April 27, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins poses for photos on the practice field at the 49ers headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Why A.J. Jenkins will breakout next season

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Tags: A.J. Jenkins Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs

  • Royals_Fan

    If he’s the missing piece thats awesome…but do we really believe he’s the missing piece? No.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I hope the kid pans out, but we have to treat him like the WR4 he is until he proves otherwise. Sign or draft a wide receiver and let Jenkins compete like the rest of them.

    • KCMikeG

      Draft please. There isn’t a WR FA worth what they want or what the market price will be either. Bowe, McCluster, Jenkins, Hemingway, Dressler & our #1 pick Kelvin Benjamin. That should work just fine with a healthy group of TE’s.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        I think Maclin, Tate, and Sanders will all get reasonable deals. We have to get better in a hurry at wide receiver.

        • Curtis

          Tate isn’t leaving Seattle. Already said he’d take a pay cut to stay there.

        • KCMikeG

          Tate will most likely stay in Seattle. The Steelers would be foolish to let Sanders go after losing Wallace last year. They matched the $2.5M offs he got from NE last year to keep him. Sanders has fewer total yards than McCluster over the same four years and his return skills lie in the KO (which we have covered with Demps/Davis) vs punt returns.
          I think we would be foolish to pay Maclin when we already have McCluster. Maclin is coming off an ACL so would most likely not be all he could be next year plus he brings nothing to the return game. We have Jenkins, Williams & Dressler who all could compete while costing less without the injury concern.

          • Jim Harper

            Mike, we are going to lose McCluster to FA. Tate would be perfect but has already stated he would give Seattle a small home town discount. Whether it is enough or not remains to be seen. Decker would be my choice to go after in FA. Then use the draft to get either a top corner and move Smith to FS, or draft a FS like Clinton-Dix.

          • KCMikeG

            We are on opposite ends of this one. I think Manning made Decker and he will never be the same w/o him. I think Dix could be a bust but certainly isn’t worth our #1 pick. Sean Smith is our only big physical CB and isn’t much faster than Lewis so I’m not sure if that move would benefit us.
            I know I am in the minority but there are just too many reasons to keep Dexter. His numbers are worthy and his production is rising every year after the chaotic disaster this team was when he was drafted and misused by every coach until last year. What I don’t get is why so many want to just assume that he wants too much money. Has he said how much he wants? What is the market price for him? I have not heard anyone say but somehow they know it is “too much”. The other thing is Reid has been very outspoken about his support for Dexter and he rewarded Reid with being the #1 PR. Just don’t see why so many choose to ignore these factors while being willing to bet that an unproven rookie or CFL player or Jenkins/Williams who did little to nothing in SF can step in and produce over 1,000 yards a year and be the top returner. I’m betting/hoping Reid has his way and Dexter is reasonable.

          • Jim Harper

            You misunderstand me old friend. I would love to see McCluster stay, but he is coming off his best season and a pro bowl. He will want a substantial raise and should get it. I just don’t see it coming from KC. They have some serious holes to fill and very little money to do it. In this age of free agency it is tough to keep everybody. Albert will be another loss and Smith needs to be paid. Right now as we speak we have less than 1 mil in cap space. Dorsey will be creative I am sure, but there is only so much he can do and a punt returner and occasional slot receiver is not #1 on his list.

          • KCMikeG

            I know you like Dexter and would like to have him back Jim. My frustration is that so many (not you) are willing to write him off by assuming we can’t afford him while ignoring the contributions he has made over the last four years. Again he is not just a punt returner – he was the best. I’ll live if they move on (except for having to look at all of his jerseys hanging in our closets) but they better be damn sure Dressler can fill his shoes and they better not keep Avery over him. I’ll be sick if some other team pays him a lousy million more and he lights it up for them while we see our ST hole failed to be filled by a CFL star who hasn’t returned kicks for 2 years.
            I have accepted the loss of Albert because I can see the logic in it. Ridiculous money combined with the plan to replace him with Fisher and Stephenson. I am also glad to see Robinson go and wonder what is holding up Lewis being cut.
            I know most are for Smith’s contract to be extended but that won’t help us in 2014 will it? Everything I have seen places his 2014 cap hit around $10M vs the $7.5M he will get under his current contract.

