Judged merely on his on-field play, Janoris Jenkins could have been the first cornerback taken in the 2012 NFL draft. Unfortunately, the Rams' rookie's college career didn't go as smoothly as he may have hoped.
That's why St. Louis was able to bite when they saw the talented player still waiting for them with the 39th overall pick in the second round. It was a steal for the Rams, because if Jenkins can keep his nose clean, he could wind up being the best defensive player in his rookie class.
Jenkins was arrested three times during his college career, and the final run-in with the law booted him from the University of Florida. Jenkins was forced to transfer to Division 2's North Alabama, where he was criticised for not dominating lower competition, even though he was rarely thrown at.
Jenkins was arrested first in May of 2009 for assault and resisting arrest when he punched a man trying to steal his gold chain. He then ran from police when he was tased. His second arrest came in January of 2011 for marijuana possession and he was arrested a third time in April of 2011 by the same police officer for a similar charge. That's when new Florida head coach Will Muschamp made an example out of him and canned him from the team.
Jenkins naturally faced a lot of criticism during the pre-draft process, not only for his arrests, but also for fathering four children by three mothers and for switching agents because he felt like he wasn't being given enough attention. Because of his previous trouble, these relatively common things among NFL draft prospects caused a lot of attention, and false accusations were thrown out there — likely by NFL teams that wanted him to drop in the draft — that he continued to fail drug tests at North Alabama and that he was fired by his agent, rather than vice versa.
It's only been seven months since Jenkins was drafted by the Rams, but it's looking like one of the best decisions general manager Les Snead has ever made. Not only has Jenkins kept out of trouble, but he's also displaying the skills that should have made him a first round pick. Sure, Jenkins has had his ups and downs as is expected of all rookie cornerbacks, but he's starting on one of the top secondaries in football.
Jenkins also has a solid mentor to look up to playing across from him. Cortland Finnegan is infamous for his on-field issues, but has stayed out of trouble off the field as a pro since getting arrested for a DUI in 2006. Finnegan also attended a sub-FBS school — Samford University — and is a similar player to Jenkins.
Both players are 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and both players are known for their physical play. Jenkins excels in press coverage, jamming opposing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Finnegan can take down much bigger receivers by throwing off their routes with pushes and jabs at the line of scrimmage. Together they make a tiring pair sure to cause bumps and bruises all over the opposition.
It almost seems unfair that the Rams were able to add Jenkins and Finnegan over the offseason to immediately improve their league-worst 2011 secondary. The Patriots have the pair to deal with on Sunday in London and could have trouble with their physical play, as they did when they faced the imposing Seattle secondary.
Jenkins may have mental lapses as a rookie, but as long as Finnegan is watching over him, he should be able to stay out of trouble off the field and continue to be one half of one of the most promising cornerback pairs in the league. If everything goes the Rams' and Jenkins' way, the 28 teams that passed on him will be kicking themselves for not taking a risk on the talented player.
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