Los Angeles Chargers undrafted rookie profile: Eli Jenkins
By Travis Wakeman
Many fans and analysts expected the Los Angeles Chargers to select a quarterback in the recent NFL draft, but the team chose not to go that route.
Instead, the Chargers will move forward with Philip Rivers at quarterback and not much behind him. On one hand, you have to appreciate the commitment that the organization is showing its quarterback, but on the other, it’s a bit of a precarious position not to have some sort of backup plan at this stage of Rivers’ career.
There aren’t many quarterbacks that get a vote of confidence like that. Drew Brees in New Orleans is about the only one that comes to mind. Even the New England Patriots have a serviceable starter behind Tom Brady.
But what the Chargers didn’t get in the draft, they may have scraped up off the undrafted free-agent bin.
Eli Jenkins may be the most notable undrafted player the team signed and before you laugh off his ability to not only make the team but become the primary backup to Rivers, let’s find out a little more about him.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Jenkins wasn’t recruited to play at one of the big Alabama schools, so he had to settle for Jacksonville State in Jacksonville, Alabama. There, Jenkins became one of the greatest players in school history.
A true dual-threat quarterback, Jenkins threw for 7,652 touchdowns and 47 touchdowns as a four-year starter for the Gamecocks. In addition, he ran for another 3,796 yards and 42 touchdowns. Showing himself to be a true athlete, he even caught two passes for 32 yards during his college career.
In total, Jenkins accounted for 11,480 yards and 89 touchdowns. That’s impressive at any level.
So what can Jenkins bring to the Chargers? He can run with the football and evade pressure in the pocket. He has good size for the position as well at 6’2″ and 210 pounds. The Chargers also signed an undrafted rookie from Jacksonville State last season in linebacker Chris Landrum.
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Jenkins will compete with Kellen Clemens and Mike Bercovici for snaps this summer, but because of his mobility alone, I already like him in that race.
That said, the Chargers have stuck to the same plan for years, which includes not drafting a quarterback. I fully expect Clemens to be retained as the team’s backup for another year while Jenkins and Bercovici battle for a spot on the practice squad.
But does Jenkins have the talent to change the team’s usual plan? That remains to be seen, and it will be interesting to watch.