INDIANAPOLIS – Malcolm Jenkins
just had to shake his head.
As the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner while serving as a four-year starter at cornerback for Ohio State, Jenkins is looking at being the first former Buckeye taken in this year's NFL Draft. Despite his overall body of work at cornerback, his measurements (6-0, 204 pounds) have some teams questioning whether a move to safety is in his future at the next level.
Asked about that possibility, Jenkins laughed and shook his head.
"It's funny to because you have four years of film playing corner, you think you're doing well, you win the Thorpe as a corner and none of that means anything," Jenkins said at the NFL Scouting Combine.
After a junior season that saw him nab four interceptions while earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, Jenkins was one of five players to opt to return for his senior season and not bolt early for the NFL. In doing so, he might be the only one whose stock has actually gone up in the process.
After being viewed as a late-first round or a second-round pick a season ago, Jenkins is now pegged as a possible top-10 selection in this year's draft. However, that means the team that has him must decide whether he will play safety or cornerback.
"I gained a lot personally just having fun and things like that," he said of returning for his senior season. "All the things I gained like the Thorpe Award, as far as the draft last year everybody was talking top 15 or late first round and now everybody is talking in the top 10 or things like that. I think just my stock has definitely rose a little bit, especially since last year when a lot of people told me it couldn't really get any higher and it did. I made the smart decision."
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said the league is experiencing a change where more collegiate cornerbacks are projecting to the safety position at the next level.
He mentioned Jenkins as a specific example.
"There was a time when strong safeties looked more like linebackers than defensive backs," he said. "That's changed gradually. The demands for that position have changed, and some of those hybrid guys that have played corner have played safety like Jenkins, for example.
"What his best fit will be a team, where his best value will be is certainly an interesting discussion for all teams."
As a junior, Jenkins slid to a safety position when the Buckeyes used their nickel defense in an effort to get the team's top defensive backs all on the field at the same time. During his senior season, he played exclusively corner as the coaches sought to reduce some of the extra responsibilities on his plate.
Although he said he would prefer to play cornerback, Jenkins said he is amenable to moving to safety if the situation is right. He described himself as a cross between Champ Bailey and Ty Law.
"I'm willing to do whatever it is I have to do to play," he said. "I played safety as a junior and I was comfortable with it. It's something I can definitely do. My preferred position would be corner, but I'm the type of guy that I'm going to play on special teams or wherever you need me."
Speaking with reporters Feb. 22, Jenkins said he had not yet talked in-depth with any NFL teams. Those meetings were scheduled for later that evening and the following day, he said.
While at the combine, Jenkins said he plans to take part in all available drills including the 40-yard dash. It is that event that might settle the debate once and for all, he said.
"I've heard situations saying that it depends on how I run," he said. "If I run slow, I'm a safety. It's not something that I'm really worried about. It's all about how I'll run and I'm really confident in that."
As for the debate as to whether he will play corner or safety, Jenkins said he does not know how it even began.
"I think if you watch my film, I might not look as fast as some other guys," he said. "I don't know where that rumor came from, but it's definitely snowballed and I have no idea where it came from. I can only control what I do and how I perform."
He is one of the most decorated cornerbacks in Ohio State history, but that does not guarantee that Malcolm Jenkins will man that same position. Find out about the debate concerning Jenkins' future and how he hopes to end the debate as BuckeyeSports.com brings you the latest from the NFL Scouting Combine.
The former Buckeye wants to prove that he is a corner and not a safety.
Jenkins can play corner or safety.