Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/9/12
A.J. Jenkins, star wide-out for Illinois from 2008 to 2011, was selected 30th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. 

The pick was largely considered a reach by analysts across the NFL, with only the St. Louis Rams having Jenkins as high as the 49ers on their board, and most teams believing he was a mid-second-round pick, at best. 

He entered offseason team activities as an understood "project" wide receiver, and with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham further bolstering the 49ers' receiving corps, Jenkins was definitely not guaranteed starting time in 2012 - but the hope was alive.

The first news we heard of Jenkins coming out of OTAs did not help his case. When asked specifically about Jenkins, 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh was uncharacteristically precise: "Out of shape -- that's the bad news," Harbaugh said, "...we've got to get them in shape. I don't know exactly what all these guys were doing for the last six months."

Jenkins was seen doubled over between snaps and was criticized for not following through strong on a "circle-8" routine by 49ers' wide receiver coaches. In the mean time, there was really no news on former Giants receiver and Super Bowl star, Manningham - which is generally understood to be a good thing during the offseason. 

Kyle Williams seemed to be improving and otherwise recovering from what can only be described as a mental breakdown in the NFC Championship where he fumbled three times, losing two of them, including one in overtime. And then there are the stories of former first-round pick, Michael Crabtree, and future Hall-of-Famer, Randy Moss, who has received nothing but praise from local media, teammates, and coaches all offseason long.

Moss is quickly being deigned by 49ers faithful as the same Randy-of-times-long-past, and has gained recognition for his attentiveness in classes and valuable erudition on the field. Crabtree - who is otherwise regarded as a disappointment by most analysts and 49ers fans, despite improving each season - has finally overcome the injuries that plagued him in prior years and is showing promising strides and building chemistry with quarterback Alex Smith.

With four wide receivers quickly establishing themselves ahead of Jenkins on the depth chart, and with the 49ers' extensive use of two - and even three - tight end sets where they can feature the duo of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, Jenkins playing-time prospects for his rookie season seemed dim from the outset. 

But now it is being reported that Jenkins needs to work on building up his upper-body strength in order to hold up against press coverage, and that Stanford wideout, Chris Owusu, a man already familiar with Harbaugh's system, has been making a strong push to jump Jenkins on the depth chart. 

Even return specialist Ted Ginn, who will not get many opportunites to run proper routes, was featured a couple times in end-arounds and reverses last season to great success, and could reprise that role this year - leaving exactly what role for Jenkins to play?

It is has been a tough offseason indeed for the 49ers' first-round selection.  This does not spell problems for the 49ers, who have built depth at a wide receiver position that arguably cost them the NFC Championship; but it does mean A.J. Jenkins will spend most his rookie season on the sidelines.

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