Expectations are high for any NFL first-round pick, especially one like San Francisco 49ers wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who many thought wouldn’t hear his name called until Day 2 of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Since he first joined the team back in April, Jenkins has looked like anything but a first-round pick. Reports have indicated that he turned in several disappointing performances during offseason workouts and hasn’t looked the part.
The Illinois product has been underwhelming since hitting the practice field for the 49ers. Although he occasionally makes the highlight catch, Jenkins has struggled with keeping his balance and picking up YAC yards. Yes, it’s early; the fact that Jenkins has struggled in shorts isn’t promising, though.
Considering that the 49ers already have a solid group of wide receivers in front of him on the depth chart makes Jenkins’ chances of having a strong rookie campaign even slimmer.
As most know, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis are the perennial playmakers for the 49ers’ passing attack. Since he was acquired by San Francisco, veteran Randy Moss has re-emerged as a legitimate starting pass-catcher. Mario Manningham, another free agent acquisition, shouldn’t have too much trouble asserting himself as another focal point in the 49ers’ air assault. One could even make the case that undrafted rookie free agent Chris Owusu has outperformed Jenkins so far this offseason.
The point I’m trying to make: the 49ers offense won’t be caught between a rock and hard place if Jenkins doesn’t pan out in 2012. They will, however, need some production from their young wide receivers sooner rather than later. Moss isn’t going to be in San Francisco forever and the Crabtree/Davis duo can’t carry the passing attack by themselves.
Luckily for Jenkins, the supporting cast that will surround him in San Francisco this season gives him plenty of opportunities to learn from seasoned veterans. The 49ers don’t need him to be a huge contributor right now, which will give him time to adjust to life in the NFL.
It might be awhile (if ever) before the 49ers’ 2012 first-rounder starts paying dividends. Until that day, the choice to make Jenkins a Day 1 selection will remain as Jim Harbaugh’s (or Trent Baalke’s) most-questionable decision.