Instant Analysis: AJ Jenkins Traded for Jonathan Baldwin

Eric Hardter


Nothing gets the dynasty juices flowing like hearing a pair of former first round picks just got traded!  Granted, when you realize it was the disappointing, dare I say “bust-worthy” duo of receivers AJ Jenkins and Jonathan Baldwin, you more than likely sighed and got back to something more interesting, such as watching paint dry.  However, regardless of the uninspiring nature of this deal, that’s a shortsighted approach – trades, cuts and waiver acquisitions always produce some kind of ripple effect, and DLF is on the scene to detail it for you.  Let’s start with the principles involved:

Jonathan Baldwin, WR SF

Famously (or infamously, depending on your level of cynicism) compared to the Falcons’ Julio Jones by wide receiver scout extraordinaire Bill Belichick, Baldwin hasn’t come anywhere near the production of his fellow 2011 first round pick.  In fact, the only boon he might’ve provided your starting lineup over the past two years is if you participated in a point-per-locker room brawl league.  Suffice it to say, with a mere 41 receptions, 579 yards and two touchdowns across 26 career games, the return upon investment hasn’t been good.

Regardless, this fresh start can, and should be construed as a good thing for Baldwin’s flagging career.  Though he’s leaving the cozy confines of Andy Reid’s pass-wacky scheme, moving to a high-level offense featuring the cannon-armed Colin Kaepernick is a clear upgrade in terms of surrounding talent.  Perhaps more importantly, San Francisco’s options at the WR2 position opposite Anquan Boldin are even weaker than the competition Baldwin would’ve faced in Kansas City.  Head coach and noted disciplinarian Jim Harbaugh has already shown an ability to get the most out of his players, and if anyone can mold a 6’4”, 230-pound receiver with 4.50-second speed in the 40-yard dash into something useful, it’s him.  If you’re a believer, now’s the time to buy low.

AJ Jenkins, WR KC

The news isn’t quite so rosy on the Jenkins front.  After what essentially amounted to a “redshirt” freshman campaign in 2012, Jenkins was rumored to be training hard with Kaepernick during the off-season, and an increase in production was expected.  When star receiver Michael Crabtree went down for the season with an Achilles’ tear, it appeared the stars were aligning for a sophomore-year vault into fantasy relevance.

Unfortunately, Jenkins’ 2013 preseason has been an unmitigated disaster.  He caught only one pass over the course of the 49ers’ first two games, and promptly fumbled it away.  Sadly, this appears to be a metaphor for his short career thus far.

Owners hoping Jenkins will find salvation with the Chiefs need to recalibrate their expectations.  The trio of Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster represent stiffer competition than what Jenkins was facing in San Francisco, and quarterback Alex Smith’s weak arm is a poor fit for Jenkins’ 4.41-second 40-yard dash speed.  Barring something unforeseen, it’s safe to expect another season of statistical melancholy.

Vernon Davis, TE SF and Anquan Boldin, WR SF

Davis and Boldin remain locked and loaded as the likely top two targets in the passing game.  Their values remain unchanged.

Vance McDonald, TE SF, Austin Collie, WR SF and Kyle Williams, WR SF

As little as Baldwin has proven at the NFL level, Jenkins has done even less.  This means each and every player vying for a role in the passing game behind Davis and Boldin now have a slightly larger hill to climb.  Williams is likely to see the most direct competition, as Baldwin has played mostly as an outside receiver during his career.  Collie, as the potential slot receiver (provided he maintains his health and survives roster cuts), might lose some looks in two-receiver sets, but should be largely unaffected when the ‘Niners spread the offense out.  McDonald, whose budding fantasy potential I detailed here, would only be affected if Harbaugh decides his overall talent would be better used in multiple receiver sets as opposed to multiple tight end sets.

Colin Kaepernick, QB SF

Swapping a player devoid of regular season stats for one who has shown at least a modest amount of ability can only be seen as a positive for the 49ers’ signal caller.

The 49ers’ Run Game

As fellow DLF’er Tim Stafford astutely pointed out to me, running backs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James (and to a lesser extent, Kaepernick) might be the hidden beneficiaries of this trade.  As previously mentioned, compared to the slight Jenkins, Baldwin is a relative mountain of a man.  He’s proven the ability to be an asset in the run blocking game, which can only serve to benefit San Francisco’s already stout rushing attack.  Coupled with the addition of Boldin, a physical presence in his own right, and the league’s best offensive line, the 49ers might have the best overall run blocking in the game.

Michael Crabtree, WR SF

Provided he can return to form, Crabtree will return as the top option in the passing game in 2014.

Alex Smith, QB KC

As I don’t anticipate Jenkins seeing meaningful playing time, his arrival does little to nothing for Smith’s value.  The loss of Baldwin hurts slightly, but he was already in a dogfight with the afore-mentioned Avery for a starting gig.  Smith’s stock remains largely unchanged.

Donnie Avery, WR KC

Avery is now set to start opposite Bowe in two receiver sets.  His value receives a slight bump, but in the grand scheme of things he’s nothing more than a desperation play.  Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles remain likely to be the top three options in the passing game.

Dwayne Bowe, WR KC and Dexter McCluster, WR KC

Similar to Davis and Boldin above, this trade does little to nothing to affect Bowe and McCluster.  Bowe remains the team’s best receiver, and McCluster was never anything more than a slot receiver and erstwhile gadget player.

Jamaal Charles, RB KC

While the loss of Baldwin’s blocking abilities hurts somewhat, Charles doesn’t see a marked change in value.  He’s still expected to be a huge part of the passing game, and Baldwin’s departure could even mean a slight uptick in targets.


Ironically enough, this wasn’t even the most impactful trade between the Chiefs and the 49ers this off-season.  However, it would nevertheless be disingenuous to say there’s zero fallout from a fantasy perspective.  Even if the potential shifts in value described above are only slight, every little bit matters in the subtle game of dynasty football.

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eric hardter