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Can rookie Quinton Patton win a starting spot?
With the news of Michael Crabtree’s Achilles tear, the 49ers were suddenly left with some big questions at the receiver position, considering the expectation he will miss most if not all of the 2013 season.
Adding veteran Anquan Boldin via trade should provide a little insurance, but he’s already 32 years old and likely the slowest skill-position player on the entire team. With that said, he looks to have a starting position already locked up with so many question marks looming around the receiving corps.
Last year’s first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins has yet to catch a single pass in the NFL and has underwhelmed thus far in his brief career. Apparently he’s still learning how to be a professional. According to 49ers.com, he had this to say:
It was very humbling, being the top dog on the campus to coming to the league and not really playing at all, it was kind of humbling and it teaches you a lot about the game. I'm watching the game from the sideline, trying to learn things from different players.
In addition to Jenkins, returning veterans Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are both still recovering from injuries suffered last season. There’s no telling when or to what level these guys will return; had Crabtree not gotten hurt, Williams would likely have been a long shot to make the final roster.
Fourth-round selection Quinton Patton could factor into the starting rotation as well. He’s in a heated competition with Jenkins for the spot opposite Boldin.
Ricardo Lockette is also in the running for not only a roster spot but also a starting position at receiver. He was signed last year off waivers after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks. Lockette has the added advantage of being the roommate of Colin Kaepernick, who has been a valuable resource for learning the playbook.
At 6’2” and 211 pounds, Lockette ran an impressive 4.37 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL combine, which tied for the fastest time among wide receivers.
Whoever wins the job in Crabtree’s absence will likely be pushed back to a supportive role once the unit returns to full strength. If Jenkins fails to capitalize on this opportunity, it’s safe to say he’s on a one-way train to “bustville.”