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NFL Draft: Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery is considered the best pass-rushing DT in the class

Can Tillery sneak into the first round?

jerry tillery notre dame
Jerry Tillery
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

Jerry Tillery had a long and nice career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Louisiana native was able to start playing in meaningful minutes right away as a freshman, and then became a full-time starter in his junior and senior years.

During the 2018 season, Tillery amassed 30 tackles, 10 TFL’s, and 8 sacks. At times he looked completely dominant, and then there were times where he went quiet. Overall, he impressed a great deal of people with his pass-rushing skills.

Pro Football Focus gave Tillery the highest pass-rushing grade in the country for an interior lineman. In that respect, he was graded better than Quinnen Williams, better than Ed Oliver, better than Christian Wilkins — all of them.

Jerry Tillery has the best pass-rushing skill-set of any defensive tackle in this class.” -Mike Brenner, PFF (the guy with a man bun in 2019)

People love that Tillery has an arsenal of weapons to use as a pass-rusher, but there are those that are concerned with his overall play — while still drooling over his size and length.

The biggest questions still seem to come about his “off the field problems” and his character.

Allow me to defend Jerry Tillery without defending his actions. First, the “off the field problems” don’t exist. Tillery simply is... not simple. He has other interests besides football, but because these interests aren’t video games or whatever else the NFL would rather him do besides using the intelligence and curiosity that he was blessed with — that becomes a problem for them.

The character issues rest on a few plays where he lost his cool. One was most notably (and most vicious) when he stomped on the head of a player in a game against the USC Trojans in 2016. The other was a ridiculously late hit on Trevor Lawrence in the Cotton Bowl.

Again... I won’t defend what he did, but these were isolated instances and not what we saw throughout the many plays during his our years at Notre Dame.

I highly doubt Tillery is picked in the first round of the NFL Draft, but he still remains a very good candidate for the second round.