A.J. Jenkins

49ers use the NFL Draft to raise their overall IQ

The more we learn about the San Francisco 49ers’ draft picks, my prediction for their first round choice looks dumber and dumber. Not that Janoris Jenkins isn’t intelligent, but he’s made a rash of dumb decisions over his career that moved him both from Florida to North Alabama and from the first round to the second. Plus there’s his procreation habit: four children with three mothers.

After looking at who the 49ers chose and what’s been said about these players, targeting intelligent players was a priority — even though if you look at the “grades” they received from football writers, the Niners’ Draft GPA was barely over 2.00.

First Round

The Jenkins named A.J. was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in each of his final three seasons, so you know he can handle himself in the classroom. But does that intelligence translate to the business of football? Jim Harbaugh quizzed Jenkins before the draft, using a set of questions to determine how much of a “gym rat” Jenkins is. From Harbaugh’s press conference on April 26:

A.J. was saying that he did pretty well on the football quiz you gave him during his visit. What was it like meeting him, what was that about?

“It was a great visit when A.J. came in. Everybody really enjoyed being around him. We had a very nice lunch, had a nice meeting on football. I gave him the quiz and he scored very well. I won’t compare him to any other players, but he scored very well. He’s a bright guy. A bright football guy. Gold helmet guy. Somebody that we’re really pleased to have.”

Second Round

LaMichael James was known his speed and prolific numbers in college, but he does have a criminal record, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of physical harassment in early 2010. However, those who wish to write him off should read an article by CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd titled, “Speedy James has slowly repaired his image,” which includes this passage:

You had the wrong opinion about him, (Chip) Kelly said. James is a good kid. The reports you read that included words like “domestic abuse” were overblown and overwrought.

“It’s out there to read,” Kelly said again this week. “I would encourage people to read it. Formulate your opinion after reading it.”

He was talking about the court documents that detail James’ misdemeanor conviction for physical harassment involving a former girlfriend. In this sentencing memorandum, James doesn’t come off as innocent, but he certainly isn’t the monster that the initial reports painted.

It’s hard to judge a person’s character without knowing him or her personally. However, when he spoke with Tom Tolbert and Eric Byrnes yesterday, James sounded like an intelligent, personable guy who shouldn’t cause any trouble during his 49ers tenure. He also knows how to write a clever tweet:

Hopefully Willis holds back a little on contact days so we can see James run on Sundays.

Fourth Round

The 49ers’ third choice in the 2012 NFL Draft has a last name that brings to mind things other than intelligence, but don’t let Joe Looney’s surname fool you. Thanks to Niners Nation pulling the following quote from another Harbaugh presser, we have yet another example of the 49ers’ draft day emphasis on smarts and character.

What made Looney’s interview at the Combine so impressive? Why did he jump out to you?

“Oomph, pizzazz. Really bright guy. Really smart, smart person. Not only book smart, but street smart, football smart. Everything matched up. Everything that you’d heard about Joe and all of our research that we did on Joe at the school. You cannot find a person on that campus who has anything less than glowing things to say about him. Professors, coaches, trainers, equipment managers, from faculty to football to everybody that comes in contact with him there literally not a negative word. And you see what he’s done, the pattern of success that he’s had in the classroom, on the field. And then to meet him and to see and know that it all matches up, that was glaring to me. That’s what made that interview stand out.”

Where did I go wrong?

What I mean is, why did I figure the 49ers would throw character concerns into the paper shredder and go after Janoris? I admit, my own preconceived notions may be at fault — namely, my surprise at the 49ers signing Randy Moss. Moss, like Janoris Jenkins, was kicked out of a high-profile Florida university (Florida State in Moss’ case) due to a positive drug test for marijuana.

However, there are two main differences here.

First, Moss has (mostly) kept himself out of trouble. He failed a drug test for weed in 2001 but hasn’t failed an NFL drug test since, and while he’s had some instances where his effort has been called into question, his NFL productivity is undeniable.

Second, the 49ers are risking almost nothing in bringing in Moss, while drafting Janoris Jenkins with their first round pick (Janoris was taken with the 7th pick in the second round by the St. Louis Rams) would’ve been an enormous risk. Even if Moss (who was recently photographed soaring through the air in Santa Clara as if powered by a secret jetpack) is let go before the 49ers play their next meaningful game, it doesn’t matter. If the Niners wasted a first rounder on a guy who landed in jail, got suspended by the NFL for a significant period or otherwise brought negative attention to the franchise, Trent Baalke and Harbaugh would be criticized for the rest of time.

The 49ers have made some interesting personnel decisions over the last year or two, but the NFL Draft is not where they’re willing to gamble. Smart thinking.

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