As of now, there isn’t much reason to be confident in Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver A.J. Jenkins’ future.
Since being selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins’ career has been in flux. Yet to validate his first round selection, Jenkins has already bounced out of San Francisco and has landed in Kansas City with an unsettling “bust” cloud hanging over his head.
The odds are against him.
However, despite all these reasons, Jenkins could be on the verge of cracking the NFL code. And in the process, becoming a viable receiver for the Chiefs moving forward.
The talent is there. Though a “shock” to many draft experts, the 49ers were so confident in Jenkins’s abilities as a wideout that they even put his name in the envelope they were going to hand to Commissioner Roger Goodell the night prior to the draft.
“Trent Baalke last night put his name in an envelope and said, ‘This is who we’re going to pick,’” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “That was the guy we wanted and that was the highest player on the board when the time came to pick him.”
Jenkins had the speed, and quickness, that warranted him being an early selection. With the league moving to a fast-paced style of play, every team is in search of a receiver with the aforementioned abilities to play in the intermediate middle of the field.
Jenkins had that, and San Francisco was a buzz with the possibility of finding the next great receiver to play in the red and gold.
That didn’t pan out, and Jenkins’ career in the city by the bay became reminiscent of a mere blip on the radar. He was active for just six games and recorded zero catches with San Francisco. After a disappointing pre-season, Jenkins was shipped to the Chiefs for Jon Baldwin.
At this point, Jenkins had become the poster boy for every caveat regarding the draft process. While many players would be deterred to accept a career of football insignificance, Jenkins didn’t. He worked hard last season and was rewarded with a start in the final game of the season.
In a 27-24 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers, and with the playoffs already in the bag, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid decided to rest his starters. Thus prompting an opportunity for Jenkins to show his stuff. For the first time in his short NFL career, he did.
He was targeted seven times and caught 3 balls for 67 yards, including a long of 48 yards.
To the naked eye, this performance could be chalked up as “average” or “decent”. But for Jenkins, this is the kind of performance that could get his confidence moving toward the 2014 season.
In his first two seasons at the University of Illinois, Jenkins was mediocre. He compiled just 21 receptions for 410 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, in his third season, Jenkins finally got comfortable and adapted to the speed of the college game.
In his final two seasons, Jenkins obliterated his pervious totals, catching 146 passes for 2,022 yards and 15 touchdowns. He became a worthy selection as one of the top receivers taken in the draft, especially with these kind of numbers.
This, being his third season, is the time time for Jenkins to breakout. And based on history, he might do so.
One thing associated with first round selections in this day and age is the expectance of a player to step out of college and onto the NFL gridiron and excel immediately. Jenkins showed in his first two seasons that he wasn’t capable of that. Besides, a lot of rookies and second-year players don’t make that much of an impact on a team.
Jenkins needed time to adjust in an NFL setting with a team of veterans guiding him on how to be a successful NFL player. In San Francisco, Jenkins wasn’t afforded that luxury. He was on a team with a championship window that couldn’t wait to see if he would develop. In Kansas City, the storyline is similar.
However, this is his third season catching passes from quarterback Alex Smith. A continuity and relationship between the two in practice has surely developed.
With time on his side, this could be the season for Jenkins to breakout and, once again, show the world of his skills as an NFL wideout.