2012 NFL Draft: Should Janoris Jenkins' Murky Past Be Ignored by Dallas Cowboys?

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIMarch 6, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Janoris Jenkins #1 of the Florida Gators gets the crowd up during a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Janoris Jenkins is one of the best cornerback prospects in the NFL draft. He has all the skills that a team in need of a cornerback, like the Dallas Cowboys, could want in a first-round draft pick. One thing he has that teams may not want is a significant criminal record. Many Cowboys fans wonder if Jenkins is worth the trouble he might cause the team.

Jenkins comes with everything a 5'10" cornerback should have. He's very fast and possesses good short-range quickness. He has strong hands for tackling. Jenkins is tough, able to jam receivers. Also, he played through a torn Labrum for most of a season. Best of all, Jenkins has great ball skills. His leaping, timing and hand-eye coordination are second to none.

All those things should make him a must for the Cowboys to pick with the No. 14 overall selection.

Jenkins' Off-field Issues Are Unmatched by Almost Any Other Prospective Draft Pick

However, Jenkins comes with just about the most glaring off-field concerns. The only player whose off-field issues rival Jenkins' is Yale quarterback Patrick Witt, who was reported by The New York Times to have sexually assaulted a female student.

While Jenkins' criminal background is cause some hubbub, Witt's are enough to attract the National Organization for Women to his pro day.

Anyway, Jenkins' troubles with the law cut into his chances of being a four-year standout in Division I-A's toughest conference. He was arrested three times in a two-year span. In June 2009, Jenkins was arrested for fighting and fleeing police. Two arrests for marijuana possession in three months in early 2011 led to his dismissal from the Florida team.

His dismissal sent him scrambling to find another school where he could play, which led him to Division II North Alabama. At UNA, Jenkins played very well, landing on the Second-Team Division II All-American list.

Three Ways of Looking at Jenkins' Situation

One can look at the situation a few different ways.

First, the Cowboys could take the pragmatic approach of treating Jenkins like hazardous waste and staying far away from him. His record is substantial, and it forced his dismissal from Florida. He simply couldn't hang on for his senior year, no matter how talented he was.

Also, Cowboys fans could point to Dez Bryant, and say that Dallas doesn't need anymore problem players.

Second, the Cowboys could look past Jenkins' faults and draft him based on his talent. He's such remarkable talent that a team could take him simply because he's that good. The Cowboys will have such a big need at cornerback that they have little reason to say no.

Besides, the Cowboys' list of players through the years with criminal records is quite long.

Third, the Cowboys could take a more holistic approach and opine that Jenkins could yet grow as a person. Since Jenkins might not have had a strong moral authority in his life growing up, he may lack direction. Perhaps if Jerry Jones paired him up with a mentor, Jenkins could find meaningful direction.

Also, a veteran defensive player like Jay Ratliff or Mike Jenkins may be able to provide leadership for Jenkins.

Conclusion: What Should the Cowboys Do If Jenkins Is on the Board at No. 14?

If, as one would expect, Jenkins is on the board when the Cowboys are on the clock, they shouldn't hesitate to draft him. While his record is troubling, his talent is incredible. Also, the Cowboys should try to ensure that Jenkins can receive direction by both a defensive player and someone outside the organization.

To have been a fly on the wall during Jenkins' interviews would have been worthwhile. His answers to questions about his past and his personal growth would be interesting to know, as they would determine to some extent whether a team would want to draft him.

Drafting a player who might be cause for unexpected middle-of-the-night phone calls to Jason Garrett and Stephen and Jerry Jones is a risk, but a calculated one that many teams take every year.