Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 7/29/12

This past April, the 49ers pulled off a bit of a head-scratcher, selecting receiver A.J. Jenkins with their first-round draft pick, No. 30 overall. It’s not to say Jenkins isn’t a good football player — his highly-productive college resume speaks for itself — but many expected the club to go in a different direction.

Those who were against the pick were given some ammo during minicamp, when Jenkins showed up overweight and out of shape. He struggled mightily in OTAs and is already stuck in a logjam at the position. Speculation arose that he could be frequently inactive on game days.

Needless to say, he’s gotten off to a slow start.

However, Jenkins recently said that he’s made “long strides” and in better shape as training camp gets underway. Coach Jim Harbaugh, presumably tired of the detractors, defended Jenkins and fired back to reporters on Sunday. He opened his press conference with the following, courtesy of ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

“(WR) A.J. Jenkins was an outstanding football player when he got here. His progress has been very, very good and exceeded expectations. For those scribes, pundits, so called experts, who have gone as far to say that he is going to be a bust, should just stop. I recommend that because they are making themselves look more clueless than they’ve already did. To go on record, A.J.’s going to be an outstanding football player.”

A lot of that is typical coach-speak; what else is he going to say, that Jenkins will be out of the league in three years? It’s admirable of Harbaugh to step up for one of his own, giving confidence to a guy who may desperately be in need of it. He’s a players-coach and instances like these show why he’s so well-respected by the organization.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how Jenkins could’ve exceeded expectations thus far, unless the plan all along was to ease him very slowly, letting him work behind the trio of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and Michael Crabtree. If that’s indeed the case, then … well, criticism will hardly cease to exist.

As camp and preseason progress, Jenkins’ exact role should become more defined. As it stands now — on record or not — he’s far, far down the pecking order in San Fran.

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