Breaking down one of the riskiest draft moves by the San Francisco 49ers over the past 25 years:
Round/overall selection: First, 30th
Did the risk pay off? Not at all. In fact, A.J. Jenkins is emblematic of the Niners' problems with that entire 2012 draft class, none of whom are still with the team. In fact, Jenkins, running back LaMichael James, guard Joe Looney, linebacker Darius Fleming, defensive back Trent Robinson, offensive lineman Jason Slowey and defensive end Cam Johnson combined to start a mere 14 games in the NFL last season, with Jenkins currently unemployed.
At the time, the selection of Jenkins out of Illinois as a first-rounder was equal parts shocking and uninspiring, considering the Niners already had Michael Crabtree and pass-catching tight end Vernon Davis and had just signed free-agent receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Jenkins did not contribute as a rookie, either, for the NFC champs, appearing in just three games and being targeted just once all year (he dropped it) while playing just 37 offensive snaps.
"He dropped a layup yesterday, which was disappointing," Niners general manager Trent Baalke said of Jenkins following that year's regular-season finale, as the team was preparing for the playoffs. "Guys are going to make mistakes and they've got to work through them. And they've got to step up. Like I always believe, if you put them in the right situation, and you give them the opportunities, and you've picked the right person, and they're competitive by nature, they'll figure it out."
Jenkins never did. Nor did Manningham with the Niners. Nor Moss. The gamble and miss on Jenkins still reverberates to this day. Maybe that's why the 49ers have drafted receivers in the fourth rounds in 2013 (Quinton Patton), 2014 (Bruce Ellington) and 2015 (DeAndre Smelter) while signing Torrey Smith to a big free-agent contract last offseason.
Was there a safer move?: Hindsight is always 20/20, so of course. If Baalke was so dead set on drafting a receiver in the first round, and insisted on gambling, look who went 15 picks after Jenkins -- Alshon Jeffery, who was taken out of South Carolina by the Chicago Bears. After catching 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, Jeffery broke out with a Pro Bowl season in 2013, going for 89 receptions on 148 targets for 1,421 yards and seven TDs. He followed that up with 85 catches on 145 targets for 1,133 yards and 10 TDs in 2014. And while the 49ers still had Frank Gore in his prime, they did use a second-round pick on LaMichael James. Peep who went one pick after Jenkins -- Boise State's Doug Martin, who has gone to the Pro Bowl two times and was named first-team All-Pro last season.