One small-school player looking to stand out and make their mark heading to the next level is Southern Illinois safety, Jeremy Chinn. The Division 1-AA star made some noise in his junior year, and if he can continue to make big plays, the NFL will surely take notice. Below I will examine Chinn’s game and what could make him so attractive to NFL teams during next April’s draft. I will also look at his journey towards becoming an NFL prospect and where he might land during the NFL Draft.
From Fishers to Southern Illinois
Chinn was a second-team USA Today 2015 ALL-USA Indiana Football selection as a senior after recording 42 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 1 blocked punt. He received numerous other accolades, including All-State honoree by the Associated Press and the coaches association and All-Metro Super Team defensive back by the Indianapolis Star in 2015. The four interceptions marked a school single-season record.
He played mostly cornerback on defense, but also starred on the offensive side of the ball. The two-way competitor added over 600 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on offense for Fishers High School. Chinn even rushed for 177 yards in a playoff victory for Fishers in 2015. His talent was evident, but he received little attention from Division One programs and signed on to play his college football at Southern Illinois in 2016. Chinn’s NFL Draft journey was now about to begin.
Standout Saluki on the rise
As a freshman in 2016, Chinn played in only eight games, but six of those came as a starter. The talented newcomer missed a few games due to injury, but his ability shined bright while he was in the lineup. He recorded 3 interceptions and recorded at least 7 tackles in each of his starts on his way to being named to the First-Team Freshman All-American by HERO Sports. The ball-hawking safety started all 11 games as a sophomore, recording 3 more interceptions, 6 passes deflected, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovered. He was third on the team in total tackles (66) and showed a great knack for being around the football.
His most significant impact came last season, where Chinn’s versatility started to shine through on defense. The star defensive back started nine games; seven at safety, and another two at cornerback. Chinn recorded another trio of interceptions along with 55 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and he even blocked a field goal. Chinn was a chess piece-type of player for the Salukis, and his ability to play multiple positions well in the secondary will help him much during the NFL Draft. However, Chinn also missed two more games due to injury in his senior season. He will need to prove that his health is not a concern if he expects to hear his name during the NFL Draft.
NFL starting to come into focus
Chinn is off to an excellent start to his senior campaign at Southern Illinois. He has recorded 19 tackles thus far with 2 interceptions. NFL Draft scouts are likely to take notice if they have not already. The senior defensive back is a very versatile playmaker with great hands that has excellent size and can move all around the field.
— Saluki Football (@SIU_Football) September 10, 2017
His range, size, and versatility are the most important aspects of his game and will play a huge role in where he gets drafted. The blocked field goal during his junior season was a nice rabbit in the hat for Chinn, as it shows his value on special teams as well.
A few prospect comparisons I would make for Chinn are both from the Los Angeles Chargers. He compares favorably as a small school sleeper to previous Delaware safety Nasir Adderley. Although Adderley was projected slightly higher during the NFL Draft process last season, Chinn has similar talent. If he continues to improve and make plays during his senior season, he will project higher for the NFL Draft. Adderley also displayed great versatility as a prospect. He played both safety positions as well as inside and outside cornerback at Delaware. I made another comparison to Adderley recently for HBCU standout defensive back Qwynnterrio Cole.
An additional comparison I would make is Chargers’ star safety Derwin James. While this may seem like hyperbole at the moment, it could make more sense as the season wears on. I believe Chinn can be successful at cornerback in the pros; however, his best fit is at strong safety. Chinn has decent range and is a reliable tackler. I would select him in the NFL Draft as an answer for more athletic tight ends and slot receivers. Take a look below at the range and footwork on another interception by Chinn.
Best FCS player I’ve seen so far this year in Southern Illinois S Jeremy Chinn. Rangy with superb ball skills. Can man up as a slot as well. I’m a fan and I expect to see him at the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/yfXTNK1MYM
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 28, 2019
NFL teams will also be able to drop him into the box to help support the run. These are some of the same areas that James has thrived in for the Chargers. Chinn will not have the same impact as a blitzer, which is where the comparison fades. Overall, there is value with Chinn as an NFL prospect, which is why I believe we could see him drafted as early as round four.