Wide receivers Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright stole the headlines at the NFL combine two months ago, but Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins has seen his draft rise in recent weeks, to the point where ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper believes Jenkins will be an early second-round pick.
Kiper has Jenkins going to Jacksonville at No. 38 in his latest mock draft.
"I've been on a world tour, man," Jenkins said in a phone interview with ESPNChicago.com. "I traveled to Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City and San Francisco all in the span of a week, and I've got future visits coming up with the Titans, Panthers and Rams."
When he hasn't been on the road, Jenkins can be found training in Champaign where he continues to work toward his degree. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Jenkins led the Illini with 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns, including a monster performance versus Northwestern when he hauled in 12 passes for 228 yards and three scores.
Jenkins had five games with 100 yards or more during his final season with Illinois. As a junior, Jenkins had 56 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. After the Illini finished the season with a bowl victory over UCLA, Jenkins participated in the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
He also posted the third fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine with a 4.39.
So why no love for Jenkins early in the pre-draft process?
"I really don't know. I just feel like I did my part," Jenkins said. "You can't control what people say or how they think. It's just up to the teams to decide. I feel like I've done really well in the workouts and going through the interview process, so we'll see what happens."
Jenkins takes pride in his versatility. During his four-year career in Champaign, the 6-foot-1 receiver lined up in a variety of spots on the field, and even handled kickoff return duties his first two years in college.
"I can play everywhere,” he said. “I learned every position. I can play outside, slot, you name it. I'm used to learning three to four different positions, so I believe that will also be a strength of mine."
The Bears already added three receivers to the mix in the offseason (Brandon Marshall, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems), but they plan to select another in the draft. The Bears have done plenty of homework on Floyd, Blackmon, Wright, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, who the club is scheduled to host for a visit later in the week. If the early projections are correct, Jenkins might not be around by the time the Bears are on the clock in the second round at pick No. 50.
"I haven't heard much from the Bears, to be honest," Jenkins said. "I did shake Lovie Smith's hand once. Seemed like a nice guy."