A.J. Jenkins shows up to rookie camp out of shape

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t waste any time welcoming his rookies to the NFL.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Jenkins was one of a number of rookies who Harbaugh called out for being out of shape at rookie training camp this afternoon.

While the first day of practice shouldn’t raise any huge red flags, it’s something to keep an eye on. Jenkins had a number of run-ins with Ron Zook throughout his career, who didn’t always enjoy Jenkins’ attitude off the field. Harbaugh’s a no-nonsense coach, so it’s not difficult to imagine him clashing with Jenkins at some point this season.

On a positive note, undrafted free agent receiver Chris Owusu, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford, was reportedly impressive in his first day at camp.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers Comments Off

Draft Losers: San Francisco 49ers

When you’re as close to a Super Bowl berth as the San Francisco 49ers were in 2011, you need to add some impact players in the draft to push you over the top. Unfortunately, the 49ers failed to add a single starter, instead settling for developmental prospects who will do little to help in 2012.

A.J. Jenkins was a reach in the late 1st-round and will take time to develop. His speed may be an asset in certain situations, but he’ll be competing with veterans Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. just to get on the field.

LaMichael James was another luxury pick who will have to fight just to get on the field. He may be nothing more than a return specialist early in his career, an area which was not a need in San Francisco.

Overall, this was a disappointing draft class for a team that had an opportunity to solidify a few holes in an effort to make another deep playoff run in 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, 49ers 5 Comments

San Francisco 49ers select A.J. Jenkins, Grade C+

The San Francisco 49ers obviously needed to add a receiver in this draft, but there was no need to reach for A.J. Jenkins here. When you’re this close to Super Bowl contention, it just doesn’t make sense to add a guy like Jenkins this early who needs time to develop.

I do think Jenkins can develop into a quality starter, but there were better options. How about adding a guy like Cordy Glenn, who can start from day one and improve the offensive line?

If they were dead set on adding a receiver, I would have gone with Stephen Hill. While he’s also raw, I think he can be a better deep threat than Jenkins, which is an aspect of his game which immediately translates to the NFL.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, 49ers Comments Off

Draft Needs: San Francisco 49ers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the San Francisco 49ers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The San Francisco 49ers were the headline team of 2011, improving from a 6-10 record in 2010 to a 13-3 team that was one game away from the Super Bowl under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Improved play of QB Alex Smith and a top five defense were the key reasons for the success. With a full season of head coaching experience under his belt, Harbaugh will undoubtedly lead a motivated and confident 49er team in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree finally showed what he is capable of, but really was the only solid option, outside of Vernon Davis, for Alex Smith. Free agent Josh Morgan played well, but only lasted five games before a season ending injury. Ted Ginn will most likely leave in free agency and Braylon Edwards has already been released. A speedster such as Robert Meachem or Vincent Jackson would be a great fit. Kendal Wright would also be a solid selection in the first round.

2. Right Guard: Adam Snyder is a free agent and most likely won’t be resigned. The 49ers need to draft a young OG to add to their offensive line. Cordy Glenn from Georgia and Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin are names to keep an eye on in the draft.

3. Tight End: Everyone knows Harbaugh is a big fan of the two tight end set. Pairing a solid tight end with All-Pro Vernon Davis would be a smart move. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is one of the top prospects in the draft, and with the connection to HC Jim Harbaugh, could be a possibility in round one or two.

4. Cornerback: This is a more pressing need if Carlos Rogers isn’t resigned, but it’s likely he returns. If he is not resigned, Trumaine Johnson from Montana is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. I think the 49ers should add Cortland Finnegan, who would fit perfectly in the defense, and give the 49ers some very physical play in the secondary.

5. Safety: The 49ers appear set with Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner, but could use some more depth. Backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams are free agents, so a young draft pick would fit nicely. Harrison Smith, Markelle Martin, and George Iloka are all possibilities.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in 49ers, Draft Needs - 2012 Comments Off

49ers in market for “big stature receiver”

The 49ers ended the season with three active receivers, one of which is now the least popular man in San Francisco. So it comes as no surprise that Jim Harbaugh wants to address the position this offseason.

Following the season, Harbaugh spoke about the issues at receiver and lamented the failure of Braylon Edwards. He stated “we were looking for that big stature receiver” when acquiring Edwards, but due to injuries and ineffectiveness he was released midseason.

Fortunately for the Niners, there are a number of “big stature” receivers who should come off the board in the first few rounds. Here are

Michael Floyd, Notre Dame [scouting report] – There’s a good chance Floyd will be off the board by the time the 49ers are on the clock, but if they’re serious about addressing this concern they may consider trading up. Aside from Justin Blackmon, Floyd is the most well-rounded receiver in this year’s class.

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina [scouting report] – Jeffery’s stock has fallen dramatically this season, but could still be an option in the late 1st round for the 49ers. His inconsistent play may scare some teams off, but he has the skill set to make an immediate impact in the red zone which is what the 49ers really need.

