INDIANAPOLIS – Getting arrested after a bar fight won't kill the chances of an NFL draft prospect, although it's a red flag. Two other arrests for marijuana possession while in college and a failed drug test for the substance are bigger concerns for teams.
But what appears to be a chaotic personal life, where an NFL hopeful is the father of four children by three different women, might be the issue that makes teams take a player off the draft board altogether.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama (by way of the University of Florida) is dealing with all three of these issues as he goes through the pre-draft process, starting with last this past week's NFL scouting combine. Mighty Casey may have just met his match.
To Jenkins' credit, he wasn't afraid to admit his mistakes on these issues Sunday when he talked to the media. Likewise, he hasn't dodged the questions when asked by coaches and executives.
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Unlike Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett last year, the 23-year-old Jenkins isn't playing dodge-and-weave from his troubles. For that reason, Jenkins might – emphasis on might – end up preserving his status as a first-round pick. If not for all these issues, Jenkins might be the runaway choice as the top cornerback in the this year's draft.
"I'm done with that," Jenkins said when asked about his drug use. He and others around him say he has been clean ever since being kicked out of Florida in 2011 following the second drug arrest.
As for the children and the women, the life of Cromartie is instructive. Cromartie is an incredibly gifted player who has been dogged for years by the drama in his life from of having nine children by eight women in six states. Cromartie's troubles were so daunting that his original team, the San Diego Chargers, traded him in part because they felt he was too distracted and under too much pressure to do his job.
When the Chargers traded Cromartie to the New York Jets in 2010, the team reportedly had to advance Cromartie $500,000 for him to get caught up on child support payments.
Or things could be worse, such as the case of former running back Travis Henry, who had 11 children by 10 women and ended up in jail for dealing drugs in an effort to make keep up with his child support payments.
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"It's a lot [of issues], that's all I can say," said an AFC defensive coordinator whose team is in the market for a cornerback. "I can tell you I'll be studying him as a player. Where it goes from there, who knows? But it's a really good question."
This is not a morality play. How Jenkins and the women he has been with choose to live is their business. Perhaps Jenkins, like some young athletes, simply wants to have children at a young age. Maybe he'll realize the responsibility he has taken on and be a good father regardless of circumstance. And the truth is Jenkins is hardly alone in the NFL when it comes to having multiple children by multiple women.
But teams are becoming more cognizant of making sure a player has the ability to focus on the job. Thus, the question becomes: Will Jenkins' status hold him back?
In some situations, it will. But as with any talented player, Jenkins is going to get a chance.
"I know we haven't decided what to do with him," an AFC executive said. "We might take him off our board. I know there will be three or four teams that will take him off right away, at least for the first round."
Said an NFC team executive: "You want to hear if he has a plan to deal with it. He might convince you that he has it under control."
What's the likelihood of that?
"I wouldn't expect it to be real high," he said. "Most of these guys don't know what to do with the first dollar they make. If this kid could follow a plan, he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. … I know this movie. It usually doesn't end well."
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- Janoris Jenkins