Bengals' character dilemma at cornerback

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
1:30
PM ET
The cornerback workouts at the NFL combine put the Cincinnati Bengals in tough spot.

North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins had the best workout among the corners, which puts him in the conversation as the second-best corner in the draft. Jenkins posted the sixth-best 40 time (4.46) among defensive backs, and he seemed the most confident, agile, quick-moving corner during drills, according to ESPN's Todd McShay.

[+] EnlargeJanoris Jenkins
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireIn combine interviews, Janoris Jenkins gave candid answers to questions about his checkered past.
The Bengals, who are expected to take a cornerback with one of their two first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 21), need a player with Jenkins' skills and upside. Leon Hall is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury and Nate Clements is 32. The only problem: Jenkins is one of the biggest character risks in the first round.

Can the Bengals gamble on a player when it has backfired on them so frequently over the years? You want to say no, until you see his Pro Bowl potential.

Jenkins said he failed one drug test at Florida and was arrested three times -- once for a bar fight and twice for marijuana possession. He was kicked off the team at Florida and finished his college career at North Alabama. He’s also 23 and has fathered four children by three different mothers.

To his credit, Jenkins didn't dodge questions like Ryan Mallett did last year. His direct approach should preserve his first-round status.

He said he didn't make excuses when teams asked him about those incidents at his NFL combine interviews.

"I was honest, straightforward," Jenkins. "Told them I did it. I admitted to everything. I take full responsibility. I learned from it. It made me a stronger person. How to separate myself from certain guys, certain people. In order to be successful at the next level, I can’t do the things that I used to do.’’

Asked if he had given up marijuana, Jenkins said, "I'm done. I can’t do it. I thought about my mom and my kids. In order for them to have a nice life, I have to put that aside."

Jenkins might have been the top-rated corner in the draft if not for the red flags. Character concerns caused cornerback Jimmy Smith to slide to the Ravens at No. 27 in last year's draft.

"I’m pretty sure it will hurt me," Jenkins said. "But I’m moving past that."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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