In the week leading up to the NFC championship game coach Harbaugh didn't blink. He stared straight into every camera placed in front of him and expressed unwavering confidence in 'the next man up' to step in and perform at the receiver position. It didn't matter if that next man up had spent most of the season on the practice squad. Coach was supremely confident in his ability to step right in and perform like the second coming of Wes Welker...or so he said.Fast forward to this years draft and it is now undeniably clear exactly what Harbaugh and Baalke think of the players currently manning their skill positions. Sure, the coach will probably say this isn't an indictment of anyone currently on the roster and these were just the best available players. Of course the GM will tell us he was just staying true to his board. That's what they'll say but what they say doesn't speak nearly as clearly as what they did...
Here is the dirty little secret of the niners and their 26th ranked passing offense last year. Despite the endless (often mindless) pontificating on Alex Smith and whether he is or isn't the man, this team was painfully lacking in explosiveness at the skill positions. Period. Take a look at any of the best offenses in the league and you will see the highlight reels littered with players turning short catches into big gains. As great as Drew Brees is, how much does it help his stats being able to dump it off to Darren Sproles for 50+ yards per game? How much do you think Phillip Rivers missed that outlet in San Diego last year? Is it just a coincidence that Mike Vick finally looks like an all-world quarterback once he signs on with a team that has more playmaking talent at the skill positions than at any time in his career? Even Mr. Mediocre himself, Alex Smith, in the comeback against Vicks Eagles, saw two of his short passes turned into huge gains at critical times. The result? A huge win and one of his best statistical games of the year.
All of which brings me back to coach Harbaugh and this years draft. Despite all statements to the contrary, it is obvious both the coach and GM recognize the lack of playmakers on their current roster. Both Jenkins and James bring speed and the ability to make plays in space. Two things this roster just didn't have enough of last year.
Are Jenkins and James the answer to all of our offensive problems? I honestly don't know. But as a fan, it is very encouraging to see a regime that recognizes obvious deficiencies and attacks them...even if they won't admit it publicly.