After already drafting Michigan linebacker Josh Uche with the 60th overall selection last Friday, the New England Patriots went back to the position 27 picks later to add Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings. There is a lot to like about the 23-year-old, from his experience — he appeared in 54 games for the Crimson Tide — and his maturity to the positional versatility he brings to the table after having lined up all over the front seven in college.
That said, he remained on the board until the late third round for a reason. Jennings does not possess the most impressive athletic profile, for example, nor does he seem to have a particularly high ceiling (even though he is a high-floor player). On top of it, he enters the NFL with some injuries on his résumé as well. To get a clearer picture of his medical record, let’s go through his injury history year-by-year and find out what it means for the Patriots.
2015 (freshman): A four-star recruit out of high school, Jennings was unable to take the field during his true freshman season at Alabama: according to a report by 247 Sports’ Charlie Potter, he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back before being able to play in a game for Nick Saban’s team. Jennings’ first year in the program subsequently became a redshirt campaign.
2017 (redshirt sophomore): Jennings appeared in all 15 games during his redshirt freshman season in 2016 and was poised to take on a bigger role in 2017. While he did start 11 games, two separate injuries forced him to miss some time. The first of them happened in the season opener: he sprained his ankle early during the contest against Florida State and was subsequently held out of the next two contests before returning in Week 4.
Jennings quickly returned to form after his comeback, and started 10 straight contests before suffering another injury in his team’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson — this one of the season- and potentially even career-ending variety: he hurt his left knee in gruesome-looking fashion when he was rolled up on, and required immediate surgery to repair not just his PCL but also artery damage as well as a blood clot. The injury, plus offseason surgery later on his ankle, forced him to miss Alabama’s spring training in 2018.
What this means for the Patriots
Over his last two years at Alabama, Jennings did not suffer any reported injuries and also not miss any time: he appeared in all 28 possible games since returning from his season-ending knee injury in 2018 — one that he spoke about as follows during his introductory media conference call last week: “I just knew that it would take a lot of hard work, a lot of battling back and working hard, just believing in myself and doing what I had to do with everything that the coaches asked me to do, the trainers and everybody around me.”
“I knew I could be back and even better,” he added. That certainly was the case, and Jennings proved himself a playmaker in the Crimson Tide defense. Based on those two years, the Patriots should not have to worry about any medical red flags as he starts his career in pro football. And as opposed to the two players drafted ahead of him by the team, Kyle Dugger and John Uche, he was not limited by any injury over the last few months.
While his overall injury history is a long one and includes some potentially career-altering injuries, Jennings is arriving in New England at full strength and will likely be used accordingly once on-field practice resumes.