The Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Draft Report, written by the staff of NFLDraftScout.com, sees small-school draft prospect Cedric Thornton of Southern Arkansas as bearing a likeness to free agent defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins.
His magazine profile states, “A defensive end moved inside after he went from 266 pounds to closer to 290––he weighed 299 at the Senior Bowl in January––Thornton could be a Cullen Jenkins-type player in the NFL. Jenkins went through a similar transformation at Central Michigan and now starts for the Packers.”
Unprompted, Thornton was asked at the Combine in February which NFL player he likes to watch on television.
Appropriately, Jenkins was his answer.
“At my position, I like to watch Jenkins from Green Bay,” said Thornton. “He’s dominant. I like what he do.”
Many might consider Central Michigan, where Jenkins is from, to be a small college. But at least it’s at a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Thornton takes the small-school background to a different level.
Playing in Division II, the Southern Arkansas defensive tackle was a two-time member of the All-Gulf South Conference first team, a 2009 Associated Press Little All-America first team selection for members of Division II, III and NAIA and a 2009 American Football Coaches of America first-team All-American selection.
“This is my belief, take it how you want to, but I think Division I guys are pretty much spoiled,” said Thornton. “On the Division II level we have to work hard, and we have to do the little things as well as they do, but we have to do them more.
“On the Division II level, if you don’t stand out, you get overlooked. So I think I have to do way more than the Division I guys have to do.”
Proving he can play with the big boys, Thornton was invited to the Senior Bowl where he was matched up against primarily Division I players.
He tallied one solo tackle in the game itself, but perhaps more important was that he held up in the week of practice leading up to the game with many NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel watching him in person.
“I think it was very important,” said Thornton. “I think I showcased my skills very well. I could have made more plays, but I think did actually pretty good at the Senior Bowl.”
Adding to the Jenkins comparisons, Thornton has experience in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Just as Jenkins played end in a 4-3 prior to defensive coordinator Dom Capers coming to Green Bay, and then moved to 3-4 end along with sliding inside in nickel situations, Thornton thinks he can be utilized in the same way.
“I was more comfortable as a five-technique,” said Thornton, “but I played three-technique a majority of the time, so I’m very comfortable in a 4-3 defense.”
In preparation for the NFL Draft, Thornton has been working out with former Tennessee Titans All-Pro Brad Hopkins.
Seen as a mid-round draft choice, all the defensive lineman can do now is continue to work and wait until the Draft, which is exactly a month away.
Thornton said he interviewed with the Packers while at the Combine, and if by chance he happens to be drafted by Green Bay, expect the comparisons to Jenkins to intensify.