In the first-round of the 49ers’ last two drafts, I’ve had to scramble to find information about their selections. The last two first-round draft selections made by the 49ers were surprise picks because the players were expected to go later in the draft. In 2011, Aldon Smith was a huge surprise because he was expected to go later in the first-round and the pick was heavily criticize because the 49ers selected him 7th overall. General Manager Trent Baalke had the pick validated with Smith tying a rookie sack record with 14 sacks. With wide receiver A.J. Jenkins picked by the 49ers 30th overall on Thursday night, the criticism started to rain down again on Baalke. Something tells me Baalke will be validated again with his first-round draft pick.
Jenkins was viewed as a second-round pick by many of the so-called draft experts. But if you have been reading the stories coming out after the first day of the draft, there were a lot of other teams who considered Jenkins as a first-round draft pick. This was part of the reason the 49ers drafted Jenkins. When it came down to the draft pick, the 49ers had targeted Jenkins all along:
Trent Baalke last night put his name in an envelope and said ‘This is who were going to pick (Jenkins). We all agreed on it and it held true. That was the guy we wanted and that was the highest player on the board when the time came to pick him, said Jim Harbaugh.
I think if you follow this story a little longer and over the course of the next few days, you’re going to find that there were a lot more people that liked A.J. than just the San Francisco 49ers. He would have gone a lot sooner tomorrow (Friday) than a lot of people may think. I’ll let you dig and find that information, but we’re very confident in the pick and very glad to have A.J. on board, said Trent Baalke.
Many thought if the 49ers were going to draft a wide receiver they would select wideouts Reuben Randle from LSU, Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech, or even Stanford tight end Coby Fleener who were all available. All three players were slated to go in the first-round and Jenkins was a second-round pick. I was convinced the 49ers would select Cordy Glenn from Georgia because he was the best guard left on the board and the 49ers have a gaping hole on the right side of the line at the position. Jenkins was the player all along the team targeted and even if David DeCastro from Stanford, the best guard in the draft, was still available they would have still selected Jenkins.
Another intriguing factor of the 49ers 30th overall selection is the team was approached by the Vikings to trade back to the No. 35 slot. If Baalke thought Jenkins would still be on the board five picks later, he would have made the trade. With the Rams holding the No. 33 pick and having a huge need at wide receiver, Baalke knew Jenkins would not be on the board two picks later if they made the trade. So trade was rejected and Baalke pulled the trigger on Jenkins.
“If we decided to trade back there was a good chance we would have lost him. If you like the player, take him, said Baalke.
The 49ers did their homework on Jenkins by bringing him in for a pre-draft visit and followed him closely at the NFL combine. Jenkins has great speed as the 49ers clocked him running a 4.31-second 40- yard dash but he will need work on his mechanics and adjusting to playing in the NFL. He has a great receiving corps to help him out.
Let’s hope Baalke’s instincts are right again with Jenkins as he was with Smith in last year’s draft.
Note: Jenkins’ last college game was played in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in December, which was played in San Francisco.