So a couple of days ago, I wrote a post comparing AJ Jenkins to Kyle Williams. Some people had questions regarding my central assertion that the two players are pretty similar, and while I wanted to respond in the comment section, I was simply too busy and had some internet problems. I thought I could clarify a bit here.
I didn't necessarily mean that they have the same style of play, even though both players have similar strengths (speed, elusiveness, and good pass-catching hands) and similar perceived weaknesses (Williams, it is pretty clear, has a hard time getting open against even one-on-one coverage due to his size; it's reported that Jenkins has a similar size problem, even if he is taller, and will probably struggle getting open against more physical corners at first). Obviously it is premature to state strengths and weaknesses of Jenkins with certainty, though Williams is a bit more knowable given last year.
With this in mind, I want to argue that they are similar players in regards to their role with the team: both are "potential" guys. They are not on the team to be number one receivers. Nobody expects either player to be a dominate force a la Vernon Davis or Frank Gore.
No, these guys will get minimal play time - just enough, in fact, to allow them to grow as players. Right now, the coaching staff has to decide which player will get more time. Essentially, who has the greater potential and thus the need to be higher on the depth chart? Based upon draft pedigree, that's clearly Jenkins. I don't think Williams really helped himself out much last year either. It was largely a lackluster year, though he had some impressive moments.
Ultimately, I think Jenkins will leapfrog Williams on the depth chart. He will see more time as the coaches develop him into the receiver they saw with the first round pick. This is what I mean when I ask if Jenkins is the new Williams. He has become the designated "project" receiver - the guy with a lot of potential who just needs to sharpen his already impressive tools while cutting back on weaknesses.
This is not me arguing that Williams should be cut. He can still be a useful player for this team, even if I thought the 49ers might have been able to bring in more talent, thus causing Williams to be cut. But that's another story, and one that might be true if some of the young guys keep having awesome camps.
So no: as of now, I think Williams should and will be on the team this season. But, in a way, the quality of our receiving corps makes Williams a bit redundant. The potential is still there, but it is tempered by a slightly disappointing season last year and the arrival of another potential guy, who probably is a better player.
Kyle Williams' position on this team speaks to how well the Front Office scouted and brought in talent. This was a good offseason for the receiving corps, and we should be happy. The potential guy being groomed has now become a secondary potential guy. Ultimately, that really strengthens our team this season.