49ers: Meet The 2012 Draft Class
Round 1: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
The 49ers have been without a consistent deep threat since Terrell Owens left town in 2004. The team clocked Jenkins at 4.31 seconds at the Scouting Combine, and they said he was one of the smoothest route runners in the draft. That gives them a versatile and multidimensional receiver who also can take the lid off of defenses, something the team lacked last season.
Jenkins’ needs to really work on his strength. He was unable to hit the weight room because of injuries at Illinois and must add weight and muscle.
That will have a lot to do with the other receivers on the team, especially free-agent pickup Randy Moss. The 49ers are hoping that Moss will put a stamp on his hall-of-fame career, which would put Moss and either Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham in a starting role. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad spot for Jenkins, who can spend his rookie season getting stronger and learning from a veteran like Moss.
One note from 2011: Each of the 49ers’ five wide receivers missed at least one game with an injury. Even if Jenkins isn’t starting at the beginning of the season, he could be by the end.
Round 2: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
James joins a running back group that includes Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Anthony Dixon and perhaps most prominent, Kendall Hunter, another 5-8 runner whom the 49ers selected in the fourth round last year. James is similar to Hunter but slightly smaller and quicker. The 49ers won’t acknowledged this, but James’ selection signals that Hunter could take over the lead-back role at some point, with James filling in as a change-of-pace runner.
James certainly played in plenty of big games while at Oregon. He is a smart and willing pass protector, but at only 5-8, 190 pounds it remains to be seen whether he can be effective against NFL linebackers and defensive ends. James also can return punts. He did that 15 times last season and returned one for a touchdown. The 49ers’ primary return man, Ted Ginn, is signed for one year.
ROUND 4: JOE LOONEY, G, Wake Forest
Looney (6-3, 309) is a big-bodied, strong-handed guard who will step into the competition at right guard. Looney had a Lisfranc (foot) fracture at the Senior Bowl, but he said he’s been cleared to run and jump for two weeks now. He also has some experience at center having played there at the Senior Bowl. The 49ers don’t have a backup to starting center Jonathan Goodwin.
ROUND 5: DARIUS FLEMING, OLB, Notre Dame
The 49ers had only three outside linebackers—Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith—on the 53-man roster last year and Fleming (6-2, 245) rounds out the position. His immediate role may be on special teams. But he has the pin-back-the-ears pass-rush ability to be a specialist on third down.
ROUND 6: TRENTON ROBINSON, S, Michigan State
When Robinson (5-10, 195) arrived at Michigan State, he thought he’d be a cornerback. Coaches switched him to safety as a freshman, and his coverage ability separated him from other free safeties in the conference. Robinson had four interceptions in each of the past two seasons, and the 49ers envision him as a possible heir to Dashon Goldson—a likely free agent next year—at free safety.
ROUND 6: JASON SLOWEY, C, Western Oregon
Slowey (6-3, 303) dominated the competition at Division II Western Oregon, where he played left tackle. He’ll slide inside, likely to center, with the 49ers. Slowey is a weight-room phenomenon—he once bench-pressed 225 pounds 45 times—who has excelled in the shot put and discus. He’s raw, but over time could be molded into a starter.
ROUND 7: CAM JOHNSON, OLB, Virginia
Johnson (6-4, 268) played right end the last two seasons. But he also has experience as a stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 defense—his future role with the 49ers—after playing for former Virginia coach Al Groh in 2008 and 2009. Johnson has nice size and has shown excellent quickness in spurts for the Cavaliers. The 49ers will look for better consistency from him as a rookie.