Boom or bust.
The St. Louis Rams knew it was likely one or the other when they selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins with the No. 39 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Or perhaps not boom or bust, as there was no doubting Jenkins’ talent. Perhaps, rather, the Rams knew there would be highs and lows associated with the once-top prospect.
Jenkins’ rookie year has been just that, a collection of highs and lows that has produced a generally positive return for the Rams in the first year of their investment.
The selection came with much risk – Jenkins was arguably the top cornerback in the draft based solely on ability, but off-field concerns scared some teams enough that they avoided the former University of Florida player altogether. Jenkins was dismissed from the team in April 2011 for a drug-related arrest and played his senior year for North Alabama, a team in the Gulf South Conference.
Still, the red flags weren’t enough to scare off the Rams. They drafted him in the second round and immediately made him a starting cornerback opposite Cortland Finnegan. And Jenkins responded early, recording an interception in the team’s first regular season game against the Detroit Lions. Jenkins started each of the team’s first eight games.
But the interceptions stopped coming after the first game, and instead Jenkins was frequently victimized by more experienced quarterbacks who could make the young corner pay for trying to jump the play. As Jenkins struggled, so did the Rams defense.
And after being scratched from the team’s week 10 game against the San Francisco 49ers for disciplinary reasons, some wondered if the Rams had made a mistake trusting Jenkins to change his ways. Jenkins and teammate Chris Givens were each benched for the game but returned the following week.
After one of the lowest lows, Jenkins responded this past Sunday with his highest high as a professional, intercepting two passes and returning both for touchdowns in a 31-17 Rams win. A defense desperate for turnovers – they hadn’t forced one in five weeks coming into the game – was led by one of its youngest but most brash members.
The Rams’ 2012 draft is marked by high-risk, high-reward selections – Givens, who also had some question marks coming into the season, has developed into a playmaker at wide receiver; fellow rookie Brian Quick, meanwhile, has yet to see any meaningful playing time – and Jenkins is undoubtedly the biggest. Now tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, Jenkins looks like the playmaker the Rams thought they drafted with the 39th pick.
Of course, the concern that he may bust at any time will follow Jenkins for years and possibly the rest of his career. On Sunday, though, the only thing audible was the sound of Jenkins going boom.