April 27, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins poses for photos on the practice field at the 49ers headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
"You can never have enough explosive playmakers on a football team," - Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers General Manager.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the 49ers did right by the fans by using their first three draft picks to address the offense. Even though each pick could be said to be a surprise in it's own right, if you look at the draft as a whole, it's definitely a win for the San Francisco.
The glaring needs going into the draft were a big, powerful offensive lineman and a playmaker at the pass-catching position. They solidified those issues in rounds one and four. With the 30th overall pick in the draft, the 49ers selected A.J. Jenkins, wide receiver out of Illinois.
With Stephen Hill, Coby Fleener, Rueben Randle, Brian Quick and others still on the board at that point, it was a surprise to hear the commissioner call A.J. Jenkins. Some called Jenkins a reach, while others like me like to remind the skeptics out there that they said Aldon Smith was a reach.
Jenkins will bring a special set of skills to be used in the offense and I could see him having early success because like Aldon Smith, he will be used situationally and will be carefully transitioned into a more prominent role in the future.
In round two, the 49ers hit us with another shocker: running back LaMichael James out of the University of Oregon.
James had a fantastic collegiate career as a Duck, and coming from the Pac-10, he is a player that former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh is very familiar with. A lot of the analysts and commentators think this pick is actually a home run for the Niners who were looking to add speed and offensive explosiveness to their squad.
The 49ers view James as an eventual every down back and wholeheartedly believe in his ability to contribute immediately. "Love his toughness -- love his all out style," said coach Harbaugh on NFL Network.
From a team last year that basically ran out of offensive playmakers by the end of the season, the 49ers have an influx of weapons at their disposal going into next season. They have a stable of running backs that couldn't be any more full, containing the likes of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, Anthony Dixon, Rock Cartwright and now LaMichael James.
The wide receiving corps is looking fuller in speed, talent and certainly potential. At the end of 2012, the 49ers had only Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams to look to. Since then they've added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, re-signed Ted Ginn Jr. and brought in A.J. Jenkins and Chris Owusu via the NFL Draft.
The receiving corps looks to be drastically upgraded from last year.
In the fourth round after the 49ers had traded back, they selected Wake Forest offensive lineman Joe Looney. With the addition of Looney, San Francisco now has three legitimate contenders competing for the right guard position. "[We] believe he'll be a starter in this league for us," said coach Harbaugh at the 49ers final draft presser.
With the selection of the Wake Forest offensive lineman at No. 117 overall, the 49ers used their first three picks to upgrade their offense. The faithful should be satisfied the 49ers addressed needs, and then some. We all knew that they were looking to add depth and competition to this team, and with this draft, they certainly succeeded.
They added speed, power and playmaking football players to the 49ers offense. If the history of Harbaugh and Co. tells us anything, it's that the offensive unit will see vast improvement in their 2012 campaign.
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