Despite struggles on the field and in practice, wide receiver A.J. Jenkins received votes of confidence from his coaching staff and teammates. But they longer have to answer questions about the underachieving first-round pick, as he's been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for wideout Jonathan Baldwin.
“I think there’s a lot of things (Jenkins) does well, very well," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Aug. 11 after Jenkins fumbled away his only catch in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.
"I don’t know that I pick one. He made some spectacular catches. He’s got big strong hands, makes catches. It’s getting better with his route running. He’s improving in everything he does."
After taking Jenkins with the 30th pick in 2012's draft, the Illinois alum was still looking for to make his first NFL reception. He dropped his only target in Week 17's win against Arizona.
“He’s smooth. He’s fast. He wants to succeed," Vernon Davis said of Jenkins Aug. 12. "That’s something you just can’t walk into. You look at this team now, A.J.’s probably one of the top-three fastest guys on the team. He’s definitely a tremendous asset to this team."
This offseason, Kansas City hired head coach Andy Reid who featured down-field threats DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. Jenkins is in a similar mold and could be a nice fit for Reid's version of the West Coast Offense. But Jenkins, a late-bloomer in his collegiate career, has a long way to go to become a player of that caliber.
The Chiefs selected Baldwin with the 26th pick in the 2011 draft and has been a relative disappointment since, much like the player he was traded for. Baldwin made 21 and 20 catches in his first two seasons, combining for a 579 yards and averaged 14.1 yards per reception. He has two career touchdowns.
“We are pleased to add Jonathan to our team and look forward to incorporating him into our offense. Both players have been presented a great opportunity for a new beginning with their respective teams,” 49ers GM Trent Baalke said in a statement.
Baldwin, 24, standing 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds, came out of Pittsburgh and ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL Combine. He came into the league known for having good hands and being willing to make plays over the middle. Given his physicality, the 49ers deemed him a better fit within the offense than Jenkins.
Both players have had underwhelming beginnings to their NFL career and now have chance to reinvigorate themselves in new situations.
Baldwin comes to San Francisco entrenched in the battle at receiver with Austin Collie, Lavelle Hawkins, Kassim Osgood, Ricardo Lockette, Chad Hall, Quinton Patton and Chuck Jacobs.
Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore will likely be the team's top-three wideouts when the season opens Sept. 8 against the Green Bay Packers.