Niners draft recap
No. 1 pick Jenkins has No. 1 receiver potential
No. 1 pick Jenkins has No. 1 receiver potential
with NinersDigest.com
Posted May 1, 2012


The 49ers went into the draft wanting to increase their big-play ability and that's exactly what they did with their first two picks. For a team picking near the bottom of every round, the Niners ended up having a rather productive three-day draft excursion.

Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, the No. 1 pick, possesses 4.31 speed according to the hand time 49ers scouts had for him at the college scouting combine. He was also enormously productive in college and has the potential to be the team’s No. 1 receiver in the future.

Second-round pick LaMichael James is another dangerously fast, highly-productive player who amassed three straight seasons of over 1,500 yards rushing at Oregon. Both these players are slight, particularly James, who's only 5-8, 194 pounds, but the 49ers believe his stature could be effective behind their increasingly big offensive line.

That line potentially got a little bit bigger and nastier with the addition of guard Joe Looney of Wake Forest, the team’s fourth-round selection. He should have an opportunity to compete for a starting berth at right guard, one of the team’s few question areas entering 2012.

The knock on each of the top two picks isn’t their play-making ability – it’s their strength. Jenkins, because of off-season injuries, has been unable to spend consistent time in the weight room and will need to get stronger. At times, he got stymied at the line of scrimmage because of that.

James had injury issues at Oregon, including a dislocated elbow last season. Another problem with James is his lack of pass receiving; he never caught more than 18 passes in any one season and is not a natural pass catcher.

The 49ers spent the rest of the draft partially trading back to increase their picks in the sixth round and their choices for next season.

With some dealing that would have made the late Bill Walsh proud, they turned their third pick into five picks. They netted two sixth-rounders this year, and a third-, fifth- and sixth-round choice in 2013 to go along with an extra seventh-rounder for the Taylor Mays trade to Cincinnati that they made last summer.

In the back end of the draft, they selected a play-making defensive back (Trenton Robinson) who could be their fourth safety and took two players (Looney and Jason Slowey) that could help on the interior of their offensive line.

Best pick


Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins: Their best pick may be their first. While the team is stacked with receivers, Jenkins is the only one, other than former first-round choice Michael Crabtree, who could be a future No. 1 receiver. So far, Crabtree has been a disappointment as the receiving bell cow and his disappearance in the playoffs did not help him. Jenkins appears to be what Crabtree is not and that's a gym rat who will make time to put in extra work with quarterback Alex Smith.

Could surprise


Guard Joe Looney: he could end up as a starter. He will be thrown into the mix for right guard along with Daniel Kilgore, Mike Person and Alex Boone.

The picks


Round 1/30 -- A.J. Jenkins, WR, 6-0, 190, Illinois
Jenkins caught 90 passes last year, nearly half of starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's completions.

Round 2/61 -- LaMichael James, RB, 5-8, 194, Oregon
Slippery undersized back will also be trained to return kicks.

Round 4/117 -- Joe Looney, C/G, 6-3, 318, Wake Forest
Big nasty, interior player is just what they were looking for.

Round 5/165 -- Darius Fleming OLB, 6-2, 245 Notre Dame Will start out on special teams and could become a third-down pass rusher.

Round 6/180 -- Trenton Robinson S, 5-10, 195 Michigan State
Will likely become the team's fourth safety.

Round 6/199 -- Jason Slowey, C, 6-3, 303, Western Oregon
He's the only true center on the team other than starter Jonathan Goodwin.

Round 7/237 -- Cam Johnson, DE, 6-3, 268, Virginia
With the lack of defensive line depth, Johnson has a shot at making the team.

Draft notebook


--- Jenkins, who didn't expect to go in the first round, thought his family in Florida was joking when his cell phone starting ringing. His cousin noticed it was from the 408 area code and kicked in the door to the bathroom so Jenkins could answer the phone. "The first thing I'm going to do (after signing his deal) is buy my mom a new door," he said.

--- Coach Jim Harbaugh, who had trouble beating LaMichael James and his Oregon Ducks when he coached at Stanford, was in no mood to entertain doubts about James's smallish stature, or whether James' selection was a commentary on starter Frank Gore. "There's no need for me to stand up here and defend the pick of LaMichael James. You asked a question, 'is it an indictment against Frank Gore?' My God no."

--- James was arrested in high school and college for assault. The earlier charges were dropped, but James had to serve jail time and 24 months probation for the second charge. He was also investigated twice for NCAA violations. But according to the 49ers, James and his character checked out. "His reputation as a person and as a football player, is very near impeccable," Harbaugh said.

--- Center Jason Slowey from Western Oregon made huge strength gains when he was in college, particularly on the bench press at 225 pounds. "We did the 225 tests the first day I got here and I only did, I think, three reps. Then my pro day I did 38 reps. I've done more. The most I've ever done in 225 was 45," Slowey said.

--- The 49ers signed several former Stanford players as rookie free agents including wide receiver Chris Owusu. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash time at the combine, but sustained two concussions in three weeks and missed his final four games. The team also signed defensive end Matt Masifulu and safety Michael Taylor. "Scouts and coaches have done a good job with the recruiting process, that this is a place (recruits) would like to be," general manager Trent Baalke said. "When the list comes out, you'll be surprised by some names."



Related Stories
Niners stacking the deck on offense in draft
 -by NinersDigest.com  Apr 27, 2012
Where he fits in: A.J. Jenkins
 -by NinersDigest.com  Apr 27, 2012
A.J. Jenkins Ecstatic With 49er Selection
 -by InsideIllini.com  Apr 27, 2012

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