49ers covering up mistakes of 2012 draft

49ers covering up mistakes of 2012 draft
February 12, 2014, 7:30 am
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A.J. Jenkins caught eight passes for 130 yards in 16 games with the Chiefs last year. (USATSI)

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The 49ers’ exceptional 2011 draft produced three front-line starters, including two franchise-player candidates in Aldon Smih and Colin Kaepernick.

Two others -- cornerback Chris Culliver and center Daniel Kilgore -- could be starters in 2014. And another, running back Kendall Hunter, is a valued backup.

Partly because of those selections, the 49ers might not feel the pain from the 2012 draft.

Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins did not catch a pass in his one season with the club. In the next training camp, the 49ers made the decisive move to part ways with him. Their trade with Kansas City for wide receiver Jon Baldwin was executed for a couple of reasons.

First, the 49ers wanted to see if they could get more production from Baldwin, who had a body type they thought would be a better fit. (In fact, the Chiefs got far more out of Baldwin in his two seasons in Kansas City than the 49ers got. Baldwin caught three passes for 28 yards, and was inactive for the final eight games.

But, more important, the 49ers wanted to wipe Jenkins off their financial books and move on. Jenkins had two years of guaranteed money remaining on his deal. Baldwin had just one season. The 49ers do not owe Baldwin any guaranteed money this season, which makes it highly unlikely he’ll step on the field for them at his scheduled $1.4 million salary.

Jenkins is gone. But the good news for the 49ers is that his contract is gone, too.

Of course, the 49ers will probably again be looking to add a wide receiver to the roster, whether they sign Anquan Boldin to a contract extension or not. The swing-and-a-miss on Jenkins means the 49ers are still looking for a young, productive wideout. (Perhaps, Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick last year, can be that player.)

[RELATED: Ranking 49ers' offseason needs]

The 49ers had 15 draft picks last year, which they turned into 11 players -- nine of whom are still around to take part in the team’s offseason program.

The 49ers will have 12 draft picks to open this year’s draft. And they already have an extra seventh-rounder in 2015 as part of last season’s trade of 2012 draft pick Cam Johnson to Indianapolis.

Running back LaMichael James, a second-round pick whose career is on the same trajectory of Dexter Carter from the 1990 draft, is the only player from the 2012 draft class who has contributed. Fourth-round pick guard Joe Looney has a chance to eventually play.

[RELATED: No clear path to playing time for James]

But with one exceptional draft class of 2011 and so many draft picks in subsequent years, the 49ers have done a good job of mostly covering up the mistakes of the 2012 draft.

* * *

49ers' 2012 draft
1. WR A.J. Jenkins (traded to Kansas City)
2. RB LaMichael James (return specialist, inactive 18 times in first two seasons)
4. G Joe Looney (active for four games in two seasons)
5. LB Darius Fleming (Injured reserve first two seasons)
6. S Trenton Robinson (cut, signed by Washington)
6. OL Jason Slowey (cut, signed with CFL)
7. LB Cam Johnson (traded to Colts)


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