Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Mike Jenkins

[With Free Agency all but over, it's time to take a look at who the Vikings might select in the first round with the #17 pick. Today, we're previewing Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt. Previously, I previewed Derrick Harvey, a defensive end from Florida, Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, Malcolm Kelly, a wide receiver from Oklahoma, Phillip Merling, a defensive end from Clemson, Ryan Clady, an offensive tackle from Boise St, Jeff Otah, an offensive tackle from Pitt, Limas Sweed, a wide receiver from Texas and Devin Thomas, a wide receiver from Michigan State.]

This is going to be my last profile of possible first round picks (barring any requests). Mike Jenkins is a 5'10", 197 pound cornerback out of the University of South Florida who has experience returning kickoffs, returning seven kickoffs for an average 30.4 yards and one touchdown. If the Vikings draft him, however, he may not play either role for the Purple, as his most natural position in the NFL might be Free Safety, a position the Vikings need a long term answer at.

Jenkins played four years at USF, during which he demonstrated his athleticism. He ran a 4.38 forty at the NFL Combine, and he was able to use that speed on the field, matching receivers stride for stride. He also demonstrated great skill at jamming receivers, using his upper body strength and long arms to constantly knock receivers of their routes. When receivers are able to get into their routes, he has a nose for the ball, which he combines with his long reach to get around the receiver and knock the ball away, though this also leads to pass interference penalties, which he received in five of six mid season games his senior year. He isn't great at jumping routes, however, and his hands are only adequate, which is why he never had more than 3 picks in a season. He's also susceptible to pump fakes and ball fakes, but is able to use his speed to recover.

That susceptibility is one of the reasons he might fit in better as a free safety. He can also get turned around in single coverage, which he has the speed and change of direction to recover from, but it isn't ideal as a corner. His speed and quick recovery seem ideal for the free safety position. Playing free safety would also help to cover up his struggles at stopping the run. Jenkins isn't the type to mix it up in a crowded running lane, nor has he displayed the ability to cut off running lanes. His tackling, while fine for bringing down wide receivers, isn't up to consistently bringing down running backs, and he can get run over.

Also, Jenkins has experience playing free safety, as he started games there as a freshman. He is also well known for having a good work ethic and being well respected by his teammates and so shouldn't have any trouble learning a new position or adjusting to the NFL corner position. There is one major behavioral red flag, however, as he was arrested for misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence after a fight erupted outside a bar he was attending a party for former USF linebacker Stephen Nicholas. Despite not being violent, police used a taser on Jenkins and he was briefly suspended from the team. There hasn't been any further offenses, and Jenkins coaches vouch for his character, but the arrest has to be factored in to the Vikings' decision.

Jenkins will likely be the best corner available to the Purple at #17. He has the speed and coverage abilities to play corner, and could possibly be a successor to Darren Sharper at free safety. The Vikings need for such a player isn't as pressing as it is at other positions, however, which means that while Jenkins would not be a bad pick, it's very likely that there will be good players available that would fill more pressing needs.

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