Assessing the 49ers' need at wide receiver

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
3:36
PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers finished the 2012 season with an NFL-high four wide receivers who entered the NFL as first-round draft choices.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Jenkins
Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsWill the 49ers utilize receiver A.J. Jenkins more in his second season than they did his rookie year?
One of them, Michael Crabtree, enjoyed a breakout season with 1,105 yards during the regular season, plus 20 receptions for 285 yards and three scores in the playoffs.

It's still fair to wonder whether wide receiver ranks high on the 49ers' list of needs heading into the NFL scouting combine and free agency.

Randy Moss is 36 years old and without a contract. Mario Manningham is coming off season-ending knee surgery. Ted Ginn Jr. projects as a return specialist if he stays with the team. And then there is 2012 first-round draft choice A.J. Jenkins, the No. 1 variable in assessing the 49ers' level of need at the position.

If Jenkins steps into the lineup and produces, the 49ers could feel pretty good about their receiving situation, particularly with tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker (a potential free agent) expected to factor prominently as targets. But after Jenkins played in only three games and had zero receptions as a rookie, we're left to wonder how much he'll factor in 2013.

"I wasn't sold on him as a first-rounder in the draft and I'm still not sold on him," Bill from Redding, Calif., wrote in the NFC West mailbag.

Bill wanted to know whether I thought the 49ers had made a bad pick, and where I saw Jenkins fitting into the offense in the future.

The chart below shows where Jenkins' first-year production fit relative to other receivers drafted 25th to 35th overall over the past decade. Jenkins (30th overall) and New Orleans' Robert Meachem (27th in 2007) were the only ones without a reception. Meachem missed his rookie season after undergoing knee surgery.

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers' other coaches have been vague when pressed for specifics on what Jenkins could do to improve his chances for playing time.

The 49ers have some credibility on such matters. Their 2012 draft choices hardly played last season, mostly because they weren't needed.

Second-rounder LaMichael James was very good when injuries pushed him into a prominent role late in the season. However, I would have expected Jenkins to get some reps once the 49ers lost Manningham and Kyle Williams to injuries. That did not happen, and it suggests the staff wasn't convinced Jenkins would be ready.

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