Safety, Cornerback Suit Jenkins Similarly

For his fans outraged that NFL teams might not let Malcolm Jenkins try his hand at cornerback in the professional ranks, the former Buckeye All-American has a message for you: Don't be. After showcasing his skill at Ohio State's pro day, he was ready to help a team at whatever position is necessary.

"I think to me it's kind of turned into, ‘Oh my god, they're going to make him play safety, that means his career is over,' " Jenkins said. "No. It's kind of a win-win situation for me. Wherever I'm going to go I'm going to have an impact and I'm looking forward to it.

"Safety's not a bad position. If you can make plays from that position, you definitely can have an impact on your team."

The Piscataway, N.J., native spent three-plus years as a starting cornerback at Ohio State, including a senior season in which he had three interceptions, nine pass breakups, 57 tackles and won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back, but his size and speed have some teams wondering if he might better fit their defenses as a safety.

Some people perceive that as a knock on his skills, but Jenkins took a different view Friday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus after finishing his workouts at Ohio State's annual pro day.

Maybe at 6-0 and 204 pounds, he is more pure football player such as Ed Reed than lockdown corner like Champ Bailey.

"Some teams think I'm a legit corner," Jenkins said. "They know I probably could play safety, but they know I'm a corner. Some teams think I'm a safety. Some teams think I'm a hybrid. It's kind of a 50-50 type of deal."

But why would teams view him as a safety after so many games at corner?

Many observers and draft analysts point to the 40-yard dash times he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Both were reportedly in the 4.5-second range and slower than teams look for in the kind of elite corner they desire when spending a high draft pick.

If that is the negative side of the debate, however, there is a positive side. Some teams want him to play safety not for something he can't do – run stunningly fast – but rather for other skills he does possess.

"It's just how the safety position has kind of evolved now," Jenkins said. "They need guys who can cover and be able to still come down in the box and make plays, to have the range and the knack for playing the ball out in the middle of the field that I have. It's kind of rare at that position. There are a lot of safeties. Safety is an easier position to obtain, but if you have a great safety, that's always a plus for your defense. I think whenever you can bring your safety down to cover a slot receiver you don't have to change your personnel and bring another corner in. That helps your defense, helps you disguise and that's big in the NFL."

Leaving no doubt he is at ease with the situation and ready to accept whatever comes with the draft April 25, Jenkins was in the mood to do two things he has done consistently with reporters throughout his time in Columbus: Joke and speak honestly.

"I think the only reason that I would push corner is flat out corners get paid more," he said when breaking down the debate.

He acknowledged that a team could well take him with the intention of putting him on the outside then quickly change its mind and put him at safety, or vice versa.

His 40 times in Columbus – between 4.46 and 4.53 – could directly affect those plans, but he said that is not a big deal to him.

"No, a lot of coaches were hoping that I ran slow so they could get me," he said with a laugh. "But it's just one of those deals where it really wasn't that big of a deal to me. I knew I was going to come out and run somewhere in the high 4.4s or low 4.5s again. That was something that I wasn't really worried about. My main emphasis was the position drills, making sure I was smooth in my transitions and things like that. Bursting out just to show I can cover ground. Never on the field am I going to line up in a 40 stance. They want to see how I cover ground in breaks and how good my hips are."

Having gone through months of evaluation already since finishing his Ohio State career in January, Jenkins sounded like someone who has learned to take twists and turns in stride.

"At the beginning of the process, I was kind of leaning toward wanting to play corner. That's where I'm comfortable. But at this time, I'm more concerned with I just want to play. If that means safety, then I'd be willing to do that. I think I have the abilities to do that.

"I just want to play football."

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