We've talked at length about the value-flavored pickle that the Buffalo Bills may find themselves in when they're on the clock in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In a year where blue-chip prospects are few and far between, the Bills are expected to be in a situation where they're not getting ideal value with the No. 10 overall pick.
That is, unless they're drafting based purely on talent. Because in that case, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins would be a slam dunk investment.
Had he entered the 2011 NFL Draft following his junior year at Florida, Jenkins may very well have been a Top 10 pick. The super-athletic 5'10", 193-pound cornerback was a star in the SEC, where he routinely shut down top-flight receiver prospects like A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Considered by many to be the best man cover corner available this year, Jenkins would be a terrific fit as a potential starter in Dave Wannstedt's 4-3 defense that emphasizes winning one-on-one battles. A corner of Jenkins' caliber is ideal to put behind a defensive line with as much individual talent as Buffalo's.
Jenkins, however, was kicked out of the Florida program last April - just two days prior to Buffalo's selection of Marcell Dareus, in fact - following his third arrest in a little under two years, and his second in three months. Off-field problems have turned Jenkins from an otherwise outstanding prospect into one that likely won't appear on the boards of many teams league-wide.
Very briefly, for those of you that aren't aware of Jenkins' past transgressions:
- Jenkins was arrested in June of 2009 on misdemeanor charges stemming from a bar fight in which he also fled police. He received six months' probation in that instance.
- Jenkins was arrested in January of 2011 for possession of marijuana. He accepted a plea agreement in that case and paid $316 in court costs.
- Jenkins was again arrested for marijuana possession in April of 2011. This led to his expulsion from the Florida football program. He also has a failed drug test on his CV.
There is, however, potentially an even more pressing concern for Jenkins beyond his litany of legal issues: the fact that he already has four children by three different women. Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports covered those issues an an article published around the time of the 2012 NFL Combine.
For this reason, Jenkins has been mentioned in the same breath as New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has nine children with eight different women, and has been traded and received massive advances on his contract to deal with child support payments. Cromartie was a first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall) of the San Diego Chargers in 2006.
You may recall that Bills GM Buddy Nix was with the Chargers when they drafted Cromartie - and has been rumored on several occasions to have been Cromartie's chief intra-organizational advocate leading up to that pick. That has led some to believe that Nix and the Bills may be willing to overlook some character deficiencies on draft day in favor of clear talent, but there's a flaw in that logic: when Cromartie was coming into the league, he was more of an injury risk than a character red flag, having never started at Florida State after missing his junior season with a torn ACL.
There's also this: at the time he was drafted, Cromartie had one child. Jenkins already has four, and coupled with his history of arrests and drug abuse, his off-field red flags are far more difficult to ignore than with most.
To his credit, Jenkins has been honest and forthright about his checkered past this off-season. He addressed the issues head-on at the Combine, and he has not shied away from most interview opportunities this off-season. That includes yesterday's USA Today article, which details the timeline between Florida and North Alabama for Jenkins, and how his father and mentor went about ensuring that Jenkins paid dues for his transgressions. It's a worthwhile read to get a more complete picture on Jenkins' character.
Still, talk is talk, and those issues are tough to ignore. As draft day nears, however, Jenkins' talent and on-field production should prove to be quite difficult to ignore, as well. Character concerns have made his draft stock very volatile, but Jenkins is undeniably an excellent football player. From the latter angle, he'd be an outstanding investment for Buffalo, and as early as No. 10 overall. Where he ultimately lands, however, will be based on how much faith teams have in Jenkins' supposed reformation.