Well, it finally happened. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins is out of San Francisco and on his way to the Kansas City Chiefs, in exchange for another struggling receiver, Jonathan Baldwin. After a virtually non-existent rookie campaign and an offseason filled with headlines scrutinizing Jenkins' future with the 49ers, the move isn't all that surprising.
The similarities between Baldwin and Jenkins are interesting. Both were first-round selections, with Baldwin taken 26th overall in the 2011 draft and Jenkins taken at the 30th spot in the 2012 draft. Both had poor rookie seasons, albeit for vastly different reasons. Baldwin injured his wrist in a brawl with then-teammate Thomas Jones, while Jenkins sat buried in the depth chart – contributing nothing but a single dropped pass. And while Baldwin has had more success than Jenkins at this point in his career (41 catches, 579 yards, and a pair of touchdowns), neither receiver has lived up to expectations.
However, what's even more interesting is what each receiver presents to their new teams.
A change of scenery could do Jenkins' a world of good, especially at such an early stage in his career. Coach Andy Reid has likely made the trade in an effort to replicate something he had when he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles: a little speedster named DeSean Jackson. While Jenkins hasn't proven himself as a reliable a target in the NFL, he does have speed – clocking a 4.37 40-yard dash at the combine. He is similar in build, weighing under 200 pounds and standing a little taller than Jackson at 6'0". Reid has always had a very successful passing attack, and might just be able to mold Jenkins into an effective contributor for the Chiefs.
Baldwin, meanwhile, could be a steal for the 49ers. He adds a big target to the team's receiving core, standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 230 pounds. One thing Jenkins failed to do in his two preseason games was separate from defenders. According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jenkins has played 77 snaps, more than any 49er receiver this preseason, and has only caught the ball twice (one that he preceded to fumble, and another that was nullified by a penalty).
The 49ers have speed at the wide receiver position, even without Jenkins. Receivers like Kyle Williams, Chad Hall, and Marlon Moore have displayed good quickness, though they may not present the same straight-line speed that Jenkins possesses. Running a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, Baldwin isn't slow, but he isn't fast either. Regardless, his size allows him to compete for the ball. If he manages to develop any kind of rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, he could become a great addition to the 49ers.
In the end, it's anyone's guess as to which wide receiver will be more effective this year, if at all. As a final consideration, here are both wide receiver's college stats, courtesy of ESPN's Stats and Information.
Jonathan Baldwin Stats
A.J. Jenkins Stats
So what do you think? Which wide receiver will have a better 2013 season? What kind of numbers will they post?