Illini WR Jenkins' draft stock rising
April, 18, 2012
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Tom OlmscheidMel Kiper Jr. has Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins going to Jacksonville in the second round of his mock draft.Wide receivers Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright stole the headlines at the NFL combine two months ago, but Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins has seen his draft rise in recent weeks, to the point where ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper believes Jenkins will be an early second-round pick.
Kiper has Jenkins going to Jacksonville at No. 38 in his latest mock draft.
"I've been on a world tour, man," Jenkins said in a phone interview with ESPNChicago.com. "I traveled to Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City and San Francisco all in the span of a week, and I've got future visits coming up with the Titans, Panthers and Rams."
When he hasn't been on the road, Jenkins can be found training in Champaign where he continues to work toward his degree. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Jenkins led the Illini with 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns, including a monster performance versus Northwestern when he hauled in 12 passes for 228 yards and three scores.
Jenkins had five games with 100 yards or more during his final season with Illinois. As a junior, Jenkins had 56 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. After the Illini finished the season with a bowl victory over UCLA, Jenkins participated in the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
He also posted the third fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine with a 4.39.
So why no love for Jenkins early in the pre-draft process?
"I really don't know. I just feel like I did my part," Jenkins said. "You can't control what people say or how they think. It's just up to the teams to decide. I feel like I've done really well in the workouts and going through the interview process, so we'll see what happens."
Jenkins takes pride in his versatility. During his four-year career in Champaign, the 6-foot-1 receiver lined up in a variety of spots on the field, and even handled kickoff return duties his first two years in college.
"I can play everywhere,” he said. “I learned every position. I can play outside, slot, you name it. I'm used to learning three to four different positions, so I believe that will also be a strength of mine."
The Bears already added three receivers to the mix in the offseason (Brandon Marshall, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems), but they plan to select another in the draft. The Bears have done plenty of homework on Floyd, Blackmon, Wright, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, who the club is scheduled to host for a visit later in the week. If the early projections are correct, Jenkins might not be around by the time the Bears are on the clock in the second round at pick No. 50.
"I haven't heard much from the Bears, to be honest," Jenkins said. "I did shake Lovie Smith's hand once. Seemed like a nice guy."
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
5:47 1st Qtr Cincinnati 6 Virginia Tech 0 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State