The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a very interesting trade on Monday morning when they swapped what some people have termed bust wide receivers A.J. Jenkins and Jonathan Baldwin. Both of these players were disappointments, but it is too early to call either of them busts. Baldwin is only entering his third year in the NFL while Jenkins is entering his second.
Jenkins was selected with the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. He was a surprise pick in the first round. I thought for sure that the 49ers would draft another Jenkins with that selection, Janoris Jenkins. There were some other wide receivers available at the time including Rueben Randle (Giants) and Stephen Hill (Jets). Chris Givens (Rams) and T.Y. Hilton (Colts) were also available at the time but not considered to be worthy of first round picks. Both are big play receivers for their teams.
The timed speed (4.39 forty) was something that must have stood out to Trent Baalke. Jenkins showed his foot speed at the Combine and followed that up with a strong pro day. He also had an impressive week at the East – West Shrine game. Jenkins made some big plays down field while in college. That big play ability never showed up on the field in the NFL.
The 49ers seemed to try and force Jenkins to step up this preseason. He played more snaps than any other receiver on the roster. Unfortunately, the extended reps only yielded one catch, an 11 yard reception in which he fumbled the ball as he fought for extra yards. Jenkins just seemed to lack the confidence and aggressiveness that is needed to be a top flight receiver in the NFL.
Vernon Davis touched on what he thought Jenkins needed to do to be successful when he said; “Maybe take his approach toward the game up a notch. Just take his approach up a little bit more. Go above and beyond being a professional.”
Davis, Donte Whitner and other 49ers players were polled this off season and said they thought Jenkins would be the young wide receiver to emerge as the preseason unfolded. The 49ers had hoped that Jenkins would provide the vertical deep threat element that the needed in order to stretch the field.
Jonathan Baldwin lit up the Combine and caused teams to reevaluate him as a first round talent. At 6’4? 230 pounds, Baldwin ran well (4.49 forty) and showed how explosive he could be when he posted a 42 inch vertical. Baldwin also had a broad jump of almost 11 feet (10ft 9in). There were absolutely zero questions about Baldwin’s physical ability, but there were some concerns about his attitude. This problem actually cost him when in week two of the 2011 NFL preseason Baldwin suffered a wrist injury after a locker room fight with teammate Thomas Jones. That injury sidelined him for the rest of the 2011 preseason.
The Chiefs expected Baldwin to come in and take over the number two wide receiver spot to compliment Dewayne Bowe. He was not able to do so. Jason Madson of kcchiefsdraft.com predicted that Baldwin would end up taking a backseat to the newly acquired Donnie Avery at some point.
Andy Reid expressed his frustration with Baldwin. “We gave him the opportunity this week, and you have to catch the football. That’s how it works, and he knows that and I know that. When we give you an opportunity, you have to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity.”
Chiefs GM John Dorsey said that Andy Reid was running out of patience with Baldwin. One thing that Reid has shown in the past is that if he gets frustrated with a player, they won’t last long. Just ask Terrell Owens or John Welbourn. Dorsey was not the GM when the Chiefs drafted Baldwin, that title belonged to former GM, Scott Pioli.
A change of scenery could be exactly what Baldwin and Jenkins both need. Jenkins does bring a speed aspect to the Chiefs and would team up with Avery, Devon Wylie and Dexter McCluster to form a pretty fast group of receivers.
Jenkins should get the chance to compete right away under Andy Reid. Ironically, Reid coached a player that I think is an excellent comparison to Jenkins. That player would be Todd Pinkston. Reid selected Pinkston in the second round of the 2000 NFL draft. The selection also raised eyebrows. Pinkston lasted six years with the Philadelphia Eagles and played had four catches for 82 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots.
The Chiefs seem to recognize that Jenkins does have some value to them. Dorsey said; “We felt like this trade was beneficial for all parties involved. jenkins_outroA.J. is a talented individual with a skill set that we feel can add value to our football team.”
There have been some questions about the work habits of Baldwin. One would have to wonder how that will work with Jim Harbaugh, a coach noted for having a blue collar mentality as shown by the blue shirts work shirts that he has issued to his coaching staff and his players. A nonchalant approach to football simply will not work in this locker room. Players like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will not allow it to.
The vertical catching ability that Baldwin has should blend well with the deep ball accuracy that Colin Kaepernick has. The 49ers desperately need a deep threat opposite Boldin and Baldwin could be just what the doctor ordered. His size and leaping ability could also be a plus in the red zone, which is another area that the 49ers’ offense needs to improve.
Another big knock on Baldwin is that he is not a natural hands catcher. This is something that could see improvement after some extra sessions with the jugs machine. That is exactly how Vernon Davis became a more sure handed tight end.
The acquisition of Baldwin does not exactly mean that Jenkins is a bust. It is more a matter of finding a player that was a better fit. Harbaugh mentioned how a change of scenery helped ignite Chris Carter’s Hall of Fame career. It was the Philadelphia Eagles that released Carter due to some personal issues and the Minnesota Vikings grabbed him.
Interestingly enough, it was Carter who said that the 49ers got the best out of the deal. He made a good point when he said that you can’t coach big, referring to Baldwin’s size. On the contrary, you can’t coach speed either. That is something that Jenkins has in his corner.
At the end of the day, this is the perfect storm for all parties involved. Baldwin and Jenkins get a fresh start and their respective teams get to unload players to get something that they feel is a roster upgrade in return. I wish Jenkins the best and also would like to welcome Baldwin to the 49ers.