Early Monday morning, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs made a trade that surprised many around the football world. They swapped disappointing former first round wide receivers A.J. Jenkins and Jonathan Baldwin. Both teams are hoping a change in scenery and offensive scheme can help to jumpstart the careers of both players.
On the surface, the trade looks like an initial lean towards the Niners’ favor. Baldwin has been the more productive pro player with 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns over his two seasons, while Jenkins does not have a single reception in single season in the NFL. Baldwin also looks to be the more talented player from a physical stanpoint with his combination of size and speed.
Both players have failed to live up to the expectations that came along with their draft position, but they had highly different expectations as they headed into the draft.
Baldwin was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school in 2008. He was the second best rated player in the state of Pennsylvania and behind Terrelle Pryor and the 26th best player in the entire nation. He was also the fifth highest ranked receiver in his class. He had offers from college powerhouses, such as, Miami, USC, and Florida, but he ultimately chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh.
He came in to Pitt with high expectations and fans were seeing him as the second coming of Larry Fitzgerald. Baldwin never managed to live up to the lofty status left behind by Fitzgerald, but he managed to put together a productive career on a team that favored the running game over the passing game. In just three seasons, Baldwin accumulated 128 receptions for 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a true big play receiver in college with ridiculous 18.3 yards per reception average over his career.
Baldwin needed a strong combine performance to showcase his natural physical gifts to open the eyes of scouts, who might have been underwhelmed by his collegiate production. Baldwin performed very well at the combine. He had a respectable 4.5 second 40-yard dash time, which was the 12th best time among the wide receiver group.
He led all receivers in the vertical leap with a jump of 42 inches and finished fourth among all receivers in the bench press with 20 repetitions and the broad jump with a jump of 129 inches.
The Kansas City Chiefs took the talented pass catcher with their first round pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Baldwin was the third receiver taken in draft, after A.J. Green and Julio Jones. The Chiefs had plans of creating an elite pass catching duo by pairing Baldwin with their Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Baldwin has never been able to take that leap to the next level and to unleash his full potential. Baldwin has never seemed to get past the negatives in his scouting report. He struggles as a route runner, is inconsistent as a pass catcher, and his commitment and desire has been questioned on multiple occasions. Despite his great size, Baldwin can struggle to get off of the line of scrimmage and beat press coverage.
Jenkins did not have as much hype as Baldwin during his collegiate career. Jenkins was a three star recruit coming out of high school. He was the 53rd ranked wide receiver in the 2008 recruiting class. Jenkins was being pursued by southern powerhouses Florida, Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina. He finally committed to the University of Illinois.
He was not as highly touted as Baldwin, but he was a player whom many Illini fans were hoping for big things from. Jenkins got off to a notoriously slow start to his collegiate career. Jenkins had 21 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns combined in his first two seasons. Jenkins showed promise during his junior season, when he led the team with 56 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns.
He had a breakout season as a senior, leading the team with 90 receptions for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns. Jenkins’s final season at Illinois showed what he could potentially bring a team, when he finally puts everything together.
Jenkins had relatively uneventful combine showing. He was one of the top performers at the 40-yard dash with a run of 4.39 seconds. He finished with the eight best jump among wide receivers in the broad jump with a jump of 124 inches and the seventh best vertical leap at 38.5 inches. He was one of the lowest amount of repetitions at the bench press with just 12.
The Niners took Jenkins with the 30th pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Many experts had Jenkins rated in the second or third round, but the Niners felt the Rams would take Jenkins with their pick in the second round. The Niners felt Jenkins would provide the wide receiver position with some deep speed and looked to be the vertical threat alongside Michael Crabtree.
Jenkins never really made a strong showing and forced the Niners to give him playing time. Jenkins saw action in just three games. His only pass target came in the final game of the season, which he promptly dropped. Many fans began calling for his head once the season ended, as the first rounder failed to produce even a single reception.
His major issue is his lack of strength. Jenkins is not overly strong, especially in the upper body. It shows up in his play, as he consistently shows that he unable to separate from press coverage. It was on display last Friday, as he was swallowed up by the coverage of the much bigger Sean Smith. Recent comments by his Niners’ teammates have hinted at a lack of dedication and work ethic could have been a reason for his depature, as well.
Looking a little deeper at the trade narrows the perceived gap in this trade. Both teams are getting talented players with major question marks. The biggest question for both coaching staffs is to how to get each player over their mental humps. Both players seem to struggle with the mental side of the game, which then affects their physical performance.
The one area where it is a win-win for both teams is how each player fits into their offensive schemes. Jenkins seems to be a much better fit in Andy Reid’s uptempo west coast offense, while Baldwin’s frame seems to suggest he would be better in the Niners’ physical offense and provide them with the potential red zone threat they have been missing.
It will remain to be seen whether each player can provide an impact for their new team or whether the trade was a way for both teams to save face by having the other cut their former first round pick.