don’t let his traveling make you think he’s not committed to the game. Its just one of his very eclectic non-football related interests which also include fashion, stocks, and museums like the New York Museum of Modern Art where he visited with Brandon Wimbush per The Athletic.
When I hear all of this, my immediate thought harkens back to last year’s 1st-round draft pick, Marcus Davenport who was recognized for writing poetry and being vocal about gender and racial inequity himself. These aren’t quality that make me concerned about the dedication of a prospect. They are instead qualities that prove one’s dedication is reliable and trustworthy enough to span a spectrum of passions.
On the field, Tillery is known as a promising, powerful, pass rusher with a high motor and elite length. Kyle Crabbs of TheDraftNetwork.com mentions he’ll be an effective pass rusher and could develop into an eventual full-time starter if he develops properly. He’s also shown a penchant for overreacting on the field from time to time, but those actions have subsided as he’s grown into the player that we observe today.
“Jerry Tillery enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, showing much better conditioning and mobility along the line of scrimmage. If able to sustain that development, Tillery projects as an eventual starter. In the immediate time frame, Tillery projects as a power pass rusher who wins most when allowed to charge hard out of his stance and push up the field in an effort to reset the line of scrimmage.” – Crabb’s Scouting Report
There was a lot of criticism that came Tillery had to face when he chose not to participate in the Senior Bowl. We can remember fondly a guy by the name of Nick Fairley whose engagement to the game was often criticized. When Fairley made it to New Orleans he played one of his best seasons for the Saints. Perhaps the Saints, Coaches Sean Payton and Ryan Nielsen can bring out that same fire in Tillery. The questions may float around about his commitment, but he’s stated he’s more than ready to answer them this weekend at the combine.
Tillery will workout tomorrow (Sunday, March 3rd) as the DL and LB prospects take the field. With the Saints scheduling one of their formal interviews with him, he’s even more of a must-watch prospect than he already was.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC