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49ers draft rewind: 2012

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Did the 2012 draft actually happen?

Every year around draft time we like to look at the ghosts of drafts past with the San Francisco 49ers and reflect on the players allocated from the draft. We luckily have video of each draft thanks to YouTube poster and 49ers fan Marvin49. We’ll be looking at every year up to 2017. Today it’s 2012.

2012. It’s been nearly six years and the 49ers have had plenty of time to move on, but who can forget 2012.

After the 2011 draft, the 49ers went from being the doormats of the NFC to the favorites to win the whole thing. Just one problem: They needed wide receivers. In the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the 49ers had only one guy catching passes all night: Vernon Davis, a tight end. Once that didn’t work, the 49ers offense didn’t have much despite the fact Giants quarterback Eli Manning was finding the grass at Candelstick Park a nice place to be on his back the entire game. It was just a matter of time and a couple of key-timed Kyle Williams fumbles to end the Cinderella story that was the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.

In the draft wide receiver was almost a given. In fact no analysis was needed; the 49ers were drafting a wide receiver. The question was who?

Enter A.J. Jenkins. A speedster out of Illinois. The pick made sense, Mel Kiper even pointed out it wasn’t much of a reach given Jenkins’ projection, but there was one problem with the first round selection, a simple question no one could answer: “Who’s that guy?” In these situations, someone can chime in on who the kid was, but I’ll be damned if I had anyone at my draft party familiar.

Still, Jenkins had some fascinating attributes, notably the fact he was fast. The 49ers would need to move on from Ted Ginn Jr. at some point (and since he was injured for the NFC Championship Game, they’d need depth anyways) so at the very least Jenkins could be a good returner right?

Wrong. Jenkins only saw a handful of plays for a single season before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs the following year.

Things didn’t get much better for the board. Round 2 had LaMichael James, a player many fans may have heard of, and if they heard of him, they knew he shouldn’t have been picked in the second round. Seen as a splashy pick, James survived two seasons with the 49ers as opposed to Jenkins’ one. Part of the blame can go to then-49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman who seemed to just refuse to use a speedster like James in the passing game (on the few times James caught a check-down it usually led to decent results).

Not having a third round pick, the 49ers grabbed Joe Looney in the fourth round. Looney wins the award for 49ers Survivor, having made it to 2015 before he got the ax. Darius Flemming came next, tearing his ACL in rookie training camp and doing it again to the same knee the following year, getting waived by the team.

The rest? Trenton Robinson, one of two sixth round picks actually saw the field rather early (his rookie season) but it was for three games. After a three-year stint with Washington, he’s out of the league. Jason Slowey, the other sixth round pick, managed to make the practice team, but he’s gone now too. Cam Johnson, their last pick didn’t even make it through 2012 before getting traded to the Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers would go on to play in Super Bowl 47 that year, but aside from a couple key LaMichael James plays (he scored a nice touchdown in the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons) there was no contributions from this draft class.

While many wanted to compare it to 2011 and just give then-49ers general manager Trent Baalke the benefit of the doubt, this very draft foreshadowed a lot of things to come. The lack of production, and drought of talent may not have hurt the 49ers immediately, but it set them back as the years came in and they were unable to replenish their talent pool.

As per usual, the DMCA biscuits have this thing on lockdown in some regions, so if you’d like to view the video, make sure to click the link to go to YouTube directly to see it. Or you can go here via this link to see the analysis of the draft.

Picks:

1 (30) - A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
2 (61) - LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4 (117) - Joe Looney, OG, Wake Forest
5 (165) - Darius Fleming, OLB, Notre Dame
6 (180) - Trenton Robinson, FS, Michigan State
6 (199) - Jason Slowey, OL, Western Oregon
7 (237) - Cam Johnson, DE/OLB, Virginia