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Eric Thomas: It’s Not Fair To Compare Jenkins And Burfict

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TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on September 9, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Tigers 37-30 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 09: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on September 9, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Tigers 37-30 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Martin Mayhew and company are floating in uncharted waters. After three years of enviable draft position, the Lions camped at 23. Much of the unquestionably good talent has been picked over by the time 22 players have been picked. If you want to get a high reward guy, conventional wisdom says you have to take a bit of a risk.

Two names that have risen from the swale are Janoris Jenkins and Vontaze Burfict. It’s unfortunate that these two kids have been paired together in discussions because they both have completely different sets of circumstances and to pair them together unfairly stains one of them. Janoris Jenkins is a giant risk with little payoff and Burfict is a different story.

Jenkins didn’t just get into “some trouble”. The only true freshman to ever start CB at Florida got thrown off the team. I am not all that interested in his serial paternity issues but of course that speaks to the depth of his immaturity. Let’s just stick with the police trouble. In the first incident, he was at a night club where he claimed someone “was going to try and steal his gold chain.” When police arrived, he resisted arrest to the point where he needed to be tased. He was charged with affray which means he was fighting someone in a public place where other people get hurt in the process and resisting.

The second time he was arrested was for marijuana possession, apparently in the bathroom of a club. I would almost be able to understand if the guy was charged with possession in his dorm room. I imagine dorm rooms would be more unusual if they didn’t possess a bag of pot. But the fact the guy was carrying it with him into a club shows a complete lack of maturity and intelligence.

He wasn’t done transporting the stuff out of the house because a mere 4 months later he was arrested again. Police found him smoking a blunt in a car. A “blunt” (a marijuana cigar) in his car shows another brazen lack of judgment. At this point Jenkins has already been arrested TWICE. Instead of maybe hiding it or simply grabbing a “joint” (far smaller) he instead is brazenly smoking a large blunt in his car without even a hint of trying to hide it! Even Charles Rogers didn’t flaunt it like this in college.

Jenkins was thrown out of Florida prior to the 2011 season. By all reports he turned his life around but then again he was under less scrutiny. He also played under Terry Bowden, who in his tenure at Auburn gained a reputation for looking the other way for “off the field” issues. Jenkins says that he is a changed man and points out that he has not been arrested for almost an entire calendar year. Only in sports would that kind of accomplishment be lauded.

Maybe I am jaded and bitter but people don’t change. If you have a proclivity toward mischief that rarely goes away in less than a year. Not to mention he was guilty of all this when he was an amateur athlete! When you mix a tendency toward bad behavior with money you have a serious problem on your hands.

Many people point out that the Lions have a lot of leaders in the locker room.

Maybe enough to sway Jenkins away from his disastrous ways. Mike Valenti was absolutely right to say that Stafford can grow into a Brady type guy who commands a locker room. He can, but how about we wait until he actually makes it to a conference championship before we toss that canary in the mineshaft?
Before I close on Jenkins, let’s also ruminate on the state of the NFL defensive secondary. The days of having an absolute shut down corner is over. Refs could flag the wind for blowing too hard at a receiver stretching for the ball. Jenkins is a gifted CB but I submit that he is not just a cancer, the position he plays is not as critical as it once was.

Vontaze Burfict has none of those concerns. He has never been tased. That’s a bonus. He also hasn’t been arrested. There were some rumbling concerns about a disciplinary issue between him and punted ASU coach Dennis Erickson. So it’s completely unfair to list him in the same breath as Janoris Jenkins.

Plus, watching Burfict’s YouTube highlights are awesome. The guy is fast and strong. He explodes to the ball and delivers massive hits. He plays like a man possessed and did it against top competition. He has the size and speed but NFL Scouts question his maturity on the field. He was flagged numerous times for unsportsmanlike conduct and cost his team at key points in the game. He also had a poor showing at the stupid NFL Combine.

I have no problem with those kinds of issues. He plays with the kind of fire and emotion that will fit nicely in Gunther Cunningham’s scheme. Some Lions fans may object saying that we already have one firey liability in Ford Field and why draft a second one? These concerns are valid. But if you are going to draft at 23 you might as well take a risk that has a really good chance of paying off. The Lions leaders in the locker room can definitely help a guy who passionately wants to play football.

I will take a history of enthusiastically playing football over a history of enthusiastically smoking blunts any day.

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