49ers gamble with first round pick

When the 49ers season ended in January, analysts said they needed a wide receiver. Their best chance of getting one was thought to be in the draft.

GM Trent Baalke, though, used free agency to address the glaring need, signing Mario Manningham and Randy Moss.

Based on the 49ers’ selection of Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins with their first round pick Wednesday, it would appear Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh were not satisfied with their offseason haul.

Just about everyone was caught off guard by the 49ers’ pick. Jenkins was the seventh-rated WR in the draft according to Todd McShay. The 6-foot Jenkins ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Rueben Randle and Alshon Jeffery, both rated higher by McShay, were passed over the 49ers.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen provided this brief evaluation of Jenkins:

“Evaluators talked about his separation skills, ability to sink hips and also can stretch the field. Has very good suddenness. Questioned if he can get off the line if pressed. Also questioned his blocking ability.”

It’s certainly possible that Jenkins could turn into a star, but talent evaluators projected he would be drafted much later. McShay released a complete seven-round mock draft and had Jenkins as the final pick of the second round.

Reaction on Twitter from the folks that cover the 49ers is pretty telling.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/timkawakami/status/195705194355490817″] [blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Eric_Branch/status/195705199359311872″]

Even Jenkins himself was caught off guard by the selection. In a conference call with the media, the first round pick had this to say:

“I thought it was a perfect fit to be honest. I didn’t know the phone call would come so soon. I’m honored, blessed. Wow. Crazy.”

49ers.com has posted KNBR’s interview with Jenkins and Harbaugh.