|Jenkins is under contract and Banks is still hoping to catch on with a team this summer. (Getty Images/AP)|
On the day when the 49ers inked A.J. Jenkins, their only remaining unsigned draft pick, Brian Banks left Santa Clara without a contract. The former, the team's first-rounder in April, is a wide receiver expected to upgrade a decidedly mediocre downfield passing game. The latter, recently exonerated on rape charges that landed him in prision for five years, is finally getting the chance to chase his NFL dreams.
Jenkins, who signed a four-year deal worth $6.9 million, was taken 30th overall in the NFL Draft and was the fourth wideout to go off the board after Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright. The former Illinois star earned first-team Big 10 honors last season after registering 90 receptions for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns. But the first six weeks of Jenkins' professional career can kindly be described as rocky. While some first-round picks assimilate quickly to life in the NFL, Jenkins has struggled.
During the 49ers' recent OTAs, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat's Grant Cohn described the rookie as "one of the worst wide receivers on the field for most of minicamp," adding "He had trouble staying on his feet all three days, which was odd considering it was a non-contact minicamp."
The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows echoed many of Cohn's concerns. "Jenkins had a rough spring. He had a hard time staying on his feet, fighting for position and often - very often -- was on the ground after the play. And this was in non-contact practices."
As Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar warns, it's too early to jump to conclusions (let's not call Jenkins the next Rashaun Woods just yet) but the reports are disturbing nonetheless. Luckily, coach Jim Harbaugh is exceedingly optimistic about Jenkins' prospects.
"He's very into it, very gung-ho," the coach said earlier this month. "Very fast — fast, fast. Excellent hands. He's got the ability to get in and out of cuts with his foot speed and turn over. He doesn't get stuck at the top of routes, he's able to get out of those cuts. He's right on track. A.J. Jenkins is going to be just fine."
Banks, meanwhile, wrapped up his three-day workout with the 49ers and left town without a contract. The development wasn't a complete surprise; he's still not in top form after a decade away from the game (For an idea of this athleticism, however, consider this: at 6-2 and 239 pounds, he ran a 4.77 40 earlier this month).
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who recruited Banks out of high school, put it best recently: "He deserved a chance," he said. "This is a guy who deserved it. This is such a great illustration about not giving up, about competing for what you want and just not letting the circumstances or surroundings dictate what's gonna happen in your life."
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