When Jeremy Chinn was coming out of high school, he had three FCS options — North Dakota, Colgate and Southern Illinois. That’s not uncommon at the FCS level, to have just a couple of offers. What is uncommon is to go from having three FCS options in 2016 to having 32 NFL options in 2020. Yeah … that doesn’t happen every day, but it’s happening for this Southern Illinois safety prospect. He isn’t expected to be available past Day Two of the 2020 NFL Draft (2nd and 3rd round), which means by Friday night he’d know what city he’ll be living in for awhile. Some of the NFL “experts” think there’s even a slight chance he could be a late first-rounder taken on Thursday night.
The HERO Sports First Team All-American sure has come a long way since once being a UND commit who changed his mind late in the process and went with SIU and its first-year head coach, Nick Hill. When — not if — Chinn is selected, he’ll be the 28th Saluki all-time to be drafted, and if he is taken in the first or second round, he’ll be the highest draft pick at SIU since Terry Taylor was taken in the first round in 1984.
It dawned on Chinn during his sophomore year that maybe … just maybe … he could be an NFL prospect. The Indianapolis-area native was playing in a very competitive conference in the Missouri Valley, and there were examples everywhere of players moving on to “the league” afterwards.
“The biggest thing for me when I was coming in, I saw (NDSU’s) Carson Wentz and (Northern Iowa’s) David Johnson … and really for me? It was the DB from UNI, Deiondre’ Hall, and I remember watching him,” Chinn told HERO Sports this week. “I was watching his highlights and I’d try to make the same plays he did, things like that. And I’d see the top players he’d played against, like (WIU’s) Lance Lenoir, and when I’d played Lenoir, I made a couple of plays against him, too. Any way I could try to compare myself to guys making it before me, those are the guys who made an impact on me as an FCS player.”
Hall went on to be drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft and is currently under contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
While many FCS products skyrocket in the spring after their senior season, Chinn has been a known commodity for longer than that. He was invited to the Senior Bowl — the top postseason bowl game for prospects — and the NFL Combine, and he impressed. At first, he said his teammates and opposition wondered about “this guy from Southern who?” But by the end of both experiences — he’d made a name for himself. He dominated at the Combine (see numbers and comparisons below):
Here’s how those numbers stacked up against all safety prospects at the NFL Combine:
- 40 – 4.45 seconds (tied 3rd among safeties)
- Bench – 20 reps (tied 4th)
- Vertical – 41 inches (tied 2nd)
- Shuttle – 138 inches (1st alone)
So with all of the credentials listed above combined with a stellar college career (243 tackles, 31 passes defensed, 13 INTs in 35 career starts), he’s now looked at as a consensus top three rounder. Even with the COVID19 situation, he’s been in touch with all of the teams in the league. He may not be able to travel all over the country, but with Zoom, FaceTime and Skype, it’s like he’s in the same room as he talks to high-level NFL brass, as well as goes over film with coaching staffs. As Chinn said, the meetings still have to happen, because there’s still a lot to go through. He did say that five or six teams in particular are in contact the most, though like most prospects with their pre-draft poker faces on … he opted to keep those team names to himself.
Chinn undoubtedly began turning heads with his efforts against Memphis and Ole Miss when he was an underclassman. While the Salukis didn’t win these games against FBS competition, there were some bright spots individually and Chinn was one of them. Chinn said matching up with Memphis’ Anthony Miller — who was drafted in the 2018 second round by the Chicago Bears — was a confidence booster. While Miller went for 1,400-plus receiving yards in 2016 and 2017, he only managed 47 receiving yards against Southern Illinois in a Memphis win that wasn’t sealed up until the fourth quarter. Chinn had eight tackles that day, broke up a pass and forced a fumble.
“I really played with those guys and we gave him the best challenge of his whole season,” Chinn said. “And to go from the FCS to pushing these guys on all-conference lists, that’s when I felt like I put myself in that company.”
Not surprisingly with all that is going on in the world right now, Chinn will be staying home for the draft. He said he might have a couple of friends over, and there will be a camera crew there to “record the moment,” but he said he wanted to have this experience like the way he’s done things all through this busy time — simple, close to home and with his family.
“It’s been everything I could have hoped it would be, and I’m just making the most out of the opportunity I had coming out of high school,” Chinn said. “After my sophomore season, I knew it would be a reality if I was taking the steps to take care of my body to put me in this position. It’s definitely been different.”