The St. Louis Rams will go into the offseason without any individual recognition for their players' efforts. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins finished the season with a strong case for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. In the end, the AP voters felt that Luke Kuechly had a better case to win the prize.
By the time the April 2012 rolled around it was a two-way race for the best cornerback in the NFL Draft, a race between Jenkins and the LSU's Morris Claiborne. But it really wasn't much of a race. Jenkins spent the prior season exiled to North Alabama after being suspended for repeat marijuana violations at Florida. His draft stock took another hit when it was revealed that he fathered four children with three different women.
A risk for relapse and the distractions likely to come from so many prior commitments, gave many teams pause. Jenkins had first-round talent, but no team was willing to take that risk. Some teams had him slapped with the "do not draft" label.
Jenkins threw the criticism back in the face of the often too righteous football media:
"It's weird because I had those kids while I was playing college football and it didn't affect me not once. I'm proud to have my four kids. If they want to throw that in my face, so be it.
"Everybody has kids. Where in the book do it say you can't have kids? It doesn't say that in the law. I'm a great father. I'm there whenever they need me."
Even better was when Jenkins rejected the inevitable Pacman Jones comparisons, telling the world:
"I mean, no, because I never shot up a strip club or nothing like that."
Hard not to see why Jeff Fisher was so willing to use one of three second-round picks to select Jenkins. That same mentality applied to his approach on the field.
Jenkins played in 15 games for the Rams, starting in 14 of them. He missed a mid-season tie with the 49ers after being benched for violating team rules. It was a minor blip in an otherwise solid debut season. He did have his rookie moments, getting caught out of position on a few occasions, notably for a backbreaking touchdown in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. His play improved significantly down the stretch.
The rookie corner finished the year with 64 tackles, the fifth-most on the team. He was an essential part of a defense that played a big role in propelling the Rams to a 7-8-1 record, just one season after stumbling to a 2-14 record.
Most impressive of all was Jenkins' knack for the ball, which proved to be everything it was advertised to be. He had four interceptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns. He scored a fourth touchdown on a fumble recovery in a Week 16 win over the Buccaneers. His four touchdowns tied him for the second-most scores on the team.