He’s been the story of training camp, but after an empty rookie season and two extremely disappointing preseason showings, the 49ers have cut ties with 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.
#Chiefs trade Jon Baldwin to 49ers for WR AJ Jenkins.
— Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) August 19, 2013
It’s an unusual turn of events — teams rarely give up on high draft picks before their sophomore season begins — but not only has he been on the losing end of turnovers in dress rehearsals, Jenkins has also been hit-or-miss in practice.
This will be the first stain on what has been a fantastic three years worth of draft picks for general manager Trent Baalke. He was lauded for shocking the world by taking Aldon Smith seventh overall in 2011 — two years later the outside linebacker has accumulated 33.5 sacks. Colin Kaepernick was an early second-round choice by Baalke, and now the quarterback is an up-and-coming superstar. 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James started seeing action late last season and immediately made a difference. 2013 brought players like Eric Reid, Vance McDonald and Corey Lemonier, who all look ready to contribute, while the upside of players like Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore is hard to deny.
But taking Jenkins at 30th overall in 2012 was a move questioned by many from the moment it happened, and now the 49ers will have to eat crow.
The teams are essentially trading different players with the same NFL path. Baldwin was taken 26th overall in the 2011 draft after collecting 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh. His professional career has been a letdown, though — he’s caught only 41 of his 99 targets in two years for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
Baldwin’s upside is his size — he’s 6’4″, 230 lbs, which makes him a giant replacing the 6’0″, 190 lb Jenkins. His 4.4 second 40 time makes him a threat to beat defenders deep as well. Still, the former Chiefs wideout has underperformed, dropping passes and failing to produce (although all things considered, he’s been more productive than Jenkins) for a team desperately in need of a contributor.
Now, Jim Harbaugh will have another player to rectify, and it’ll be a player they need help from this season.