At the beginning of March, Pro Football Focus projected Chinn as a sixth-round selection for the NFL Draft. Oh, how times have changed.
Fueled by impressive performances in Senior Bowl workouts, at the NFL Scouting Combine and through interviews with prospective teams, Chinn has risen up draft boards.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Chinn rated as No. 2 safety behind Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. Brugler projects Chinn as a second-round pick and has him No. 43 on his overall board.
Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Jr. have Chinn rated as the fourth and sixth best safety respectively in the upcoming NFL Draft (April 19-21).
Chinn began working out New Year’s Day at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Tex., in preparation for the draft process. Along with speed, weightlifting and agility training, Chinn worked on positional drills.
Chinn measured at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds at the Combine, held in Indianapolis in February.
That event was virtually in Chinn's backyard. The Fishers (Ind.) High School graduate finished among the top three for safeties in the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump at the Combine.
In addition, Chinn recorded a 41-inch vertical jump and a 138-inch broad jump. He clocked a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. Chinn also did 20 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press.
Jim Nagy, executive director for the Senior Bowl and ESPN draft analyst, recently tweeted: "Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons got all the headlines coming out of the Combine (and deservedly so but @SIU_Football Jeremy Chinn has similar tools and hybrid versatility. Also one of the classiest young men we had at @seniorbowl. Could go in Round 2."
Scott Gorman of profootballnetwork lauded Chinn: “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."
The Athletic's Brugler listed Chinn's strengths: "Tall, long-limbed frame with a ripped physique . . . rangy, long-striding athlete with cornerback experience . . .outstanding ball pursuit skills, flashing the secondary speed to close on throws . . . condor wingspan and and uses his length to get his hands on the football . . . recorded at least three interceptions in four straight years in college . . . averaged 11.1 yards per interception return (13/144/0) . . . widens his feet at contact and uses his long arms to expand his tackling radius and lasso ball carriers . . . aggressive run angles and works off blockers well . . . started all four years and was named a senior captain."
Brugler cited Chinn's weaknesses: "Flows well to the ball, but needs to be quicker on the trigger . . . bad habit of attacking before diagnosing, taking the cheese . . . needs to better anticipate and sort through route combinations . . . needs to show better patience and discipline with his footwork to eliminate wasted steps . . . needs to use his length better to make receivers feel uncomfortable . . . missed at least two games in three of his four seasons in college; suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum (Nov. 2016); suffered a torn labrum (Nov. 2018), ending his junior season; missed two games his senior year due to plantar fasciitis in his foot (Sept. 2019)."
In the conclusion of his summary Brugler wrote: "Overall, Chinn is caught guessing too often and must develop his football instincts to see immediate reps in the NFL, but his range, length and closing burst give him the versatility to fill various roles, projecting as a matchup starter and special teamer."
His own words
Last season Prairie State Pigskin asked Chinn to assess his strengths as a player.
"I take pride in everything on the field. Versatility is probably my biggest strength, being able to play in zone coverage with range. I can tackle. I can play in man coverage as well. Saturday I had a couple of blitzes (against Youngstown State)," Chinn said.
When asked what coaches and scouts told him he needed to improve to play at the next level, Chinn said, "A lot of people talk about the level of competition (I played against), but that’s not something I can control. I just continue to work on my game in every aspect, focusing on the small details as far as steps and reaction versus instinct."
Chinn's 13 career interceptions are fifth-best in SIU history and his 243 career tackles ranks 25th all-time.
Other draft-eligible Salukis
Four other SIU players — headlined by defensive back Madre Harper and tight end Nigel Kilby — are also getting looks from NFL teams.
Brugler rates Harper as the 28th best cornerback, listing him as a 6th-7th round pick. Harper played his last two seasons at SIU after transferring from Oklahoma State . He was fifth on the team in tackles and led SIU in passes defended this past season.
"Overall, Harper needs to become a more disciplined player, but his combination of length and athleticism is unique and he has the awareness and energy that should serve him well as a press-man corner or free safety. One of the draft’s most intriguing sleepers," Brugler wrote in his summary.
Brugler added that while SIU coaches state that Harper is a reliable team leader, his character requires investigation following his dismissal from Oklahoma State in 2017.
Tre Strong landed 52nd on Brugler's cornerback list. Strong, who began his career at Utah before transferring to Carbondale, made seven starts last fall before an injury ended his season.
Meanwhile, Adam Schefter, ESPN Senior NFL Insider, recently tweeted about Kilby.
"Sleeper tight end alert: Southern Illinois TE Nigel Kilby worked out at Northwestern pro day today in front of at least 25 teams. Here are his numbers: Height 6’7 1/2 Weight 254 83 wingspan Hand size 10 4/8 40 yd dash 4.66 Broad 10’6," read Schefter's tweet.
Kilby began his collegiate career at Eastern Michigan. The Fort Wayne, Ind. native caught 13 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games this past season.
Running back DJ Davis played in the Hula Bowl after completing his four-year career for the Salukis. In a profile on the SIU athletics website, Davis was asked where he saw himself a month after the draft.
"I just try to give it all to God. I do believe something good will come out of this all. Whether I am a late-round draft pick, free-agent pickup, or rookie mini-camp signee — I'm going to give it my all. I've prepared myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. I'll be ready for whatever is coming," Davis said.
The last SIU player drafted was tight end MyCole Pruitt in 2015 (fifth round by Minnesota). The last Saluki defensive player drafted was corner back Korey Lindsey (seventh round by Cincinnati).
The highest pick in program history was offensive tackle Lionel Antoine, the third overall pick in the 1972 draft (Chicago).