"In the age of instant analysis and gratification, seemingly everyone thinks the 49ers should cut A.J. Jenkins," Brad writes to the NFC West mailbag. "While I admit the situation is far from ideal given his lack of production, it seems to me that people need to take a deep breath and just let the guy develop."
Wait, you mean 35 regular-season snaps and 16 regular-season pass routes aren't enough to fully analyze a first-round NFL draft choice? I'm with you on this one, Brad. Jenkins hasn't done much to this point, but it's not like the 49ers have a long list of promising young wideouts commanding roster spots.
2010-12 NFL Stats for Current 49ers WRs
We should expect Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams and Quinton Patton to stick on the 53-man roster. We know Michael Crabtree will remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Mario Manningham could remain on that list as well. Neither would count against the 53-man roster while on PUP. That would leave room on the roster for Jenkins and one or two others. Players such as Marlon Moore, Ricardo Lockette, Kassim Osgood, Austin Collie and Chad Hall would presumably be factoring for those spots based on a factors including special-teams value.
Jenkins and five other 49ers wideouts logged snaps on offense but not on special teams during the 49ers' exhibition opener. Osgood played nine special-teams snaps in that game. Hall and Lockette played three special-teams snaps apiece. If Osgood earns a roster spot, special-teams contributions will factor disproportionately.
The 49ers presumably are not going to base a Jenkins decision on his relevance as a gunner or coverage player. They drafted Jenkins to play offense. They must consider what he has shown on the practice field (not much so far), their reasons for drafting him (potential), their available alternatives (also undefined) and salary commitments (guaranteed money through 2014).
Three exhibition games remain for the 49ers. Jenkins could conceivably play his way out of a roster spot over that span. I don't think he's done that to this point. The 49ers could use Jenkins, but they don't necessarily have to make a final decision on him after just 35 regular-season snaps. They appear better off with what he might one day offer rather than what they know they could have instead.
Think of it another way. If every current 49ers wide receiver beyond Boldin were suddenly available to sign at low cost, which ones would the other 31 teams scramble to sign first? I have to think Jenkins would rank at or near the top of the list as a young player with potential who hasn't played enough for analysts to judge accurately.