Had 49ers not taken Jenkins at No. 30, Rams may have selected him at No. 33

The 49ers surprised observers last Thursday night when they selected Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. But now we know that if the Niners hadn’t snagged Jenkins at No. 30, the Rams probably would have taken him at No. 33.

Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver was actually in the war room with Jeff Fisher and Les Snead in St. Louis last weekend and observed the Rams’ 2012 draft. He was on 101 ESPN sports radio in St. Louis today and filled hosts Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr and Chris Duncan in on the Rams’ draft strategy when it came to selecting a receiver.

In response to whether or not he knew the Rams would take Appalachian State receiver Brian Quick with the 33rd overall pick, Silver responded:

“Yeah, I sort of knew their thinking on the receiver position. And I think the thinking was this: Blackmon at No. 6, we love it. We’re not going to trade up to do it but we love it at No. 6. If we don’t get him we pretty much have to get one of the five that we worked out, and I think the order was Blackmon first, with Quick and Jenkins right there with him. Then it went down to (Michael) Floyd or (Kendall) Wright after that. Once the four were gone and Quick was left, they did not want to mess around.”

It’s interesting that, at least according to Silver, the Rams had Quick and Jenkins rated ahead of Floyd and Wright because many people speculated that St. Louis would have taken Floyd at No. 14 had Arizona not selected him at No. 13. But that was never the case. The Rams had Trent Richardson ranked first, Blackmon ranked second and LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers ranked third. Brockers, whom Silver believes the Rams would have taken at No. 6 even if they hadn’t traded down, ultimately went to St. Louis at No. 14.

Getting back to Jenkins, it’s always interesting to hear about how things played out in teams’ war rooms after the fact. I’m sure plenty of Niners fans thought Jenkins was a reach at No. 30 but there’s a strong possibility that the Rams would have taken him at No. 33, so clearly the Illinois’ receiver was ranked higher on teams’ draft boards than people thought.

This is just one more example of how far off the media and fans are when it comes to projecting what teams are thinking on draft night.

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Top 5 Small-School 2012 NFL Draft Prospects

Here are my top 5 small-school prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft.

1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins is technically a small-school prospect because he finished his collegiate career at North Alabama. But he’s a former Florida Gator that was booted from the team last April following his arrest on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Assuming he can stay out of trouble off the field, Jenkins is a solid cover corner with the ability to play in multiple schemes. At 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, he doesn’t have the best size but receivers will have a tough time separating from Jenkins once he gets a feel for the pro game. Even despite his off-field problems, he should go somewhere in the first round.

2. Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State
Silatolu continues to draw more and more attention as the draft nears. About a month ago he was projected to go in the late second or early third, but now he’s being projected as an early second or late first-round pick. Like most small-school prospects, Silatolu has some technique flaws to his game that need to be ironed out. But he has the size (6’3”, 324 pounds), the explosion, and the foot quickness to be a quality starting guard at the next level. I love the guard class in this year’s draft and Silatolu has as much upside as any other prospect.

3. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
Norman has some character concerns that will drop him into the third or fourth round, but the kid doesn’t lack confidence and he was a playmaker in college. He had a very good performance at the East-West Shrine game and just like Jenkins, is scheme-versatile. He takes too many risks at times and he ran in the 4.5-range at his Pro Day, but that was also reportedly on wet grass. Again, there are character concerns but Norman has the talent to be a steal in the middle rounds.

4. Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
Quick is a natural athlete for a big man (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), and he has some upside to his game. He’ll never be a receiver that separates because he doesn’t have great speed, but he’s highly coordinated despite not picking up the game until his senior year in high school. He’s a former prep basketball star so a team might fall in love with him in the second round. I think he’s a better value in the third, but there’s no question he’s an intriguing athlete that would be a fit for any team because of his route running ability.

5. Trumaine Johnson, DB, Montana
Yet another corner with some character concerns attached to his name (although he was reportedly arrested for trying to break up a fight, so I’m not sure if he’s really a concern or just a victim of some bad luck), Johnson has great size at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, and could turn out to be a very good press corner at the next level. What’s most attractive about Johnson is that some list him as a cornerback, while others see him as a free safety. His ability to play either position at the next level will only make him more attractive on draft day and could be a great fit for scheme-versatile teams like the Bears, Vikings or Falcons. He’ll go somewhere in the second or third round.

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