49ers Mailbag: Aren't first-round picks expected to play?

September 21, 2012, 4:43 pm
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What do you when you're preparing for a 10-day road trip?

Being averse to checking baggage, I'm thinking of taking my usual carry-on and packing for five days with a mandatory laundry day during my stay in Youngstown, Ohio.
That's a question you can answer for me. In the meantime, I'll tackle a couple articles from the 49ers Mailbag . . . Is this a sign of a poor selection in Jenkins? Aren't 1st rounders supposed to contribute year 1? (@5drecruiting)
Without question, first-round draft picks should be good enough to contribute as rookies if there are no competent incumbents at the position in question.In the case of wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers already added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss before the draft to go along with Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr.
And before the 49ers selected running back LaMichael James in the second round, the team added veteran Brandon Jacobs to join Frank Gore and top backup Kendall Hunter.Barring injuries, I don't expect Jenkins or James to play -- or make much impact, anyway -- as first-year players. But it's way too early to judge them.
Jenkins and James might turn out to be bad draft picks. Clearly, the 49ers weren't expecting huge contributions from those players as rookies with so many established veterans already on the roster at those spots.But Jenkins and James might turn out to be good draft picks, too. It will all play out over the next couple of seasons.As much as I might question at this stage how much the 49ers will get out of their top two picks in the future, I do not believe they could've chosen anyone at any position in the first two rounds that would be major players as rookies.In my mock draft, I had the 49ers selecting guard Amini Silatolu with the No. 30 overall pick. The Carolina Panthers selected Silatolu at No. 40 overall. Silatolu starts at left guard for Carolina. The only position on the offense line with some question about the starter around the time of the draft was right guard. But it's highly doubtful Silatolu would've won the job over Alex Boone, who is playing very well.Brian Quick (Rams, No. 33), Stephen Hill (Jets, No 43) and Alshon Jeffery (Bears, No. 45) were the next wide receivers chosen after Jenkins. It's unlikely any of those rookies would've been able to surpass Crabtree, Manningham and Moss to win significant playing time in 2012.
What about tight end Coby Fleener? The Colts selected him at No. 34 overall. Obviously, he wasn't going to take playing time away from Vernon Davis. And Delanie Walker has developed into a valuable blocker as the No. 2 tight end. Fleener is a formidable threat as a receiver, but he's not an accomplished blocker. That would've been a problem. Obviously, there's not a staff in the NFL that knows the former Stanford player as well as the 49ers' . . . and they decided to go with Jenkins. So that says something.The two selections after Jenkins in the first round were both running backs. The Buccaneers selected Doug Martin at No. 31, followed by the Giants' choice of David Wilson. Again, I don't know how much time Martin or Wilson would get with Gore, Hunter and Jacobs already on the roster. But either of those two probably would have a better chance in future seasons of being an every-down player.So, as I've stated before, the 49ers do not expect to see much of the 2012 draft class as rookies. But a final grade is still years away.Any idea why Trent would sign Haggans knowing the possibility of his issuesuspension? Didn't they release Eric B. just before the season started? (John H.)
Yes, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke knew veteran Clark Haggans would likely be suspended for three games for violating the NFL's policy on substance abuse.The 49ers signed Haggans to a one-year, 940,000 contract so they would have him for 13 regular-season games and, potentially, the playoffs. (By the way, Haggans is suspended without pay, so he'll forfeit more than 163,000 of his salary.)If the 49ers need a replacement at some point for Aldon Smith or Ahmad Brooks at outside linebacker, Baalke felt as if Haggans was the one person available best-equipped to step in and play.And, yes, the 49ers released Eric Bakhtiari after top backup Parys Haralson had already undergone season-ending surgery on a torn triceps. They believed Bakhtiari would still be available ifwhen they needed somebody after Haggans' suspension.The 49ers reportedly took a look at veteran free agent Shawne Merriman on Wednesday, the day Bakhtiari was signed and had his first regular-season practice with the club. Interestingly, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he was not privy to any workout Merriman had with the team.The door is open for Bakhtiari to win a permanent job with the 49ers. A year ago, Chris Culliver and Bruce Miller took advantage of openings created by injuries to hold onto significant roles after playing well as fill-ins.