Dwight Jones, North Carolina [scouting report] - Like Jeffery, Jones has some issues with consistency, but at 6’4″ he could be a relatively cheap option for them in the late 2nd round. He won’t challenge Michael Crabtree for the role of No. 1 receiver any time soon, but if they’re primarily interested in a red-zone threat, Jones could be a good fit.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, 49ers 2 Comments

Does Michael Crabtree have a future with the 49ers?

Michael Crabtree expressed frustration after the San Francisco 49ers loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game. His frustration was understandable, but his comments were both out of line and delusional:

All I do is run routes. When you don’t get that many opportunities, it’s hard to talk… Half the time you’re not going to be open. That’s why they call you a playmaker – just give you chances.

Crabtree is in no position to complain about his role.

Clearly Crabtree views himself as a “playmaker” – a title which few others would bestow upon him at this point in his career.

But despite his somewhat disappointing career, there’s no denying that the fact that he is the 49ers No. 1 receiver. And they’ve treated him as such. In 2011, Crabtree was targeted 107 times, 24th most among receivers, and more than any of his teammates (even Vernon Davis, who was thrown at 92 times).

Not only is Crabtree the Niners top receiver, but he’s essentially their only weapon at the position. Nearly half the balls Alex Smith threw to his wide receivers were aimed at Crabtree – a higher percentage than all but four others in 2011.

The question now is: can Jim Harbaugh control Crabtree, or will he become a distraction?

The Niners already attempted to bring in some competition for Crabtree by signing Braylon Edwards last offseason, which failed to work out due to injuries and ineffective play. And they’re likely to either sign or draft a receiver this year as well.

Even if Crabtree remains their No. 1 receiver, he’s all but guaranteed to see a reduced role in 2012. How will his ego react to that?

These are questions which are certainly being discussed behind closed doors in San Francisco, which could lead the team to seriously consider a 1st-round receiver – and possibly could lead them to trade up to ensure they land someone capable of replacing Crabtree in the near future.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, 49ers 2 Comments

2011 Draft Grades: San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t exactly knocking on the door of Super Bowl, but they are expected to compete for the playoffs in the weak NFC West. With that in mind, I was surprised at the lack of immediate help added in this draft. It’s possible that one only player from this draft sees anything close to significant playing time in 2011.

That player, of course, is 1st-round pick Aldon Smith. I’m still not quite sure how to evaluate Smith. He clearly has the raw talent of a top-10 pick, but it’s just that: raw. While there may not be more than one or two players in this class with more talent, there are at least 10-15 players that are safer bets to develop into Pro Bowlers. Smith is a boom-or-bust prospect and based on his lack of experience and raw athleticism, it’s just too early to say which path he’ll go down. So while I think he’s a great fit for the 49ers 3-4 defense, it’s a risky move.

I was mildly surprised by the selection of Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round. Entering the draft I expected Jim Harbaugh to pass on this year’s quarterback class to keep open the possibility of adding Andrew Luck in 2012. Although, as the Panthers showed this year, there’s no job security for a 2nd round pick. Due to his arm strength and athleticism, I believe Kaerpernick quickly became one of the most overrated prospects in this year’s class. I have concerns about his throwing motion and his accuracy. Harbaugh has gained a reputation as a quarterback guru, but it could take two to three years to develop Kaepernick and I can’t envision the 49ers organization showing that type of patience coming off the never-ending Alex Smith era.

Chris Culliver was a reach in the 3rd round. They needed to add depth at cornerback, but I’m not convinced Culliver has the athleticism to play the position. He may be better suited to play free safety.

I’m a huge fan of Kendall Hunter and I think he can be a dangerous compliment to Frank Gore. He isn’t an every-down back, but is a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and has home-run hitter potential. Expect Harbaugh will get creative with him this season.

Daniel Kilgore was another reach. He’ll provide depth at both guard and center, but his upside is limited.

I like the addition of Ronald Johnson in the 6th round. He was productive at USC and can be a serviceable 3rd or 4th option for the 49ers. There were better players on the board, but he had decent value in the 6th round so I can’t argue with the selection too much.

Colin Jones isn’t anything special, but he could compete for playing time simply due to the lack of depth in the 49ers secondary. The free safety job should be an open competition in training camp, and I wouldn’t rule out Jones as an option.

Bruce Miller is an interesting selection. He played defensive end at UCF but the 49ers are going to convert him to fullback. I’m not a huge fan of drafting someone who needs to make such a drastic position change, but in the 7th round they didn’t pass up on much to take him.

I like Michael Person. He’ll never be a starter but should provide depth at both tackle and guard.

Curtis Holcomb is a developmental prospect who likely won’t see much playing time early in his career. He’s undersized but had a reputation as a shutdown corner at FAMU.

