The wide receiver position is one of the most difficult to transition from college to pros. There isn’t a better piece of evidence than the players involved in Monday’s trade between the 49ers and Chiefs.
Pending a physical, the 49ers will send second-year wide receiver A.J. Jenkins to the Chiefs for Jonathan Baldwin, who the Kansas City drafted 26th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Two former first-round selections who failed to live up to expectations.
Jenkins had a miserable rookie season, appearing in three games. The Niners spent a first-round pick on him and he played 37 snaps. He was targeted once … and dropped the pass.
Baldwin has 41 receptions for 579 yards and 2 touchdowns in two seasons.
A change of scenery can only benefit both.
Jenkins will be reunited with Alex Smith, who has praised the wide receiver.
“I think he’s in a great place to steadily keep improving,” Smith said of Jenkins last year when the quarterback was still with the 49ers. “I think he’s going to be just fine. There is no question about his talent. I think the big thing is the playbook. The size is just so much different than at the college level. He’s got a lot of guys to learn from. A lot of guys who have played a lot of football.
“I think he’s a guy that can do just about everything. I think the thing that really distinguishes himself is you see the natural foot speed in and out of cuts. You can see it there. The separation he can get, it just comes natural.”
Jenkins joins a unit that is a bit top heavy with Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery. There won’t be pressure to contribute immediately, which should ease him into Andy Reid’s West Coast offense.
Baldwin will have an opportunity to make an impact sooner as wide receiver is thin in San Francisco. Since Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in May, Jim Harbaugh has been vigorously searching for a No. 2 option opposite Anquan Boldin.
Mario Manningham will reportedly begin the season on the PUP list and other candidates haven’t emerged. Rookie receiver Quinton Patton is raw. Ricardo Lockette has caught the attention of Harbaugh. Austin Collie is an injury concern. Lavelle Hawkins has big-play ability, but joined the team two weeks ago. Chad Hall fills the slot role a bit better with his undersized frame.