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April 29, 2012
Draft notes: 49ers to get a close look at Jenkins' alternatives


Any 49ers fans who feel their team reached for Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins (pick No. 30) in the first round likely will get a good look at the alternatives this season. Five wide receivers were taken in the second round, and the 49ers will face the five teams that chose them this year.

Appalachian State's Brian Quick went to the Rams (No. 33), Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill is with the Jets (No. 43), South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey was taken by the Bears (No. 45), Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles went to the Lions (No. 54) and LSU's Reuben Randle landed with the Giants (No. 63) and will be Mario Manningham's replacement. The Rams also chose Wake Forest's Chris Givens at the top of the fourth round (No. 96).

Before the draft, I wrote that West Virginia's Bruce Irvin was a possibility to the 49ers in the first round. (You collectively scoffed). It turns out that notion only was ludicrous because the Seahawks chose Irvin 15 picks earlier. It also turns out that the 49ers flew an assistant cross country to work out Irvin a mere two days before the draft, according to CBS Sports.com.

Did Trent Baalke have a second magic envelope? He'll never tell. But the 49ers obviously felt they had to augment their pass rush after getting away with just three outside linebackers last season. (Actually, it's more like two; Aldon Smith hardly played any outside linebacker last year). The position was the only one at which the 49ers doubled up. They took Darius Fleming in the fifth round and Cam Johnson in the seventh.

Speaking of Johnson, he may be the most intriguing pick. Baalke noted that NFLN analyst Mike Mayock had Johnson rated among the Top 100 picks. So why did he fall? Teams may have been concerned that Johnson has a sickle cell trait - revealed by college coach Mike London last year - that affects blood hemoglobin and can cause anemia in high stress conditions, such as playing football.

The rap on Johnson has been that he's great on first and second downs but flags by third down. At times he looks like a first-day draft pick. At others he fades into the background. If the 49ers use Johnson as part of a rotation, it seems like it would minimize that condition and perhaps the 49ers have a steal in the seventh.

The team's sixth round looks like it could pay future dividends. Yes, Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson is small. But he's got excellent ball skills (eight interceptions the last two years) and he's physical. He's a guy who will contribute right away on special teams, perhaps as a gunner. And he could inherit the nickel safety role played by Reggie Smith last year. He may even turn out to be the heir to starter Dashon Goldson, who has been difficult to sign to a long-term deal.

The other sixth rounder, offensive lineman Jason Slowey, may need a year to refine his craft. Not only did he play against Division II opponents, he's likely moving from left tackle to center. But he seems to have excellent materials to mold. He's powerful and athletic (he ran his 40-yard dash in 5.06 seconds at his pro day and also excelled at shot put and discus in track and field) and he has that butt-kicker mentality coaches want in interior linemen. Jonathan Goodwin is signed through the 2013 season. Slowey could be his heir.

I asked CBS Sports' Rob Rang if any names from the 49ers' undrafted free-agent list jumped out at him. The first one that did so: Running back Jewel Hampton from Southern Illinois. The bowling ball-shaped Hampton began his college career at Iowa and was seen as a worthy heir to Shonn Greene after scoring seven touchdowns as a freshman. But he tore his right ACL in 2009 and his left in 2010 (sound familiar, 49ers fans?), and he eventually transferred to Southern Illinois.

It seems as if Hampton has fully recovered. He led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 17 touchdowns and 1,121 rushing yards last season. The 5-9, 218 pounder also ran his 40-yard dash at his pro day at under 4.5 seconds and cranked out 26 repetitions of 225 pounds at the combine, which is excellent for a running back.

Rang also said that all three of the Stanford UDFAs, safety Michael Thomas, receiver Chris Owusu, and defensive lineman Matt Masifilo stood out to him.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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