Draft Gems: Bubba Jenkins — Most Underrated Running Back in the Draft


Written By Cody Manning


Every year we end up seeing players that go unnoticed by the media and most major draft analysts. These players might catch us off guard when they get selected in the draft because no one outside of the NFL have done any homework on them. They typically come from small, non-power five schools, so people automatically think they can’t make it at the next level. One player that I believe has flown under the radar of the media and the majority of draft analysts is Morningside college running back Bubba Jenkins.


History: Bubba started his career like most players– playing little league football. At the time he was so much bigger than his peers, and because of the league’s weight limit he was forced to play on the line. While he did dominate at that position he always wanted to have the ball in his hands since he found his passion for football. As he grew into his teens, he started working his way to the skill positions, eventually finding a way to playing running back. He played his high school ball at Parkview High School in Springfield, MO, but Parkview had a history of having a bad football program, winning just 10 games between 2000–09.


Jenkins joined Parkview his sophomore year where he was moved up to varsity and started to turn the program around. While the team showed promise during his junior year, it was his senior year when he and his teammates accomplished their goal of having a winning season. They went 8–3 and made the playoffs, which ended the school’s 17-year stretch of having losing campaigns. They won their first playoff game but fell to the #1 seed in their region in the second round. While Bubba had scholarship offers from lower level schools, he wanted to prove to himself that he could play at the highest level, so he walked onto Arkansas. Unfortunately, he only spent one season there, but this one season taught him a lot of lessons, most importantly that he could play at a high level. I remember when he would show me his practice film from his time spent on the scout team, and he would be running all over the starting defense like he was a SEC running back. His time at Arkansas also showed how well respected he can be among his peers as to this day he is still friends with guys he met during his time in Fayetteville. Lastly, while highly recruited players might get passes at power five schools for failed tests, Bubba, as a walk-on, had to learn the hard way of holding himself to a standard, and he had to transfer to Division II school, Southwest Baptist University.


Like when he played at Parkview, Bubba transferred to a program that historically was bad. He came in with a small role his freshman season as he was still adjusting to the change, but made it his goal to turn this program around like he did during high school. The team started to flash his sophomore season, when he had 1,201 rushing yards, 5.9 YPC, 16 rushing TD, 262 receiving yards, and 1 receiving TD. It was during his junior year campaign that everything came together, and he broke the universities and the conference single-season rushing record with 1,739 yards. He also complemented his season with 20 rushing touchdowns and 182 receiving yards.


Not only did he have a record-breaking season for himself, but his teammates also broke records throughout the season and won their conference for the first time in their history. By winning the conference they made the D-II playoffs as well. Unfortunately, they did lose, but it wasn’t for lack of effort as Jenkins posted 179 yards and 4 touchdowns in the effort to lead his team to victory. While training for his senior year, Bubba had to face yet another test of adversity in his young career. Regrettably, he ordered a pre-workout online and failed to check what was inside the product. Because of this, he was forced yet again to transfer, but in this lesson he learned how he needs to hold himself accountable if he wants to succeed at the next level. It is these types of lessons that he went through at a young age that will help him be a better professional, as he now understands the repercussions of making small mistakes like these. He has been told by scouts that they applaud him for being a man about the mistakes he has made. He doesn’t hide from it.


Bubba ended up finishing his college career at NAIA powerhouse, Morningside College. This gave him a chance to prove to himself that he can go to a new program, learn a new system, and be productive. He did what he was supposed to do at that level and dominated the competition, finishing the season with 2,160 rushing yards, 28 rushing TD, 178 receiving yards, and 1 receiving touchdown. Over his whole football career, he proved that he can continue to develop, be a productive player, and most importantly act as a leader for his teammates.


Productivity:

(Through Sophomore-Senior Seasons)

863 Rush Att.

5100 Rush Yds

5.9 YPC

64 Rush TD

67 Rec

622 Rec yards

2 Rec TD

5722 Total Yds

66 Total TD


Vision:

Quickness:

Speed and Acceleration:

Strength:

Third Down Skills:

Scout’s Take: Removing all my bias towards him as a player, I still believe he has the talent to compete at the next level. He has the vision, quickness, speed, and strength to succeed. To me, he is no different than any of the players that I have seen listed in draft analysts’ top 10 running backs for this year’s draft class. While he does have his red flags, as I alluded to earlier, he doesn’t hide from them, and is a man about his mistakes. He has proven his capabilities as a leader by turning around two different programs and helping to elevate his teammates’ play. While some may knock the level of competition he has played at, Bubba dominated those levels like he should, and he wouldn’t be the first small school player to succeed at the next level.

Let’s take a look at some of his measurables from his Pro Day: His 4.5 40-yard time would have placed in the top 10 at the combine. His 36 inch vertical would be top 10, and his 28 reps of 225 on the bench would would be 3rd overall. He had a strong Pro Day overall, so he has proven he is just as good as the other backs when it comes to his measurables. Combine that with his ultra-production, and that is why he is on team radars. Why I think he can succeed: He has proven at every level he can compete. He has a passion for this game which he lives and breathes for. He works every day at becoming a better player, and will also come into a locker room and be a leader amongst his peers. I believe he can be a three-down player, as he can run between the tackles, pass protect, and win short-yardage situations. Whichever team decides to pull the trigger on him will get a steal.


Don’t Just Take It From Me: Over the course of the fall he had numerous team scouts come visit with him which started to show he was on the NFL’s radar. NFL Draft Bible was already on top of him, as they listed him on the All-Underrated Offensive Team in November. The Dream Bowl also recognized his talent as they invited him to their game. Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting, who helps with The Dream Bowl, even sent out a tweet in January that people need to dive into him because quietly every NFL team asked about him. During his time at The Dream Bowl he met with scouts and has been in contact with teams over the past few months. So while he may not be on the media’s or the majority of draft analysts’ radars, he certainly has grabbed the attention of the NFL.


Overall: When it comes to evaluating talent I believe in two things, much like most scouts do: A. What can they do in year one? B. Where will they be in year three? For Bubba: A. I think he should be able to come into a running back corps and contribute right away. If he goes to the right situation I think he could compete for a starting spot, similar to what Chris Carson did for the Seattle Seahawks. Carson was an unknown guy who went into camp and won a starting job that was up in the air. While he can compete for a starting job, I know he can be a key part of a team’s 1–2 punch or a running back by committee team like how the Eagles used all their backs last season. B. For the first time in his career he will be getting a running back coach which I think will help tap into his full potential. I believe by his third season he will be a team’s starting running back and a fan favorite. He will have proven to his teammates how hard of a worker he is and will be a leader for his team.


Where will he go in the draft? While I have no clue, he has received enough interest where I think he could go on Day 3, because a team may not want to let him go to the market where there should be a lot of competition for his services. It will be exciting to see how it all plays out over the draft weekend, and this is a moment he has been waiting for his whole life. I have told him since we were young that I think he is going to the NFL once we grow up, and it is crazy to see that premonition coming true.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t_w8RR4ydY