Is Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins really the player Niners GM Trent Baalke has had his sights set on for some time with the 30th pick in the first round? Baalke had been saying for a while now that there was one guy, in particular, he had targeted late in Round One, and Niners Nation has been very busy the last week or so trying to read his mind.
It’s doubtful too many people were figuring on Jenkins, who was actually pretty ordinary early in his career at Illinois, being the Niners’ first pick.
Even though the Niners went to great lengths earlier this offseason to fortify their WR situation with the free-agent additions of Mario Manningham and future Hall of Famer Randy Moss, the team still had a need for more help at a position that came up woefully short down the stretch last season.
But most close team observers would have considered Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, a fast riser in the rankings who was still available at No. 30, a more likely first-round option than Jenkins, who was projected as a second-day pick by PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki.
But it would appear the Niners see something special in Jenkins, who did make some strides his last two seasons in college, catching 90 passes last year. Lean and slippery, he has excellent perimeter speed and short-area quickness. He can also jump through the roof (38½-inch vertical leap) and has quick, sticky hands that enable him to snatch the ball out of the air similar to Niners WR Michael Crabtree. He also can take a hit and hang on to the ball.
On the other hand, Jenkins needs to put on weight and get functionally stronger. He also needs to grow up, work harder on refining his routes and definitely improve his blocking
On a team overflowing with weight-room workaholics, he should get endless encouragement from his new teammates to improve in all those areas.