The A.J. Jenkins Saga

Al Sacco
May 16, 2013 at 12:40 PM8

The selection of wide receiver A.J. Jenkins with the 30th pick in the 2012 NFL draft was a surprising one. Jenkins, who was seen as a second or third rounder by draft experts, wasn't expected to be taken on day one. But the 49ers were confident in their pick and general manager Trent Baalke went as far as to say he wrote down Jenkins' name on a card before the draft. Even though the pick was unexpected and seemed like a reach, the 49ers had drafted so well under Baalke's tenure there was no reason to doubt the selection.

Shortly afterwords, news came out that the Rams had Jenkins rated very high on their board and were interested in taking him with the first pick in the second round. Baalke was looking like a genius again for getting his man and excitement about the Jenkins' pick was starting to grow. Excitement would soon turn to worry, though, as Jenkins appeared to be out of shape at the teams rookie mini camp. Questions started to arise about Jenkins' work ethic and if he could cut it in the NFL before he ever even put on pads.

When the season started, the 49ers' appeared to be deep at wide receiver. Michael Crabtree was a clear cut starter on one side, while Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, and Ted Ginn all seemed likely to see plenty of snaps as well. Jenkins role on the 2012 49ers appeared to be a developmental one. As the season progressed though, the team lost Manningham and Williams to season ending knee injuries. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to ease Jenkins onto the field and let him begin his development.

While everyone waited for the rookie to start to make an impact, it just never happened. Jenkins played in just three games during the regular season and did not record a catch. He was active for two of the teams playoff games but didn't make a reception then either. In the end, he had one pass thrown his way and that bounced off his hands.

The part of Jenkins' saga that may be the most troubling is that the 49ers don't seem to be denying the fact that he's not ready.

"He's a young guy that came out of a college system that's taken a while to grasp to the pro system," Baalke said. "It's not a work ethic issue, it's not a skill set issue. It's learning the craft at the pro level. And that's a position historically that some have adapted to more quickly than others."

What Baalke said was true. Even though it appears evident Jenkins was no where near ready to take the field in 2012, receiver can be very difficult to adjust to early on in an NFL career. So are fans and the press jumping the gun too quickly on Jenkins? Does he deserve more time to prove he belongs on an NFL roster? We'll soon find out and 2013 will go a long way in deciding Jenkins' fate. The second year pro seems completey aware of that.

"Obviously I want to contribute a lot more than I have been." said Jenkins. "So I'm going to make that happen and come back bigger, faster, stronger."

If Jenkins takes a giant leap this season, he could find himself a major piece of the team's offensive puzzle soon. Anquan Boldin only has one season left on his deal. There is no telling how effective Manningham and Williams will be coming off of their injuries and neither may be on the team past this year. That means Jenkins has a shot to solidify himself a the starter opposite Crabtree in 2014.

Even though he has an opportunity, the 49ers will not hand Jenkins anything. The team thrives on and encourages competition and have brought in another young wide receiver in Quinton Patton via the draft. Patton will compete with Jenkins for snaps not only this year but for that more primary role in 2014. If Patton excels and Jenkins continue to flounder, don't expect the 49ers to have much patience with him. This is a team ready to win now and they won't keep a player around who is not making strides.

Reagrdless of the outcome, Jenkins' situation will be an interesting one to watch in the coming months and throughout the season. Anyone not pulling for him should be, as his development will be an integral part of the 49ers moving forward at the wide receiver position.

Al Sacco
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Joe
    The Rams were going to pick him at #34 overall. You are full of bull. He was thought of highly. Now whether or not he works out or not is a very different question. I can't say whether he will be a bust or not. But he was picked in the appropriate area of the draft.
    May 26, 2013 at 4:39 PM
    Response: I wrote about the Rams in the 2nd paragraph. He was not on anyones radar as 1st rounder as far as I knew. I think it was a surprise pick to a lot of people
  • CorvaNinerFan
    Something apparently lost on some of you is that no rookie started for the Niners in 2012. Even LMJ didn't see any action 'til very late in the season. That hadn't happened in some time...reason: the roster had matured and improved to the point they didn't need a rookie to start. Clearly, Baalke drafted Jenkins for the future...and after hearing what Lockette had to say about him, I'm anticipating a WR now ready for the NFL.
    May 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM
  • Pokey
    To be honest the coaches did not like his preseason output in addition to being thin, this year he is in the battle of his life and guess what he may need this because Patton is going to find a way to place this season his determination and skill set is right there with the addition of Bouldin all of the forty niner receivers can learn some tips and receiver tricks
    May 18, 2013 at 11:04 PM
  • Mike Kenney
    Still no specifics, nor is there any film on this guy. Something's wrong, and neither AJ or the niners want it public or are sure it's fixed. They didn't even attempt to insert him, when the team was short-handed. Kap worked out with him in Atlanta supposedly (although the dates are a bit fuzzy)where is his positive comment? Are reporters being told to back-off. There is something more definable than "out of shape" to report
    May 17, 2013 at 5:17 PM
  • mc-niner
    well, im pretty sure TB said right after the draft that he needed to add weight before he could be an NFL starting receiver. and in the time he had between the draft and when the injuries occured he couldnt have possibly had enough time to "get bigger". the one thing i have learned about working out is you cant get stronger when you are hurt. So why run the risk of putting him on the field and in harms way, especially after all the other injuries that had occured only to see him get lit up fumble and get put out of commission for 2 months. cause those 2 months actually put you back 4-6 months which would have ruined anything he had accomplished up to that point while also slowing down his progresssion going forward. Also Harbaugh himself has said that a players biggest improvement comes in his second year. So I am going to reserve my judgement on Aj until I can see how he is used this year.
    May 17, 2013 at 9:54 AM
  • niner
    he's lucky to make the team, this year. Even Rashaun woods caugh a couple passes the first year. every one has a stinker once in a while. Even Walsh had Flowers in the first roound. i remember an article where he regretted the pick because the psychologists had flags.. Baalke and Harbaugh need to learn from this and move on. In gambling you dont win every hand, you win the majoirty of them.
    May 17, 2013 at 8:56 AM
  • Patrick
    Id agree that he had lots of opportunity to get on the field later in the season last year. 2 of our top 4 WR are lost for the season and your 1st round pick can't even make a singe catch? If you say he didn't play much or wasn't thrown to much i would say there was a reason for that. I hope he catches on this year because we could really use him going forward.
    May 17, 2013 at 7:25 AM
  • Buff Bagwell
    AJ Jenkins saga? Puhleeze........ Interesting how you take the Cohn approach in trying to get a hit via title shock value. The 49ers were blessed with WR depth. Had he been playing during the Singletary days, he would have had many touches.
    May 16, 2013 at 8:39 PM
    Response: I have to respectfully disagree with you here. Guys like Woods and Jason HIll didn't play either. And the team lost most of their depth at the position and he still couldn't get snaps.

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