The 49ers took a lot of risks in this draft, and unfortunately I don’t think many of them will yield high rewards. Smith and Kaepernick could both develop into starters, but their next eight picks produced nothing but career backups. There were simply too many risks and not enough value from this class as a whole. That said, all the whiffs will be forgotten if Kaepernick develops into a Pro Bowler. But if he fails, it’s an early black mark on Harbaugh’s NFL résumé.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

5 early bold predictions for the NFL Draft

5. A trade occurs within the first five picks
The Panthers would love to trade down. The Broncos probably feel the same way. With two quarterbacks possibly coming off the board within the first five picks, someone is going to trade up to ensure they get their guy. My money’s on the Cardinals moving up for Gabbert, possibly to No. 1.

4. The Patriots actually use both 1st-round picks
No one loves trading picks more than Bill Belichick, but this year the Patriots actually need their picks. There is enough talent at positions of need (defensive line, offensive line) that the Patriots will stay put and fill some holes. In the 2nd round is where we’ll see the Pats start making moves. 

The best player in the draft isn't falling as far as you may think

3. Patrick Peterson is off the board within the first six picks
Nearly every mock draft has Peterson falling to the 49ers.  Sorry to ruin your fun 49ers fans, but the best player in the draft isn’t getting past six different teams. If he falls to No. 6 the Browns will gladly end his fall, even if he doesn’t fill a glaring hole.

2. A.J. Green falls to the Washington Redskins
There are multiple scenarios in which this could happen, and I truly believe one of them will come true. In my most recent mock draft I have the Bengals selecting Julio Jones, which allows Green to fall to No. 10.

1. At least three quarterbacks will go in the 1st round
Newton and Gabbert are 1st-round locks. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who many come off the board next. However, I am confident that someone will reach for another quarterback in the 1st round. Maybe the Dolphins reach for Mallett or Locker. Maybe the Seahawks do the same. Maybe someone falls in love with Dalton or Ponder. Whatever happens, one of those guys is going in the 1st round, and possibly more.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Browns, Dolphins, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks Comments Off

Could the 49ers trade up to No. 1 for Gabbert?

Jim Harbaugh was brought in to fix the San Francisco 49ers. And it’s no coincidence that they brought in a former quarterback who helped develop Josh Johnson and Andrew Luck at the college ranks.

Make no mistake about it, Harbaugh’s job is to find the 49ers a franchise quarterback and turn him into a star. So could they really afford to go through this draft, which is relatively deep with signal callers even if it’s lacks an elite player, without taking one?

Harbaugh and Baalke have the picks to move up to No. 1

Cam Newton doesn’t appear to be a Harbaugh kind of quarterback, but Blaine Gabbert would fit the mold.

To the best of my knowledge the 49ers have not brought Gabbert in for a workout, however, Harbaugh was present at Missouri’s pro day. It’s unlikely that he’ll fall to No. 7, so could the 49ers trade up?

We haven’t see a pre-draft trade involving the No. 1 pick since the Falcons moved up for Michael Vick, but it could happen this year. The Panthers would presumably love to trade down, since there is not a clear-cut top prospect in the draft and there are a number of teams out there desperate for a quarterback.

Due to the lockout no players or future picks may be traded on draft day. This means that the 49ers, who own a league-high 12 picks have the most ammunition to make move up.

According to the trade value chart the No.1 pick is worth 3,000 points. It’s unrealistic to expect the 49ers to match that point total, but if the Panthers are willing to lower the asking price they could get a nice package in return.

The Niners could offer the 7th, 45th, 108th and 115th picks (still leaving them with their 3rd-round selection) which equals 2,102 points on the trade chart. That trade would give the Panthers a 2nd round pick (which they currently lack after trading it for Armanti Edwards in one of the worst draft-day deals of all time) and a total of eight picks in the first four rounds.

It’s a long shot, and 49ers have not given any strong indication that they want Gabbert, but don’t be shocked if they swoop in a the last minute and climb up to No. 1.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Panthers 4 Comments

Draft Needs: San Francisco 49ers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the San Francisco 49ers. [full archive here].

Season Recap – The 49ers began the season as favorites to win the NFC West, yet never rebounded from a 0-5 start. Though Mike Singletary had all the intangibles of becoming a successful head coach, he failed to produce many victories during his two seasons on the sidelines. Singletary was fired after a 6-10 finish and San Francisco was able to reel in the hottest coaching candidate on the market: Jim Harbaugh. With Harbaugh comes most of his staff of the 2011 Orange Bowl champion Stanford Cardinals. Harbaugh made a pledge to get San Francisco back to the days of the Walsh Era and will have a full plate in front of him this offseason.

1. Quarterback – Harbaugh had the luxury of working with star Quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford and will need to find a similar talent to duplicate the success with San Francisco. Currently only 2002 number one overall pick David Carr is on the roster, and everyone knows he is not the answer. There has been speculation that Harbaugh is interested in resigning Alex Smith, but that remains to be seen. San Francisco could also attempt to make a run for Philadelphia Eagle Kevin Kolb, who supposedly is on the trade block, but would come at a high cost. If San Francisco makes no moves in free agency or through a trade, look for them to select either a QB in the first or second round. Personally, I believe Jake Locker fits the bill at #7 overall. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in 49ers, Draft Needs - 2011 1 Comment