The San Francisco 49ers made it to Super Bowl XLVII without a contribution from their 2012 first-round pick, as wide receiver A.J. Jenkins was only active for four games (including the postseason) and did not catch a pass. He stayed firmly behind Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn in San Francisco’s wide receiver pecking order, and the 49ers’ offense being fairly run-oriented also reduced Jenkins’ impact even when he was active for games.
But Moss and Ginn are both slated to become free agents, and Manningham’s status for the start of next season is unclear after tearing the ACL and PCL in his left knee in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers’ coaches appear confident he can be a productive player, so Jenkins appears to have a clear path to a significant role in 2013. But how should fantasy football owners view him?
Jenkins put himself on the radar of NFL scouts with a strong 2011 season at Illinois, as he earned first team All-Big Ten honors while leading the conference in receptions (90) along with 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns. A report from earlier this week suggests Jenkins will work with quarterback Colin Kaepernick this offseason in an effort to become a better player, and presumably build some rapport with the 49ers’ starting signal-caller .
The 49ers’ offense will surely remain read-option based with Kaepernick at the helm, which will limit the opportunities for the secondary options in the team’s passing game. But Jenkins’ deep speed should allow him to make the most of the opportunities he gets, and he could easily be a starter opposite Crabtree come Week 1 next season.
Jenkins looks likely to only be draftable in very deep leagues heading into the 2013 season, with obviously greater value in dynasty leagues at this point. Owners in other formats should leave him on the waiver wire to start the season as his role becomes more defined, but I do think Jenkins has a chance to be an impactful waiver wire addition in 12 and 14-team leagues.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.