By Rich Tandler
INDIANAPOLIS--North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins had to talk about a lot that didn’t deal with football when he spoke to the media at the NFL Combine on Sunday.
The 23-year-old prospect was asked a total of 27 questions and 13 of them dealt with the troubles he has had off the field. What troubles, you ask?
“I failed one drug test at Florida,” he said. “I got arrested three times, one for a bar fight and two for possession of marijuana.”
His past also includes fathering four children with three different women.
The failed drug test got him booted off of the Gators and he went from playing in front of packed houses on Saturday afternoons at The Swamp to appearing in front of a few thousand on Thursday nights in Florence, Alabama.
“My Saturdays I watched Florida, watched some of my old teammates play,” he said. “It struck me, it hit me as a kid. I was just like, ‘Man, I’m supposed to be there with those guys.’ Just thinking about my past.”
He was very up-front about his issues while talking to the media and presumably he did the same in his formal interviews with coaches during the combine. That’s all well and good but it may not help him very much in the NFL draft.
"That's going to play into it in a big way because every team is going to do their homework on him," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said at the Senior Bowl. "Athletically, I think he's the best corner here. That part is no issue. It's the rest of it he's going to have to work his way through.
Jenkins is a very talented football player. He would have a very good chance of being drafted in the first round if not for his off-field red flags. However, his off-field transgressions almost certainly will cost him draft position. How much it will hurt him will very from team to team.
“What is always interesting to me is how different teams treat those red flags,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, referring to both medical issues and off-field problems. “There’s not one uniform way to deal with a kid [with] off the field [issues].”
“So they’re all going to say the same thing, ‘I’ve grown up, I’m sorry,’” said Mayock. “Now, do you buy in to that and at what level?”
“Do you buy in at a first-round place? A second-round place? A fourth-round place? Everybody is different that way.”
Some teams don’t buy in at any level. “I know some teams that have already taken players off the board,” he said. “I won’t give you any names. But I know some teams have certain players already off the board. ‘I’m not dealing with that player, for this reason,’ whether it’s medical or off the field.”
“Some teams say, ‘that’s a first-round pick, I don’t care.’ And then other teams say he’s off the board. Others are in the middle somewhere.”
Jenkins played on the South team in the Senior Bowl, the squad that was coached by the Redskins’ staff. Mike Shanahan didn’t address the off-field issues but he did praise Jenkins’ skills.
"I think everybody can see he can bump, he can play off, he's very talented, he can run," Shanahan said. "So he'll be a top guy."
Shanahan has taken chances with players with red flags in the draft before, most notably spending a third-round pick on troubled Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in 2005. Since he has been with the Redskins, however Shanahan has stuck primarily with high-character guys with clean records.
That doesn’t mean that Shanahan won’t roll the dice on Jenkins. Every situation is different, every draft is different and at some point in the draft Shanahan cold look and see Jenkins on the board and decide that the talent outweighs the risks.