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  • DAVID J. PHILLIP / Associated Press file, 2012

    A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers' top draft pick in 2012, mostly rode the bench this past season. He's hoping a big offseason will change that.

  • Ben Margot / Associated Press file, 2012

    A.J. Jenkins caught a touchdown pass in a preseason game last August, but the rookie wide receiver didn't catch a pass during the regular season.

49ers' Baalke welcomes wide receiver Jenkins' offseason effort

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013 - 11:10 am

INDIANAPOLIS – At the same time the 49ers were discussing what do with their 14 – and possibly more – picks in the upcoming NFL draft, one of several lightly used selections from last year's class was getting ready for a trip to Atlanta.

Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins will join quarterback Colin Kaepernick and backup receivers Ricardo Lockette and Chad Hall on Sunday for workouts at CES Performance, his agent, Jon Perzley, said Thursday.

That's welcome news for general manager Trent Baalke, who watched Jenkins, the 30th overall pick in 2012, go without a catch as a rookie and who must find a wideout to line up opposite Michael Crabtree in 2013.

"We're very confident in his ability, as we were when we drafted him," Baalke said from the NFL combine. "And now it's time for him to go back to work, and this offseason's going to be a big offseason. These guys – we've always said – their biggest growth is between Year 1 and Year 2. So we're expecting that to happen this year, and certainly in A.J.'s case."

On draft day last year, Baalke said Jenkins – listed at 192 pounds – needed to spend time in the weight room to get bigger and stronger. On Thursday, though, Baalke said the rookie's biggest problem was transitioning from Illinois' wide-open offense to the 49ers' power-based West Coast attack.

"It's not a work-ethic issue, it's not a skill-set issue," Baalke said. "It's learning the craft at the pro level. And that's a position historically that some have adapted to more quickly than others."

The 49ers have 11 picks in the April draft, and Baalke feels "strongly" they will be awarded three compensatory picks.

The compensation for losing wide receiver Joshua Morgan to the Washington Redskins in free agency last year could be a third- or a fourth-round pick. If it's a third-round selection, the 49ers will have three picks in the round. And they could have even more choices if they trade quarterback Alex Smith.

That's an abundance of reinforcements for a team that already is one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL.

The 49ers' 2012 draft class was hardly used. Jenkins played only 35 snaps. Fourth-round pick Joe Looney didn't suit up, and sixth-round pick Trenton Robinson and seventh-rounder Cam Johnson played only a handful of snaps.

Baalke said that while the 49ers would head into this year's draft with at least 14 picks, they wouldn't necessarily end it with the same number.

"We've always had the opinion of, we're not afraid to move up, we're not afraid to stand pat and pick where the selection is, and we're certainly not afraid to move back," Baalke said. "We've been successful doing all of the above. How are we going to use them? That remains to be seen. But certainly we enjoy the fact that we're in the position to have 14."

Jenkins has been the subject of fan grumbling on social media. Many noted that last May, the best receiver to play the game, Jerry Rice, offered to run with Jenkins at the famous "hill" on which Rice once trained but that the two didn't get together.

Still, Baalke is happy Jenkins and Kaepernick will be together this offseason. Not only is Kaepernick the team's quarterback, he's one of the team's most fanatical workers.

Baalke insisted Jenkins is in the same category.

"The bottom line is, he didn't get on the field this year," Baalke said. "He knows what he needs to do. We know what we need to do as an organization to help him get there. And we're confident that we're going to be able to do that."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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