Teven Jenkins made 74 percent of his college starts at right tackle, but Bears general manager Ryan Pace is not ready to rule out a future at left tackle for the second-round pick.
“That's the great thing about him is he's played both guard spots and both tackle spots there,” Pace said after selecting the Oklahoma State offensive lineman at No. 39 overall. “There's plenty of left tackle tape, so we feel that he can play both tackle positions, and we've just got to sort through that.”
Jenkins started 26 games at right tackle at Oklahoma State, seven games at left tackle and two at right guard (way back in 2017), but Pace believes his movement skills can translate to the left side.
“What I think is cool is sometimes you see these big linemen and they create movement at the point of attack on the line of scrimmage, but then they're limited in space. They might be stiff at the second level or they can't get downfield. Teven can do both,” Pace said. “He can drive defensive linemen off the ball, then he can also chip, release to the second level and make a block in space on a linebacker, which is encouraging to see.”
Interestingly, the Bears doubled up on tackles Saturday, drafting Missouri right tackle Larry Borom with the 151st pick in the fifth round. Like Jenkins, Borom played a little at left tackle and guard, but was primarily a right tackle at Mizzou. Perhaps that is another indication the Bears believe Jenkins can be the team's future left tackle.
While Jenkins is already 23 years old, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy revealed Saturday morning that his former tackle just started developing his “grit and toughness” in the last 18 months.
“I think he’s just scratching the surface on his ability,” Gundy said. “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. And I say that because he has phenomenal athleticism, strength, he’s highly intelligent.”
It's common to hear college coaches rave about their players who get drafted into the NFL, but Gundy was very candid about his coaching staff’s struggle to get Jenkins to realize his talent.
“He really brought that to our program just recently,” Gunday said. “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.’ So I think that you guys are going to be shocked with what you’re going to have in a couple years.”
If true, Jenkins could have a future at left tackle. And that’s why it will be fascinating to see how the Bears distribute his reps in practice. By not committing to a side, Pace essentially put both left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and right tackle Germain Ifedi on notice. The team isn’t committed to either player contractually past 2021 and could actually create over $6 million in salary cap space if they released Leno.
“As we talked through this and went into this draft we were hoping it would fall a certain way where we could add talent to the offensive line room, wherever that was,” Pace said. “It could be interior. It could be on the edges. We just want to add competition to the O-Line room. We know it starts up front there.”
I’d be surprised to see Leno released, as it would be asking a lot to make Jenkins the Week 1 starter on the left side, but the rookie will likely be given the chance to prove himself in practice. At a minimum, you can expect a competition with Ifedi at right tackle and perhaps a developing competition at left tackle if Jenkins earns it.