A.J. Jenkins is on track to be the worst draft pick of the Trent Baalke Era in San Francisco.
Since becoming the GM in 2011, Baalke has drafted the following notable players:
- Aldon Smith
- Colin Kaepernick
- Chris Culliver
- Kendall Hunter
- LaMichael James
Not a bad group, right?
As the middling receiver continues to walk on thin ice this preseason, let's tell his story and examine his chances of—gulp—not making San Francisco's 2013 roster.
Jenkins enjoyed a solid four-year career at the University of Illinois. After small-scale contributions in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Jenkins had 56 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. In 2011, as a senior, Jenkins exploded with 90 receptions, 1,276 yards and eight scores.
At the combine, he ran a blistering 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and impressed coaches with a 38.5-inch vertical leap.
The big play ability Jenkins showed on the field, coupled with his desired athleticism and explosiveness, made him a fringe first-round prospect.
In need of more dynamic weapons on the outside, San Francisco made him the No. 30 overall selection in the 2012 draft.
Despite being healthy throughout the entirety of his rookie year, he was either inactive or simply didn't get off the sidelines on game days until Week 13 against the St. Louis Rams.
At the end of the regular season, he appeared in three games but failed to record any statistics.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee hinted later that Jenkins may have not had a firm grasp on the offensive playbook in his debut professional season. Barrows quoted Baalke, who said: "He's a young guy that came out of a college system that's taken a while to grasp to the pro system."
In June, Barrows reported that offensive coordinator Greg Roman stated Jenkins "just made plays, did all the right things, made plays when he had the opportunity. And he just needs to continue to do that."
The arrow was pointing up.
After Jenkins didn't separate from his competition in the wake of the serious Michael Crabtree injury, he missed training camp practices in early August with a tweaked hamstring, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
Jenkins played in the 49ers' preseason opener against the Denver Broncos but fumbled after making his only reception of the evening, an 11-yard pickup.
During his post-game talk with the media, head coach Jim Harbaugh said the following regarding Jenkins' performance, per Barrows:
Harbaugh on AJ Jenkins' night: "Uh, could have been better."— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 9, 2013
Jenkins will have three more preseason outings and a few weeks of training camp practices to improve. but now, let's take a look at his competition.
- Quinton Patton—2013 fourth-round pick
- Marlon Moore —Accumulated 12 receptions for 224 yards with two scores in three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Signed with San Francisco in March.
- Kyle Williams—2010 fifth-round pick. Has 35 career grabs for 461 yards and four touchdowns.
- Ricardo Lockette—Had two catches with the Seattle Seahawks. Signed with San Francisco this offseason.
- Chad Hall—Special teams guy. Only has 14 career grabs with 135 yards with two touchdowns
- Kassim Osgood—Entering 10th season but has only 44 career catches for 749 yards and five receiving scores.
- Austin Collie—Major concussion issues. 54 grabs in 2011. One catch in 2012.
- Lavelle Hawkins—Former fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. 71 catches for 771 yards and one touchdown in five NFL seasons.
Anquan Boldin is entrenched as a starter, so it'd be a stretch to consider him as competition for Jenkins.
However, the best way to describe the rest of San Francisco's pass-catching contingent would be best classified as "unestablished." That bodes well for Jenkins, although Moore did start ahead of Jenkins against the Broncos in the preseason opener.
At this point, Jenkins has been underwhelming, there's no doubting that.
But with quarterback Colin Kaepernick looking to build on a spectacular second half of the regular season and postseason with his favorite target Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have to be smart about how they handle their receiving corps.
(Don't forget, Mario Manningham is on the PUP list, too.)
So, until we see three or four wideouts play considerably better than Jenkins in the preseason, the 49ers won't give up on their first-round pick of 2012.
They simply need as much receiver insurance as possible.
Right now, A.J. Jenkins has a small chance of being cut heading into the 2013 campaign.
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