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The A.J. Jenkins College Comparables, Subtitle: On the Other Hand…


Give me a one-handed economist! All my economists say, On the one hand on the other.Truman, Harry S

Since the news broke that Michael Crabtree tore his achilles, I’ve been meaning to post some college comparables for AJ Jenkins (see Jon Moore’s earlier work on Jenkins here).  The thing that struck me as I was getting them together is that Jenkins really does illustrate the idea that there are always a range of outcomes. Jenkins has two primary components to his “prospect-ness” that are very good: his draft position and college production both suggested that he would have a good career. You can’t really ask for more than agreement between the stats model and the scouting model right? Jenkins’ late 1st round selection suggested that he was liked enough by enough scouts.  His college production suggested that he got the job done.

But digging into Jenkins’ comps does create room for some waffling as suggested by the Truman quote at the top of this post. I could look at a select few of Jenkins’ comps and come away with a different conclusion in each case. Let’s get started.

Here is a summary of AJ Jenkins’ measurables and production coming out of college.

A.J. Jenkins-Illinois 2011 190 4.39 (0.2) 13.0 0.55 0.73 98.2 0.6 14.2 2.0

Jenkins piled up raw stats, market share stats, and he’s also fast. Those are the good things. The bad things are that Jenkins did his work against generally weak competition. The other bad news is that while Jenkins is fast, he’s not big. I use Physical Scores in my WR model, so let’s look at Jenkins’ Physical Score compared to some other WRs.

Name Ht Wt 40 Time Vertical Physical Score
Percy Harvin-Florida 71 192 4.39 37.5 0.76
Greg Jennings-Western Michigan 71 197 4.42 36.5 0.70
A.J. Jenkins-Illinois 72 190 4.39 38 0.69
Emmanuel Sanders-Southern Methodist 71 186 4.4 39.5 0.58
Golden Tate-Notre Dame 70 199 4.42 35 0.51

Jenkins’ Physical Score isn’t bad at all and you can see that some other WRs that have seen NFL success had Physical Scores that were similar. But Jenkins also doesn’t have the PS of a true #1 WR, which is typically in the 2+ range. For instance, Dez Bryant’s Physical Score is 2.9, while Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald also had PS in the 3 range as well.  Weight is a pretty important input for PS, but in general it’s just important to be on the edge of the Bell Curve in most measures and Jenkins’ weight really holds him back. Also while it might seem like I’m downplaying Jenkins’ PS while I’ve put him next to a group of receivers that might seem impressive, I only really consider Jennings to have had the success of a real #1 WR. Harvin has had the success of someone whose production is tied to their targets and pretty much I think he’s wildly overrated (how can the top RB in the league and an alleged top WR in the league be on the same team and still that team doesn’t crack the top 10 in points scored? Because of Ponder? So now all we have to do is reconcile the fact that a QB that completed over 60% of his passes and threw 1.5 TDs for every INT he threw was soooo bad that it was enough to wipe out the efforts of the league’s best RB and one of the league’s top WRs. You get where I’m coming from here. Ponder may be below average, but Percy Harvin is not a top WR in the league).

Now let’s look at some receivers that had similar production to Jenkins. Here’s the group that I consider to be closest on most measures:

Torrey Smith-Maryland 2010 204 4.41 (0.2) 13.0 0.39 0.46 81.2 0.9 15.8 0.5
Emmanuel Sanders-Southern Methodist 2009 186 4.40 (1.6) 13.0 0.37 0.32 103.0 0.5 13.7 0.5
Lee Evans-Wisconsin 2003 197 4.39 0.6 13.0 0.44 0.72 93.3 1.0 19.0 2.0

All of the members of that group are close to Jenkins in size and speed and they’re relatively close in terms of draft positions. Sanders was the one whose draft stock had the lowest value when he came out of college.  Sanders also produced the least in college if we’re going off of Market Share numbers. Maybe Sanders is an ok match, while Lee Evans and Torrey Smith are close matches I would say.  I think Torrey Smith is really underrated and Lee Evans has some pretty productive seasons, even if I’m sure he has the all time fantasy record for bench points scored.