          • Jim Harper

            Resigning Alex to a new contract will help because they can stretch term (I believe 5 years where most are suggesting 4) and a fat signing bonus in the first year does not go against the cap. We all knew Robinson was going to be cut. They do not have to do anything with Lewis because his contract has expired and he is a free agent and already off the books. I know how you feel about the jerseys. I special ordered one of Lewis (probably the only one in existence) after his rookie year and meeting him at camp too. Then he played his ass off his second year after we lost Berry so I get it. The one thing I did get right is buying a Berry jersey. I do have faith that whatever Dorsey does will be the right thing. Go Chiefs!

  • Hawthorne

    Most receivers take a couple of years to develop. Jenkins may break out and he may not, but we should also consider this fact when drafting this year. While WR is a long term need, we may have to choose between an immediate impact player on defense and a long term impact player on offense, especially given the complexity of the WC offense. BOCTAOE

  • ArrowFan

    He is a talented guy why not. Let’s draft and sign smeone else as well just to be safe.

  • Lyle Graversen

    I think breakout is probably a little hopeful, but I think he could definitely contribute. I’m thinking Avery and McCluster are gone and Bowe is the only lock. Draft a WR, sign one in FA, and let them compete with Jenkins, Hemingway, and Dressler.

    • berttheclock

      As much as I like Hemingway, I see him more in the Bowe mode, thus, a splendid backup for him. I want to see a burner on the opposite side, who can get off the line, separate and fly. I watched the confidence return to Jenkins. What I noticed about him was how he was used on the field prior to Smith throwing to him. They really broke him in slowly. By the time the throws came, his butterflies in the stomach had settled. I would like to see him sub with a new very quick and fast wide out next year.

      But, wait for the Combines to see who jumps up the chart. I expect to see Brandon Cooks out of Oregon State to show his speed at the Combines, and, then, he would move higher. The knock on him has been the fact he is only 5’10″ in a year where the early stars at wide out all have more height. That current rage for tall receivers. The height would be great if the receiver can show he can get open, especially, off the line of scrimmage. Cooks has the quickness to do so and then, he can fly. One thing proven in the wasted Jon Baldwin effort was most wide receivers do not run into quality defensive backs on a regular basis in college. Get to the pros and they face one or two every game. So, when, a “Diva” doesn’t like to hand fight for position, a shorter, but, far more aggressive D-back can knock them off their game and their “perch”. With many teams going the route of finding bigger D-backs who can hit hard, hand fight, and have speed enough to stay with the Divas, then, that element of quickness becomes essential.

    • KCMikeG

      Who is worth the market price in FA?

  • Jarad

    Definitely thinking glass half full, but anything is possible. The need for a WR opposite of Bowe is a need, but the defense needs the most attention. And on a side note, i really hope Schwartz is retained. He was a big addition 2nd half of the year.

  • e_racer

    The Chiefs probably will not do much in free agency this year. They really need Jenkins to develop into a starter. The biggest needs for the team are on the defensive side of the ball. If Ha Ha Clinton Dix falls to 23, the Chiefs would be wise to pair him with Berry at Safety. The Chiefs will need a DE, and they can probably get one in the 3rd round, but Brent Urban may be a guy they can develop for the 5 technique, and he will likely be available in the 5th round. The Chiefs can get a decent corner in the third. E J Gaines will likely drop due to off field issues, and would be a nice pick at the end of rd 3. The Chiefs could also go with Aikens, but the point is there will be plenty of decent corner to choose from in the 3rd a 4th rounds to supplement Flowers and Smith.

    With the Chiefs having a very limited cap space, the Chiefs really need to develop they guys they currently have on the roster. Jenkins is still fairly cheap, and is signed. Avery, Jenkins, Bowe, and Hemingway will need to pull their weight. I suspect the Chiefs will allow Dexter to depart as a free agent. The Chiefs should be rewarded with several compensatory picks in 2015, because they will lose several starters to other teams.

    • KCMikeG

      Why would we keep Avery? He barely passed McCluster in receiving yards, offers nothing at all in the return game or as a RB while Dexter was the NFL’s #1 PR last year, does it all and is 4 years younger. Send Avery and his drops packing and give Dexter Avery’s 3 years / $8.55 million contract.Problem solved.

      • Tony Parker

        Sorry Mike but Dex is good as gone, only thing he brings to the table is the PR, he runs terrible routes, remember that deep wide open catch…he didn’t make? although Avery showed some flashes of a deep threat, I believe he is gone as well. however he was better than DMC as a receiver. I think we will see a vast improvement at slot with Dressler this year.

