A.J. Jenkins

49ers order off the menu, take A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois

As the San Francisco 49ers’ spot grew closer, the fans on Twitter started freaking out because Coby Fleener and Stephen Hill, the predicted picks du jour for Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh, were still available. Also on the board: Reuben Randle and Alshon Jeffery.

Yet, as I predicted, the 49ers drafted Jenkins. Ha! Like anyone can predict a HarBaalke draft pick, especially someone like me who has no inside sources on the Niners. Janoris Jenkins was an attempt to be clever by yours truly (and Warfe truly), but Trent Baalke in effect said, “JANORIS ISN’T THE JENKINS VALUE PICK YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.”

Speaking of Mr. Warfe, let’s look at A.J. Jenkins, the receiver from the University of Illinois who has to be on cloud (forty) nine right now, and how he fits in with Baalke’s drafting tendencies.

It looks like Baalke as a thing for petite, quick receivers — emphasis on the quickness, which is a trait he praised Kyle Williams for having. Crabtree is the outlier in this list, but given the events surrounding the pick, it is not surprising that he doesn’t fit the mold.

Attribute Range Average
Height 5-9 – 6-1 5-11
Weight 185 – 215 198
40 Y/D 4.32 – 4.52 4.44
Vertical 33 – 40.5 37
Shuttle 4.01 – 4.29 4.18
Broad Jump 09’07” – 10’04” 10’00
3-Cone Drill 6.64 – 7.06 6.90

These numbers are pretty similar, especially in regards to size and speed. It is also important to note college production. All of the receivers, save Rasheed Marshall, had plenty of game experience at the position and were relatively successful. In fact, since the days of Bill Walsh, every receiver selected by the 49ers in the first round has been a prolific pass catcher in college.

A.J. Jenkins

Height: 6’0¼”
Weight: 190
40-time: 4.39
Vertical: 38.5″
Broad jump: 10’4″
Shuttle, 3-Cone Drill: N/A

Looking at his measurables and where the 49ers drafted him, it appears Williams’ job is in jeopardy. Considering how last season ended for Williams, with other teams targeting his head and multiple fumbles in the most important game of the year, that can’t exactly be a surprise.

Jenkins was also a “prolific pass catcher in college,” with 90 receptions for 1,276 yards and 8 TD in 2011, his senior year. It’s also worth mentioning that while Jenkins had several outstanding games in ’11 — including a 2-game stretch against Northwestern and Indiana where he amassed 450 yards and 5 touchdowns — he also displayed great timing … and I’m not talking about his route-running abilities.

Jenkins caught 8 passes for 103 yards against Michigan, Jim Harbaugh’s alma mater. In the last game of Jenkins’ collegiate career, he caught 6 passes for 80 yards and a score and ran once for 16 yards against UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park. That game, a 20-14 win for the Fighting Illini, was extremely ugly on television. But it sure made for some easy scouting for the 49ers.

Marvin Jones has been a popular choice for 49ers fans looking for a supposed under-the-radar receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft. Part of why people like Jones is that, while he was overshadowed a bit by Keenan Allen, both Cal receivers were hindered by less-than-stellar quarterback play.

Jenkins was in the same boat at Illinois, a team that in 2011 won its first six games, lost its next six, then beat a pretty lousy UCLA team in that aforementioned bowl game. Their No. 1 QB, Nathan Scheelhaaase, is more of a mediocre runner (he “led” the team with 624 yards on 191 carries, a measly 3.3 avg.) than a mediocre passer (184-for-291, 2,110 yards, 13 TD and 8 INT). But take a look at Jenkins’ production compared to his teammates on the receiving end (courtesy of ESPN):

You almost feel sorry for Jenkins, who accounted for over half his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns. He had a running quarterback and no other receivers to help him, and he still put together one of the best statistical campaigns of anyone in the draft against strong competition.

Some are wondering if the 49ers could’ve traded down, added a pick or two and still came out of this draft with Jenkins. However, just because he wasn’t talked about in this region like Fleener or Hill doesn’t mean Jenkins would’ve remained available for long. Walter Football had him going to the Jaguars at No. 38 overall. So did Mel Kiper, who called Jenkins “a riser on my board.”

Update: I got the heads-up from @yongdol that, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams were seriously considering Jenkins with the No. 33 pick overall. The story also included this:

League sources told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday afternoon that the Rams liked Jenkins so much that his grade wasn’t much different than the one given Blackmon by the team’s personnel department. Blackmon was the first wide receiver taken in the draft, going No. 5 to Jacksonville (which traded up with Tampa Bay for the pick.)

Now the Niners shift from a receiving corps of Crabtree, Williams, Brett Swain and your mom (sorry, it’s late) to Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Jenkins. With hindsight providing a little illumination, the Jenkins selection (A.J., not Janoris) makes a lot of sense. He has the physical tools and college numbers Baalke looks for, but due to the team Jenkins played for he wasn’t heralded to the point where Baalke needed to trade up to get him. However, if Jenkins didn’t run a 4.39 at the NFL Combine, Baalke may have been able to trade down — but it appears he got the man he was looking for, and that’s what matters most.

Now it’s up to Alex Smith to show Jenkins what it’s like to play with a real quarterback.

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