SANTA CLARA When the 49ers floated the idea of trading for Jon Baldwin, coach Jim Harbaugh didn't have to dig too deep into the wide receiver's dossier.
Baldwin, after all, was a hotshot receiver and tight end in high school when Harbaugh was recruiter-in-chief at Stanford. More than that, Harbaugh's brother-in-law, Tom Crean, tried to persuade Baldwin to give up football and play basketball for him at Marquette instead.
"The only non-football school that Jonathan was considering at the time was Marquette," Harbaugh said. "At the end, he decided to go to Pitt. He was Tom's No. 1 basketball recruit that year."
That says something about Baldwin's length and athleticism.
The Aliquippa (Pa.) High School forward used to battle Pittsburgh-area rival Terrelle Pryor, now a quarterback with the Raiders, for rebounds in the winter and try to score as many touchdowns as Pryor in the fall.
In March 2007, Baldwin scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Quips to a come-from-behind championship win over Pryor's Jeannette High. Eight months later, Pryor got revenge when he ran for 331 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns in a 70-48 playoff win over Aliquippa.
Baldwin certainly wasn't shut out; he had six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns.
"Even though he's a big, tall guy, he has deceptive speed and covers more ground than you'd expect," said former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, who selected Baldwin with the 26th pick in 2011. "He can make difficult catches that others can't. He just needs to work on his consistency a bit."
Pioli, now an NFL analyst for NBC Sports, said the Chiefs saw Baldwin as "a tremendous height, weight, speed prospect," which immediately differentiates him from the player the 49ers swapped for Baldwin, the slight-of-frame A.J. Jenkins and really any other 49ers receiver.
Baldwin measures 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He has long arms and a vertical jump of 42 inches. And he's been a deep threat since high school.
"I think size is the first thing that you notice when you look at him," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday. "He's got really good range, leaping ability. I think we saw that as we studied him and whatnot. A great catch radius is always a great thing. There's nothing wrong with having a great catch radius."
Which begs the question: Why hasn't a player with those physical gifts had more success in the NFL? Baldwin was fifth on the Chiefs in receptions as a rookie. In his second season, he was sixth.
Pioli said he blamed himself for not providing Baldwin with more stability.
Roman, for example, is Baldwin's fourth offensive coordinator since his rookie season.
Charles Fisher, a cousin of Baldwin's who played three seasons at cornerback for the Bengals and later was a Seahawks scout, also pointed out the stream of quarterbacks who have been throwing passes to Baldwin. In two years with Kansas City, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn all started games at quarterback. After winning just two games last season, the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith.
"It's hard to see positive signs anywhere when you're on a 2-14 team," Fisher said.
The hope is that the 49ers provide some consistency and that quarterback Colin Kaepernick's big arm will be a good match for Baldwin's deep speed.
Baldwin said that arm stood out during pregame warmups Friday in Kansas City, Mo.
"I was talking to some of the other (Chiefs) receivers about it, and they were saying, 'Yeah, (Kaepernick) does throw a pretty good ball,' " Baldwin said. "And then two or three days later, I'm here. So it's kind of funny how things work out."