Today I was busy with this thing called “work," so it was the only day of Combine coverage that I didn’t get to watch. When I got a break I went outside and checked the progress of the last day of the Combine, which was the day for DBs. When I started looking up Combine news on my phone, I was overjoyed. I felt like doing a dance because there was a realistic chance my man-crush could be there when we pick in the first round. I was so excited that as soon as I got back home I logged onto BRB to share my joy, and was immediately deflated. It seems like everyone hates Malcolm Jenkins.
Before I get too ahead of myself, let me fill everyone in. Today at the Combine, Jenkins ran a pedestrian 4.60 in the 40 yard dash (4.52 and 4.58 unofficially). Meanwhile, Vontae Davis of the University of Illinois ran a 4.49 (4.39 unofficially). Davis has been considered the number two CB in the draft, but now some are considering him the number one CB in the draft after Jenkins' poor performance. Also, many are speculating that Jenkins will be converted to FS by whatever team decides to draft him. This coincidentally has pushed down his draft stock from a top 10 pick to a mid first round draft projection. Where do we draft again? Oh yeah, 15th.
The talk of moving Jenkins to FS didn’t start today. Mike Mayock has been saying it for a couple of months now, which is where I got the idea. As many of you know, I have a rather sizable man-crush on Jenkins, so much so that a couple of weeks ago I started talking crazy about trading UP to get him. I was only talking about trading up two spots, and I mainly brought it up to incite discussion because I knew Smithiak wouldn’t do this, but I eventually came to the conclusion, mainly with the help of a very compelling argument by Matt at DGDB&D, that this was not a good idea and came to grips with the fact I wouldn’t be seeing Jenkins in Steel Blue next year. Then the events of today rekindled my hope.
I’ve read all the arguments against drafting Jenkins at 15 that most of you have posted, and I have to admit that a good majority are persuasive. As I seem to be carrying the torch for the drafting-Jenkins-to-play-FS idea, I feel obliged to state my case, as well as the counterarguments for the reasons not to draft him.
First I will start with the points for not drafting him, coupled with my counterpoints. I took the liberty of paraphrasing some of the arguments against; please let me know if you feel I have misrepresented any of them.
Argument: Drafting someone in the first round for the specific purpose of changing his position is ludicrous. Switching a player’s position is something you do with a mid-round prospect as a project, but not with a first round pick who you expect to make an immediate impact.
Counterargument: There will be countless DEs selected for the specific purpose of conversion to OLB. Matt conceded this point and stated that this conversion is not as difficult as the CB to FS conversion. As OLBs, the former DEs will have similar duties of pass rushing and run stuffing with the only difference being that they will occasionally have to cover TEs and RBs. While this may not be a huge change, some will not be able to accomplish this feat but this is not why I bring it up. Few to none of these DEs covered anyone in college (because Richard Smith didn’t coach them) and therefore they will have to learn this skill before the start of the 2009 season in order to get on the field and make an immediate contribution as a first round pick should. Scouts, coaches and general managers take this into account and make sure that they feel the player is capable of doing this before they draft him. If Kubiak and Smith decide to draft Jenkins to play FS, they would make sure they felt comfortable with his ability to learn FS sufficiently to play in 2009. Which leads me into the next phase of the debate…
Argument: The transition from CB to FS is too difficult for a player with no experience playing the position, especially when that player also has no experience in the NFL.
Counterargument: Jenkins played for four years in the secondary of one of the best college programs in the country. Jenkins had 3 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions for his career, which is somewhat misleading because teams hardly ever threw to his side of the field in his senior year. But that’s not the best part: Jenkins intermittently played at FS in college to maximize his big play ability. If you doubt that, it says so right on his Combine bio page. The kid already has FS experience, so teaching him to play the position full time isn’t going to be as hard as it seems.
Argument: Drafting a FS doesn’t help our pass rush, which should be priority number one.
Counterargument: At first glance, you got me. FSs don’t blitz very much, if at all. What’s the alternative though? Brian Orakpo and Everette Brown will likely be gone, so that leaves Michael Johnson, Brian Cushing and maybe Clay Matthews, Jr. left. Michael Johnson is a physical beast and could be a great talent in the league, but he is far from a sure thing and could be a bust. I like him and wouldn’t mind if the Texans drafted him, but a spade is a spade and he provides no guarantee that our pass rush will improve. I don’t like Cushing in general, but I really don’t think that he would drastically improve our pass rush at all. Matthews is better than Cushing in my opinion, but 15 is too early to take him, so we would have to trade down, but even then I’m not sure he would get to rush the passer on a consistent basis. Meanwhile, Kruger and Ayers will be sitting there in the second round. I would personally rather have Ayers than any of the three I listed above, and I think he could end up being a steal with that 14th pick in the second round. Also, remember what the draft buzz was a couple of months ago? We were all up in arms about FS Taylor Mays of USC before he decided to go back to school. So we were ready to bless o the selection of a three year player who had good tackling totals and only 4 career interceptions, but we won’t do the same for a Jim Thorpe Award winner?
Argument: Jenkins’ poor drills at the Combine showed he’s not an athlete worth selecting at 15th overall.
Counterargument: Jenkins did run a slow 40, but he was tops among DBs in the 3 cone drill. What does this matter? The three cone drill tests a player’s ability to change direction and cut, skills a good ball hawking FS would need. Furthermore, Jenkins has shown with consistency that he can get it done on the field. He may not be track fast as the Combine showed us, but if you watched him play you can see he’s football fast. Also, he’s versatile. While it may be true that Jenkins isn’t fast enough to cover every number one WR in the league, he can cover a number two that’s giving us problems. If we re-signed Eugene Wilson, he and Jenkins could rotate. What I’m getting at is that he has shown the skills to play wherever we need him to play, outside of the number one CB position, but that’s why we tagged Dunta, right?
Argument: F Ohio State.
Counterargument: None. Point conceded.
In closing, I realize that this strategy is not air-tight, but I feel much better about it than any of the other first round pick scenarios. Who knows, Jenkins may not even make it to us at 15 and this is all an exercise in futility. If he is there though, I will be very upset if we pass on him. I really believe that in three or four years we’ll be looking back and saying that he was the best safety in this draft class. If you don’t believe me, I have two final arguments, A and B. I know highlight reels make anyone look good, but watch how many plays look like that of a CB and how many look like the type a FS would make. He makes big plays, which is something we can really use, whether he pressures the QB or not.
I'm sure this post just opened the floodgates of debate, or at least I hope so. Tell me what you think.