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Baalke Encouraged by 2012 Draft Class

Posted Feb 21, 2013

Playing time was hard to come by for the San Francisco 49ers’ 2012 draft class.

INDIANAPOLIS – Playing time was hard to come by for members of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2012 draft class. Trent Baalke, however, is not discouraged.

The San Francisco 49ers General Manager reasoned it was hard to find a role on a division and conference championship club.

In doing so, Baalke recalled an old adage from one of his former associates; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

“If you’re getting a ton of production and a lot of guys making your team from your draft class, you’re probably not in position to play in the Super Bowl,” Baalke shared. “Maybe there is something to that, I don’t know, but we feel very good about the class.

“If you look at the players we drafted and the positions we drafted them in, they were coming into some loaded depth at certain positions.”

Even so, Baalke made it clear at the opening day of the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine that he’s still confident about last year’s draft class which began first with the selection of first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.

The No. 30 overall selection in last year’s draft did not catch any passes in his rookie season, but Baalke is not down on the former Illinois product by any means.

The same can be said for the entire draft class, a group that saw second-round running back LaMichael James stand out late in the season to earn the greatest role among the bunch. James rushed 27 times for 125 yards in four regular season games and scored his first rushing touchdown in the NFC title game win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“We feel very good about A.J. We feel very good about LaMichael James,” Baalke said on Thursday. “We feel good about that group of guys.”

Players like fourth-round pick Joe Looney also progressed a great deal despite being inactive for every regular season and postseason game.

“Joe Looney came in off an injury into an offensive line that's a pretty good group,” Baalke noted. “We weren't expecting a ton of production, to be honest with you. Did we did get what we expected? You know, that's yet to be determined. There are a lot of years left in those guys' playing careers.”

As for Jenkins, Baalke said he wanted to see “production” from his young wide receiver.

Baalke also believes the young wideout has the ability to do it. The 49ers GM said Jenkins is on his way to Atlanta to train with fellow wide receivers and starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“A.J.’s a young man that has worked awfully hard,” Baalke noted. “I believe he’s either in Atlanta right now or on his way to Atlanta. They’re going to at it this offseason.”

It’s perfect timing according to Baalke.

“The biggest growth for players is between year one and year two,” the GM said. “We expect that’s going to happen with A.J. just as we do with all our young players.”