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All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We’ve listed players, such as defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs’ Best Bets sections of Pewter Report’s annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2008 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report’s resident draft expert, Scott Reynolds, has spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds is armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay’s schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as LSU defensive tackle Glen Dorsey, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm and Virginia defensive end Chris Long. The goal of these regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com is to inform you about players that will likely go in rounds 2-7 that might help the Buccaneers. We’ll make an exception with this report, though, as there is a lot of interest in a local Tampa Bay-area player who could wind up as a Buccaneer in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Stovall or Gradkowski? We’ll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
USF CORNERBACK MIKE JENKINS VITAL STATS: According to the USF media guide, Bulls cornerback Mike Jenkins is 6-foot, 197 pounds and is one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the 2008 NFL Draft. However, since he did not participate in the 2008 Under Armour Senior Bowl he has yet to weigh in and be measured in front of NFL scouts. There is a belief by some NFL scouts that Jenkins is closer to 5-foot-10 instead of 6-foot. His official size will be on record at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.
This long-armed defensive back possesses blazing speed in the 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash. He also possesses kick return ability.
CREDENTIALS Jenkins battled through an ankle injury early in his career and saw limited playing time as a freshman. His biggest play was a blocked punt against Tennessee Tech.
Jenkins logged more playing time as a sophomore and moved into the starting lineup. He finished 2005 with 37 tackles, five passes defensed, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
Jenkins caught NFL scouts’ attention during his junior season in which he picked off one pass, broke up 10 passes, forced one fumble and logged 25 tackles. In 2007, Jenkins turned in a fine senior season with 41 tackles, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES Jenkins recorded a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during senior season against Cincinnati, which was the longest kick return in USF history.
Although that is the only record that Jenkins set with the Bulls, he is poised to become South Florida’s highest-rated draft pick in 2008 as he carries a first-round grade.
HIS BIGGEST GAMES 9/8/07 at Auburn 5 tackles, 1 INT and 1 pass defensed 11/3/07 vs. Cincinnati 4 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 100-yard KR TD 11/17/07 vs. Louisville 1 INT, 1 tackle 12/23/06 at East Carolina 3 tackles, 3 passes defensed 11/12/05 at Syracuse 3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER With cornerback Brian Kelly planning on opting out of the final year of his deal, according to the St. Petersburg Times, and fellow cornerback Ronde Barber set to turn 33 in April, the Buccaneers have the need for a starting-caliber cornerback in 2008. Whether or not they will be willing to spend a first-rounder on Jenkins remains to be seen, but cornerback is not a deep position in the 2008 NFL Draft and it wouldn’t be a foolish idea.
Jenkins possesses the speed and has the coverage ability to be a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Although he did not record a lot of interceptions – only six – during his three years as an NFL starter, he does possess good ball skills. Because he was the best cover cornerback for the Bulls, opposing quarterbacks spent most of the time throwing away from him and towards cornerback Trae Williams, who recorded 16 interceptions, returning four of them for touchdowns, and batting down 21 passes.
Jenkins’ game resembles that of former Buccaneers cornerback Donnie Abraham to a degree. Jenkins is a smooth player who is capable of baiting quarterbacks into throws by giving the appearance that he is not closely covering his receiver. The talented USF corner is a great athlete with very good closing speed.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY Jenkins’ tackling has improved over the years, but it is still not his strongest trait. He must become more of a willing tackler at the next level and be more aggressive against the run. Jenkins doesn’t have any problem bringing wide receivers to the ground, but must show the same willingness to take on tight ends and running backs, too.
Although he wasn’t challenged too often by opposing quarterbacks, Jenkins only recorded six interceptions in college. He has good ball skills, but how many of those 26 pass breakups could have been turned into turnovers? The fact that the best USF cornerback was out-picked by 10 by Trae Williams reinforces this question mark about Jenkins.
SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR Despite being one of the fastest Bulls, Jenkins was not used on special teams as much as one would have thought during his USF career. He only returned two kickoffs for 27 yards as a junior – the first two kick returns of his career – and returned just seven kicks for 213 yards during his senior season (30 avg.).
One of those seven returns was a 100-yard touchdown against Cincinnati, which makes you wonder why a player with such playmaking ability was not used more as a returner. Jenkins also returned just one punt in his collegiate career with that return covering 27 yards. Again, why he wasn’t used on special teams when he was pretty productive was a mystery in college. Perhaps it was to have him avoid injury.
If Jenkins were drafted by the Buccaneers, he would likely start off competing for the nickel back job with Torrie Cox, Marcus Hamilton and perhaps Sammy Davis, who is a free agent, but could be re-signed. Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon are in line to start with the possible departure of Brian Kelly. But Jenkins would be called upon to be a factor on special teams as a rookie, and he could become a kick and/or punt returner at the next level.
DRAFT PROJECTION Jenkins is destined to become a first-round draft pick and the highest-drafted Bull in South Florida history. He opted to not attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. and that could hurt his stock. Although various mock drafts have Jenkins rated as a top 10 prospect in the 2008 NFL Draft, the fact that he backed out of the Senior Bowl doesn’t bode well for him.
If Jenkins doesn’t time well – say, above 4.45 in the 40-yard dash – at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, he could be the second or third cornerback taken in the 2008 draft. Troy’s Leodis McKelvin and Boston College’s Dejuan Tribble did show up to the Senior Bowl and certainly didn’t hurt their stock. Tennesse State’s Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, a cousin of San Diego Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie, also performed well and greatly boosted his stock at the Senior Bowl.
Kansas junior Aqib Talib also has first-round potential and could surpass Jenkins with a good showing at the Indy combine or at his pro day workout. The bottom line is that Jenkins could have solidified his spot atop the cornerback rankings with a good week in Mobile. Instead, he could be picked anywhere from fifth to 25th in the first round. Jenkins’ stock is buoyed by the fact that this is not a deep group of cornerbacks in this draft.
However, one factor that could drop his stock a bit is the fact that Jenkins was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing or opposing an office without violence in March 2007. That caused him to be suspended in the offseason by Bulls head coach Jim Leavitt, but Jenkins did not miss any games as a result of the suspension.
THE QUOTE "I felt pretty good knowing this was my last game at the Ray Jay, in college," Jenkins said after picking off Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm in his final home game in 2007. "Hopefully I can pursue my career in the NFL and come back here one day."
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com