Continuing on with this series, I look at those IDPs that have a chance to breakout for their would be owners. Now, I’m not so naive to call them sleepers, though. There’s a trove of information available at one’s fingertips, so there’s no such thing as a sleeper. In my previous pieces, I’ve looked at 4 linebackers and 3 defensive backs, and with this piece, I continue to look at the DB position. This DB is entering his 4th season and has transitioned from the cornerback position to free safety. For this article, I look at New Orleans safety, Malcolm Jenkins.
Jenkins entered the 2009 draft, heralded, as one of the defensive backs to come out of the Big-10 since Charles Woodson. He finished his senior year with 57 tackles (34 of the solo variety), to go along with 9 defended passes and 3 picks. His performance on the field yielded All-American 1st team honors, as well as the Jim Thorpe award, given to the best nation’s best defensive back. His pedigree and on field performance resulted in him getting a 1st round grade prior to the draft.
The Saints thought highly of the corner, that they took him 14th overall in the 2009 draft. Jenkins saw very limited playing time during his rookie year, playing all over, in the slot and right/left-side. By Week 11, he was a starter and on the field for every snap. During that timeframe, he notched at least 5 tackles, but did go through the usual ups and downs as a rookie, being targeted 67 times and allowing 46 receptions. During the 2010 season, he transitioned from corner to free safety because of the departure of Darren Sharper. The concern with Jenkins is that he focused on the hit, instead of making the tackle, as he finished with 12 missed tackles. His pass coverage improved in his 2nd year, defending 10 passes and allowing just 25 catches on 44 targets and picked off two passes, resulting in a +3.7 grade in his coverage skills. 2011 saw some regression, however, allowing 4 TDs and a -6.8 grade in coverage. He didn’t have any picks, but did have a career-high in tackles with 84. He had 8 games of 8+ tackles, but again, missed tackles were an issue as he missed 13 tackles, missing a tackle in every 7 attempts.
The Saints are going through a tumultuous off-season and are dealing with the repercussions stemming from Bountygate, including the loss of captain, Jonathan Vilma. Once again, Jenkins comes in as the starting free safety on a very opportunistic defense that is being led by Steve Spagnuolo. Spags typically can get the most out of his safeties and has them all around the ball. What do I have projected for Jenkins in 2012?
My current rankings at both FantasyPros and ProFootballFocus, I’ve got Jenkins ranked 30th among DBs. The Saints, as I’ve noted, are an opportunistic defense that uses their safeties to make plays. Craig Dahl had a career-year in tackles in 2010 and Darian Stewart saw 945 snaps, while Quintin Mikell saw over 1,000 snaps so it’s not unreasonable to think that Jenkins is going to produce similar digits. My only concern with Jenkins, is the fact that he’s not using a fundamental approach to tackling, instead going for the big hit. He’s missed 25 tackles the past two seasons, leading to missed tackle frequency of 6.68 (meaning, he’s missing a tackle in every 6 attempts). If he can focus on making the tackle, those misses will turn into solo tackles. Right now, Jenkins’ ADP is 299, so he can be had for pennies and the return could be DB3 numbers. When the run on the elite DBs has finished, target him in the later rounds.