        • KCMikeG

          The only thing is PR? Well being #1 in the NFL certainly has some value and averaging over 1,000 total yards every year does too. Avery only had 85 more yards as a WR and more drops. Mc Cluster has improved his routes and is a favorite of Reid.
          I like Dressler too but you are setting pretty high expectations on a guy who is unproven at this level knowing it is rare for a CFL player to make a big splash in the NFL. The same is true of Jenkins, Williams and anyone we would draft. Guess we will have to agree to disagree and see what happens next month.

          • Tony Parker

            I would like to see the stats on targets/catches and then yac between the two.

          • KCMikeG

            Couldn’t find YAC or targets/ catches ratio for Dressler but Dex was 53/81 with 231 YAC. Dressler had over a 1,000 yards on 70 receptions last year. It is very difficult to extrapolate stats from a CFL performance to NFL potential. I have no idea on what type of offense the Eiders ran but do know that they altered it to better utilize him which certainly can’t be said about what we have done for Dexter. The two games are so different. The CFL field is longer, wider and has end zones that are twice the size of the NFL’s. The WR’s get to take a running start at the line just like Arena FB which is obviously an advantage that leads to higher scoring/stats.

            What we do know is that Dressler played at North Dakota State was an UDRFA who couldn’t get on an NFL team even at the practice squad level so he went to the CFL. While McCluster was a star at Ole Miss and was a 2nd round pick in the NFL who has produced an average of over 1,000 yards each of his four years. Both have multipurpose skills but Dressler hasn’t done much in the the return game because he was being saved for use as a receiver. Bottom line McCluster has consistent, proven, upward trending experience at the NFL level vs Dressler who was a star in the CFL that has a very low percentage of successful players that have transitioned to the NFL. Sure thing vs wing and a prayer.

          • Tony Parker

            Great argument Mike, Dressler will be hard pressed to find the open spot on a NFL field vs. CFL field. Lets hope Dorsey has uncovered a previous hidden “diamond in the rough”…..however I should have made myself more clear, my apologies, I was referring to stats on avery vs. Dex on YAC.

          • KCMikeG

            Thanks Tony. No problem. Avery had 201 YAC and was 40 rec/71 targets which was less than Dexter in both categories. He had 85 more yards and the same 2 TD’s but contributed nothing in the return game vs Dex leading the league. Shame we paid Avery $3M and Dex half that.

      • e_racer

        It doesn’t work that way. Releasing Avery doesn’t save all that much. It would create dead money. I would really like it if they could keep Dex. However, it is likely he will attract interest elsewhere, and the Chiefs will be hard pressed to match.

        • KCMikeG

          I realize there would be dead money but it would still leave enough to sign McCluster. Avery’s dead money would only be $1.5M. His average salary of $2.85M is twice what we paid Dexter last year. It’s not like he will get three times what he has been making with us from another team. Emmanuel Sanders is a very similar player and he only got a $2.5M offer last year from NE and the Steelers matched that. Why does everyone think we can’t afford Dexter?

          • e_racer

            I guess it all comes down to numbers. If Dex can be signed for the right number, then he will be in the fold. However, most people believe he will garner better offers.

            I believe it is better for the Chiefs to take any savings to get Houston and Smith under longer term deals. It will be difficult for the Chiefs to get many new free agents over the next two years. Things should be better after that. So, developing talent currently on the team is of extreme importance.

  • tm1946

    In the Chief’s current roster and money cap situation, it would be huge if he could develop into a real #2 or #3 WR. His dead money will hurt if he gets cut and we still have no WRs beside Bowe, just a bunch of kids fans like but have not done anything yet. He will be a hard one for the Chiefs to walk away from so he just takes up space.

  • Calchiefsfan

    The passing game and the whole offense was starting to come on at the end of the season. Let’s hope Jenkins continues to improve cause the Chiefs have bigger issues. One, which seems like no one is talking about, is LT. If Albert leaves, which will probably happen, then that’s a giant hole to be plugged. Stephenson would be a serious down grade and Fisher isn’t ready yet. If they don’t fix that then I don’t care who we have at wide receiver there won’t be much of a passing game. The offense didn’t really start to catch fire until the O line started improving.

    I like Jenkins. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I think you might have hit on something Joseph with the fact it took him two years to get comfortable in the college system and that Smith is now in his third year with him. Would love to see the kid break out next year. That would solve a lot of problems and cheaply too.