Here’s another group of receivers that are close to Jenkins on some measures, but that I consider to be in the “too good to be true” group.

Calvin Johnson-Georgia Tech 2006 239 4.35 (0.1) 13.0 0.54 0.62 92.5 1.2 15.8 2.6
Hakeem Nicks-North Carolina 2008 212 4.51 0.2 13.0 0.49 0.60 94.0 0.9 18.0 2.6
Eric Decker-Minnesota 2009 217 4.54 0.2 8.0 0.51 0.62 94.8 0.6 15.2

The reason that these guys show up in Jenkins comp list is because they’re really close on the production measures. But that difference in size of between 20 pounds and 50 pounds is pretty meaningful. So I guess I couldn’t look at Jenkins, then look at these receivers, and expect them to have similar careers.  Also there’s the whole issue of Jenkins’ donut hole of production during his rookie year, which probably impacts the odds that he has a Megatron-like career (or even a Hakeem Nicks like career).

Now let’s look at a group of comparables that seem like something of a worse case scenario. These receivers are all relatively similar to Jenkins including being just as fast and also having raw production equal to Jenkins. The place that they do fall slightly short of Jenkins is on the Market Share numbers. But then, these receivers were all larger than Jenkins. Also, Troy Williamson was a top 10 pick.

Mike Sims-Walker-Central Florida 2006 209 4.35 (0.8) 12.0 0.42 0.50 98.2 0.6 13.1
Devin Thomas-Michigan State 2007 215 4.40 (0.1) 13.0 0.45 0.42 96.9 0.6 16.0 13.6
Troy Williamson-South Carolina 2004 203 4.32 0.1 10.0 0.40 0.64 83.5 0.7 19.4 3.0

It’s worth stepping back and thinking about my projection last year for Jenkins, if for no other reason than that when I made it, I wasn’t clouded by his rookie year donut hole. I actually forecast him to have a very good first three years in the league. But I do think that the rookie donut hole has impacted the odds of that happening. First, my original forecast has almost no chance of coming true because Jenkins is already in the hole. Second of all, while I somewhat agree with Jon Moore’s point that the 49ers are willing to take things slowly with their rookies, I don’t think that Jenkins and Kaepernick are in similar situations. Kaepernick played a position that has just one spot on the field and thus he had to outplay Alex Smith during his rookie year to get on the field. By contrast, there are any number of plays during the game that a WR could participate in and Jenkins didn’t. To put this another way, what are the odds that Jenkins does have Hakeem Nicks level talent and yet couldn’t get on the field during his rookie year? Of the successful WRs on this list, only Decker also had a very poor rookie year. I think that the 49ers willingness to draft guys they don’t expect to play right away does allow us to assume a wider range of outcomes in Jenkins’ case, I just don’t think it’s possible to say that the rookie year can be swept under the rug. It’s an issue of conflicting signals.

Having said all of that, ultimately I come down on the side of believing that Jenkins will have value this year and that’s due mainly to one thing – opportunity. Even if Jenkins pissed off the coaches enough for them to essentially embarrass him with a lack of playing time, they don’t have any choice now because they need bodies. That’s extremely important. I’m also officially not a member of the Anquan Boldin fan club. A few good games during the playoffs won’t make me forget that he was a 3 TD receiver last year. Hey, maybe that’s the angle “Anquan Boldin: Only 3 more TDs than AJ Jenkins during the 2012 regular season!”

All of this begs the question: When is a reasonable time to take Jenkins in a fantasy draft? Vincent Brown is going around WR55 or so and that strikes me as being the kind of value that Jenkins probably has until we know more. I’m sure the picture will become clearer going into the season and the RotoViz writers will undoubtedly write a number of articles on Jenkins.

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