Malcolm Jenkins seems unworthy of the No. 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft based on many opinions. He lacks the blazing speed that most NFL scouts covet in defensive backs, and, as the predraft chatter has gotten louder, he may be a player without an exact position at the next level.
So, just why would the Packers take the Ohio State defensive back with their first pick in the draft on Saturday? Well, mainly because he seems like an unlikely choice. Just like Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Just like Justin Harrell in 2007. Just like Jordy Nelson in 2008.
Outside of the selection of A.J. Hawk in 2006, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has a way of surprising Packers fans with his first pick. While that pick sometimes draws boos or fails to make sense to most outsiders, the point here is to try to pick Thompson's brain a little; to try to identify who he might like for the Packers as opposed to the rest of the world.
Speaking from that point of view, it seems like Jenkins will be the Packers' first pick even among the handful of players being talked about as potential choices. Jenkins, among the media and scouting consensus, has fallen out of the top 10. Forty times in 4.5s have led to a debate about whether he projects as a cornerback or safety in the NFL. Thus, many mock drafts have him going No. 14 to the Saints, or lower.
Jenkins does not fill a need for the Packers, but then again, neither did Rodgers, Harrell or Nelson. The Packers are the deepest on defense at defensive back and need the most help among the front seven, so Jenkins' impact might be limited in the first year of a new defensive scheme.
For Thompson, high draft picks are all about finding the best available. That could well be Jenkins when the Packers select. Plus, the 6-foot, 204-pounder plays arguably the most demanding position for a defender.
"We're still looking for football players," Thompson said on Monday when asked the change in defensive schemes is affecting his scouting. "Good ones can play, and the ones that can't play usually can't play no matter what defense you have. I'm not trying to be glib about it, but the more you look at this and the more you say, ‘OK, this guy can do this and we can position this guy this way,' it all comes back to how good a player is the guy. It creates some possibilities to look at maybe some different types and stuff, but it really doesn't affect what we are doing."
Thompson's words speak volumes of why Jenkins could be his man. He's smart, consistent and shows up in big games. He has good size and is tough. Come to think of it, Jenkins resembles a cornerback the Packers already have — Charles Woodson, who was Thompson's prize free agent find in 2006.
It was just a year ago that Woodson, 32, played through a broken toe and even switched positions late in the season (from cornerback to safety), yet still earned a Pro Bowl spot. No one would ever confuse Woodson for a speedster. Same goes for Jenkins. Few would be willing to switch their best position to play another. Woodson and Jenkins will.
Jenkins also has good football instincts, which, like Woodson, usually makes for a good performance on game days if not in practice. He comes from a Big Ten school and grew up in New Jersey, a background that should give the Packers some much-needed toughness. And he possesses leadership quantified by his team captain status in a highly-successful college program.
Jenkins fits the bill for the type of player Thompson says he wants. In that end, that might be all that really matters because Thompson's opinion is the only one that counts.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org