Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Will A.J. Jenkins assert himself in the wake of Michael Crabtree's injury, or will it be someone else?
As stated in the prior slide, Michael Crabtree is out for a good portion of the 2013 league year with a torn Achilles.
So far, it has not sent the 49ers into any sort of frenzy as they scour through their Rolodex for prospective free-agent wide receivers. Instead, the team plans to make it an open competition between the current players on the roster.
“We’ve lumped the younger receivers, A.J. [Jenkins] and [Quinton] Patton and [Ricardo] Lockette in one spot and letting them concentrate on that. And we’ll see who emerges from that group of players. On the other side, there’s Anquan [Boldin],” said Harbaugh.
The idea is for Boldin to be locked in at No. 1, while the Niners seek out the most complementary receiver opposite him. As Harbaugh noted, this group includes up-and-comers A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette.
Let’s not forget, as they return from respective knee injuries, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams also present options. With the talent currently on board, combined with this Darwinist approach, the 49ers are bound to see results.
A.J. Jenkins (6’1”, 192 lbs.):
The 23-year-old first-rounder from 2012 is one of the favorites to the win position. In his second NFL season, the coaching staff is awaiting the rise of Jenkins in a “next man up” situation. This offseason, he spent time training with Colin Kaepernick in Atlanta and even added significant weight, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
Given the investment by the team, along with the fact that he has put the work in this offseason, the 49ers would like to be able to reward Jenkins by slotting him in as a featured player in the offense.
Quinton Patton (6’0”, 204 lbs.):
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the rookie fourth-rounder from Louisiana Tech, who was not expecting to compete for a starting job in 2013. In the NCAA, Patton was an all-around productive pass-catcher that was the centerpiece of the Bulldogs’ Air Raid attack.
Whenever his team needed to lean on him, the All-WAC receiver delivered in the most competitive situations, which is an enticing tidbit of information considering the setting he’s been thrust into in San Francisco.
Ricardo Lockette (6’2”, 211 lbs.):
Out of the group of competing receivers, Lockette is the one true height/weight/speed specimen. Not only is he the largest WR listed on the 49ers’ roster, but he also runs in the low 4.3s, per NFL Draft Scout.
Moreover, according to Kevin Lynch of SFGate, he has built a strong off-the-field rapport with star quarterback Colin Kaepernick. If these two can begin to gel on the gridiron as well, Lockette will have a real shot to solidify his place on this team.
Mario Manningham (6’0, 185 lbs.):
In his sixth season, Manningham is the most experienced and decorated receiver on the roster. The hitch is that the receiver is coming off a late season-ending injury that saw him tear both his ACL and PCL.
The timetable for his return is unknown, but the expectation is that Manningham will be a late arrival. He will give San Francisco a boost once he is 100 percent, however, the team needs another player step up beforehand.
Kyle Williams (5’10”, 186 lbs.):
Of the young receivers expected to compete in training camp, Williams will stand out as the veteran. In all likelihood, this will give him an edge, since his familiarity with the system and route running are more polished at this point.
Moreover, the downfield explosiveness Williams displayed in college will finally be relevant with Colin Kaepernick behind center. He has an opportunity to blossom into a Victor Cruz or Randall Cobb type receiver in this West Coast attack.