04/30/2012 - BEST PICK Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins: Their best pick may be their first. While the team is stacked with receivers, Jenkins is the only one, other than former first-round choice Michael Crabtree, who could be a future No. 1 receiver. So far, Crabtree has been a disappointment as the receiving bell cow and his disappearance in the playoffs did not help him. Jenkins appears to be what Crabtree is not and that's a gym rat who will make time to put in extra work with quarterback Alex Smith. - The Sports Xchange
Jenkins, who was also recruited by Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Carolina, was one of the more heralded recruits brought to Illinois by Ron Zook.
He saw immediate action in 2008 as a true freshman, playing in all 12 games, including one start (11-287-3). He started three games in 2009 as a sophomore, but saw his production drop a bit (10-123-1), missing two games with a knee injury. Jenkins started nine games in 2010 and finished as the team's leading receiver (56-749-7). However, he really emerged in 2011 as a senior, posting team-highs in every receiving category, including a Big Ten-best 84 receptions for 1,196 yards and 7 TDs.
Jenkins isn't a burner or consistent vertical threat, but he plays fast and with a degree of confidence. He is more quick than fast and covers a lot of ground in the short half of the field and is slippery after the catch. He has a lanky frame and will be overmatched physically by most cornerbacks in the NFL, but should be a solid underneath option.
Jenkins doesn't appear to have the strength or natural speed to hold up on the outside as a pro, but could develop into a solid No. 3 or 4 for a team if he becomes more disciplined as a route-runner and devotes himself to the game of football.
Strengths: Jenkins is a balanced athlete with good body control and hand/eye coordination. He plays fast and can create after the catch. Jenkins does a nice job finding soft spots in zone coverage and will immediately turn upfield after the reception. He catches the ball with his large, soft hands and is tough, showing the ability to hold onto the ball after a big hit. Jenkins is a much improved route-runner with sharp moves in/out of his breaks and good field awareness. He uses his body movements to sell routes and makes plays at all levels of the field. Jenkins has a very good feel in coverage and has deceptive jets to gain a step and track the deep ball downfield. He put together a strong senior resume, leading the Big Ten in catches (84) and emerged as Illinois' go-to option through the air - producing at least four catches in every game in 2011 and set a new single game school record with 268 receiving yards (vs. Northwestern, 10/1/11).
Weaknesses: Jenkins has only average size with a narrow body type and a lean, lanky frame. He needs to spend more time in the weight room and get stronger. Jenkins' lack of strength has been exposed in a few jump-ball situations and he needs to be more competitive in tight coverage. He tends to round off some patterns and will get lazy in this area, choosing instead to abandon his routes and freelance at times. Jenkins will hold the ball too loose from his body and needs to improve his ball security and cut down on fumbles. He will try and make body catches at times, which will lead to drops. Jenkins has some experience as a kick returner, but isn't overly effective or reliable in this area. The Florida native has struggled in poor weather games, especially snow. He got into a few spats with former head coach Ron Zook and the rest of the Illinois coaching staff, so pre-draft interviews will be crucial to answering any effort or character concerns.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Lloyd, Rams: Jenkins has similar build and playing style as the former Illini, but not the same type of ball skills and polish.
-- Dane Brugler