On June 10, 2009, Amobi Okoye turns 22. Little more than a month later, Peria Jerry turns 25. Okoye will be preparing for his third season in the NFL. Jerry will be preparing for his first preseason in the NFL. If in the coming months you read in some haphazard scouting report that at Ole Miss Jerry looked like "a man among boys", perhaps it's because he was a man playing among boys. That's a crimson flag with about fifteen spotlights.
A minor league baseball player can be described as "old for his level". A player old for his level has his performance and potential discounted. That phrase is foreign to the NFL, but it shouldn't be. The exact same logic applies. Extensive studies have proven that players improve in ability up to a certain age (typically in the mid to late twenties) and then decline. I've yet to read a definitive explanation as to why this occurs, but I think it's simply a matter of a player reaching an optimum equilibrium of athleticism and expertise.
Okoye recorded 5.5 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss at 20. That's remarkable and Okoye has an excellent shot of becoming a top five defensive tackle. If baseball be an analog, he has a very good chance to make the Hall of Fame. His rookie season compares to Ken Griffey Jr.'s 1989. Neither were fantastic, but both more than held their own against established, full-grown professionals.
Jerry isn't just old for his level, he's old. He's older than Darryl Tapp, Lawrence Jacskon, Brandon Mebane, Sedrick Ellis, Trevor Laws, Glenn Dorsey and even 2006 first overall pick Mario Williams. If Jerry entered the NFL draft following his junior season, he would have been a mid-round pick. His stellar 2008 has pushed him into the first day. That's a bad investment. Jerry should excel at his age and level, and he didn't. He played very well.
Defensive tackles that are young for their level:
Clinton McDonald (January 6, 1987)
Sen'Derrick Marks (February 23, 1987)
Evander Hood (February 16, 1987)
Vance Walker (April 26, 1987)
Alex Magee (April 28, 1987)
Roy Miller (July 7, 1987)
George Hypolite (August 1, 1987)
Ron Brace (December 18, 1986)
Ricky Jean-Francois (November 23, 1986)
John Gill (October 28, 1986)
Terrill Byrd (October 8, 1986)
Jervonte Jackson (September 9, 1986)