Thursday, April 26, 2012

AJ Jenkins

Welcome to the 49ers
By: Brian Sanchez

Well, the 49ers took a WR, but it wasn't the one everyone was excited about.  They also took a Jenkins, but it wasn't Janoris the troubled CB from North Alabama.  It was AJ Jenkins WR Illinois.  He is a lot better than you may think.  Just because you haven't heard about him like you have Stephen Hill (who most fans wanted) but that doesn't make him any worse.  This is a good pick and I will stand by that, let's take a look at why I think that.
     First let's take a look at why people wanted Stephen Hill.  Most people were enamored with the fact that he had blazing speed.  I don't want to break your heart about Hills speed, but Jenkins ran a 4.37 40 yard dash.  Last time I checked that is a pretty darn good 40 time.  So Jenkins has the speed of Hill.  Hill is 6'4" and Jenkins is barely 6 feet tall.  But he is a much smoother athlete.  Stephen Hill may have better size but Jenkins is the more fluid athlete.
     Let's stop worrying about Stephen Hill.  The 49ers passed on him (and so did everyone else by the way).  Let's focus in on Jenkins and what he brings to the 49ers.  He is a do it all WR, which is a position of need for the 9ers.  The Randy Moss experiment will either be a failure or just for one year, so SF will need a deep threat sooner or later, and that's what Jenkins brings.  He is a very smooth, effortless runner who can blow past almost any corner.  He can line-up outside or inside which makes him a player that can start playing for the 49ers from day one.  He has also shown ability to return kicks and be pretty dynamic in that aspect which means they don't need to keep Ginn Jr. anymore.  He has soft hands and is very good with making spectacular catches.  He is an athletic WR even though he is shorter than most would prefer.  But here is what sets Jenkins apart from Stephen Hill, Jenkins is a good route runner.  AJ Jenkins has excelled an all routes and has the ability to go long but also run intermediaries as well.  Some people did not want a speed WR because Alex Smith wouldn't be able to take advantage of him.  But, Jenkins has shown the ability to separate from DB's on 5-7 yard routes.  He is a speed player but isn't a straight line speed guy only.  Stephen Hill is not a good route runner and may never become more than a guy who can just go deep in a straight line.  The fact that Jenkins is such a smooth athlete makes him tough to cover over the middle.  I'd expect him to become the No. 3 WR mid season and push to be a starter the year after.  Crabtree, Mannigham, Moss, Jenkins at WR with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker at TE along with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter at RB means there is no shortage of weapons and no excuse for this offense not to excel.

AJ Jenkins is a classic Jim Harbaugh/Trent Baalke pick.  He was an academic All-Big 10 selection in his senior year at Illinois.  He is smart on the field just like he is off of it.  In his post-draft confrence call with the media his personality exploded and everyone came away thinking he is a charismatic great guy.  He said he was so excited when he got the call that he doesn't even know who called him from the 49ers to tell him the news.  He can split out wide as a No. 2 or slide inside as a slot receiver either way he is versatile which seems to be a must on a Jim Harbaugh team.  He has had some questions about his strength, but that is not what he was drafted for.  Look for Jenkins to blossom mid season much like Aldon Smith did.  AJ Jenkins is a solid pick who is a better player than the people "projected" him to be.  Harbaugh may have found a gem again and it would again be someone that nobody thought it would be.  Funny note:  in the pre-draft process GM Trent Baalke said there was a particular player that they liked and thought would be available at 30.  Then, when the 49ers pick came, despite Courtney Upshaw, Cordy Glenn, Stephen Hill, and Coby Fleener being there, they turned in there card immediately and took AJ Jenkins.  Harbaugh said that last night Trent Baalke wrote a name on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope.  Today he opened it and on it was the name AJ Jenkins, meaning he was the guy all along.

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