With several question marks at the wide receiver position for the Kansas City Chiefs heading into 2014, many have already begun to speculate which moves the team will make this offseason. Will the Chiefs look to grab a future franchise wideout via the draft or search free agency to sign a veteran who can provide immediate assistance? Following the offseason that Kansas City put together last season, GM John Dorsey has his work cut out for him.
But where exactly does current Chiefs’ receiver A.J. Jenkins fit into all of this? Jenkins, a first-round pick in 2012, arrived in Kansas City this past August by way of a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners decided they’d seen enough of the kid after he dropped the only ball he was targeted on in 2012. Strangely enough, the Chiefs shipped another former first-round receiver in Jon Baldwin to San Fran in exchange for Jenkins.
Clearly both sides anticipated that a change of scenery would assist their newly-acquired wideout realize his potential, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in 2013. Baldwin appeared in seven contests while reeling in only 33 percent of the passes thrown his way; he finished with three receptions for 28 yards. Jenkins was only marginally better, logging eight catches for 130 yards. When one considers that 67 of Jenkins’ 130 yards came in Kansas City’s meaningless Week 17 matchup against the San Diego Chargers, the numbers become even less impressive.
So, what should Chiefs Nation expect from Jenkins in 2014? With no receiving spot set in stone, outside of Dwayne Bowe, Jenkins will certainly have the opportunity to earn a starting spot through training camp and the preseason, but will he take advantage? Glancing over his physical tools, one would be hard pressed to imagine a situation where Jenkins wouldn’t be good enough to crack Kansas City’s lackluster receiving corps next season.
He runs a sub-4.4 40 while owning a ridiculous 38 1/2 inch vertical leap, the type of attributes that NFL scouts drool over. Jenkins’ senior season saw him break Illinois‘ school record for receiving yards in a game — he registered a silly 268 on 12 catches against Northwestern — and earned him First Team All-Big Ten honors. So, what exactly is keeping him from succeeding in the league?
Many things, actually. As athletically-gifted as Jenkins is, his route-running simply isn’t NFL-ready at this point. Jenkins has inexplicably struggled to gain separation from opposing corners, something he never had problem with at the collegiate level. If I’m Kansas City wide receiver coach David Culley, Jenkins is surely my primary concern heading into 2014. The tools are there, they just need refined by somebody willing to push the kid to his limits.
But Jenkins’ most glaring issue seems to be just holding onto the football. In addition to dropping the single pass thrown his way in 2012, he fumbled one of his only catches in the 2013 preseason — a mistake that likely cost him his roster spot in Fog City. Even a receiver with Jenkins’ physical gifts can’t succeed in the NFL if he can’t hold onto the rock. Current Indianapolis Colts wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey is a shining example of this.
So, what does the future hold for Jenkins? Well, his weaknesses are all fairly easy fixes and if he can muster up the work ethic to attempt to improve in these areas, he certainly can be a successful NFL receiver. But if Jenkins can’t put it together next season, he may never receive another shot, and you can bet that he’s aware of that. Look for Jenkins to drop the “bust” label in 2014, providing quality production as Kansas City’s third receiver.