Head coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media following the first-round selection of Illinois WR
“By now you know we’ve picked A.J. Jenkins. A.J.’s real excited about the pick. Talked to him on the phone. We’re really excited about the pick. Lot of great traits. I think he’s a heck of a football player. Fast. We’ve got him 4.31 on the card from Indy. He’s got big hands, 9 and a half hands. Strong, tough player. Had a lot of catches, had a great season this past year. Everything lined up. I can give you this insight: that [General Manager] Trent Baalke last night put his name in an envelope and said ‘this is who we’re going to pick.’ We all agreed on it and it held true. That was the guy we wanted. That was the highest player on our board when the time came to pick him. We’re very excited about the pick.”
Is this the guy Trent was talking about when he talked to us?
“You’ll have to ask Trent that.”
But was he on him for awhile? Were you guys thinking for a couple days now, or maybe even a week, that this would be the guy you would want?
“Definitely somebody we had targeted. Never know how the board is going to go, how the round is going to go. But in this case, Trent, all our scouts had the board really nailed this year. It went off the way that we anticipated it. I give Trent a lot of credit, and all of our scouts a lot of credit. They really had the first round surmised. This is the guy we targeted and wanted to get.”
A.J. was saying that he did pretty well on the football quiz you gave him during his visit. What was it like meeting him, what was that about?
“It was a great visit when A.J. came in. Everybody really enjoyed being around him. We had a very nice lunch, had a nice meeting on football. I gave him the quiz and he scored very well. I won’t compare him to any other players, but he scored very well. He’s a bright guy. A bright football guy. Gold helmet guy. Somebody that we’re really pleased to have.”
There were a couple other wide receivers who maybe were higher consensus picks. What drew you to A.J. as a receiver?
“Like I said, the speed. Very fluid in his routes. Very good route runner. I think somebody who can get separation the way he runs routes. I love the big hands. I love the strong, tough guy.”
Does he fit a certain position, more than another? Is he a slot guy more than a flanker?
“I think he’s going to be very versatile. We probably would start him out at one position and teach him that. Then we’ll transition with him. He’s a very smart guy, very bright guy. I don’t think it will be a problem for him to pick up and learn multiple positions.”
You don’t like talking about the guys you didn’t take, but TE Coby Fleener, obviously was there. Was there a temptation on your part or in the room to say let’s take a look at Fleener there?
“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of very good football players in this draft. We feel like we made the pick that was best for us at that time. It’s just so hard to compare them to other players in the draft. They’re all good. Coby’s a very good player. A.J.’s a very good player. You could say that about so many players in the draft.”
To be clear, you’re the one that called him? Because A.J. doesn’t remember who called him.
“He was very excited. Trent talked to him first and then I got on the phone afterwards.”
Did you work him out when he was here, Jim? Did you throw passes to him?
How far has your receiving corps come in a matter of a month, adding
“Very excited about that. I think there are great players for a guy like A.J. to be mentored by and learn from, and also to compete with. I really look forward to watching that all play out. It’s such an exciting time right now. I mentioned talking to A.J. earlier, and the excitement he has. It kind of reminds me of that movie Shawshank Redemption. Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding is on that bus getting ready to go meet his friend. The excitement he feels at the beginning of a journey whose outcome is uncertain. That’s how I think these youngsters feel. They went into this day not knowing what their future was and now it’s just beginning. And you do feel that excitement, like you can’t sit still or hold a thought in your head. To a large extent, that’s how we feel as an organization. Very excited about this.”
Was he running pro-style routes at Illinois? Is this a guy you could see step right in and run your offense?
“Definitely will have the license to do that and he has the ability to do that. He’ll compete for playing time to find his role, as will the other players on our football team.”
Would you say he’s advanced…
“I think he’s good, I think he’s good. Like I said, he’s got a lot of ability. The speed, the hands, the route running ability, competitive nature. I think he’s going to do just fine.”
He didn’t have a great throwing offense at Illinois during his career, how did he respond to that? A lot of receivers can get frustrated. How did he respond to that? Explain why he’s a gold helmet guy.
“First of all, I’m not going to agree with you that they didn’t have a great throwing offense at Illinois. I would have to slight my good friend [Illinois QB] Nathan Scheelhaase. I wouldn’t do that. So what was the question?”
Some receivers in a non-explosive throwing game… they were not known for having a potent passing attack, but…
“He excelled. He caught 90 balls, well over 1,000 yards.”
What made him a gold helmet guy?
“Talent, character, smart guy, just the kind of person he is. There’s a lot of qualities that make up (a gold helmet guy). Wired right, you heard me say that before. Competitive, tough, those are the three biggest ones.”
You mentioned he got a 4.31 (40-yard dash time), was that at his pro day?
“That’s what we have on the card from Indy. His combine.”
Did you go to his pro day?
“No. We watched it on film, his pro day.”
When the Vikings traded up to 29, was there any anxiety that they might take him ahead of you when they got Harrison Smith?
“No, no. We were actually talking with Minnesota as well. They had called us.”
Are there any standard questions on your quiz for potential players?
Do you reuse them or do you mix them up with each player who comes in here?
“It’s been the same test.”
Will you share some?
“General football questions. Questions about the rules, coverages, technical and also football trivia. Other sports trivia, kind of a ‘gym rat’ type of test to see if a guy follows sports and knows the game.”
You addressed it in free agency and now with your first round pick. How much of a need was explosive receiving. How much did you want to address that?
“How much? It’s a big part of the game. We’re glad we were able to get somebody who’s explosive and talented, tough guy, smart guy like A.J. I don’t think going into this draft there was a glaring need that we felt like we had to address, and therefore we felt like taking the best player that was on our board in that situation would be the way to go and how it would ultimately end up going. Had predicted that, but glad that it went that way. Glad we have A.J.”
Was there a situation where A.J. was high in the front office’s opinion and then the combine comes, he runs that fast time and he’s elevated a little bit more, and more on your radar at that point?
“It’s all a process. There’s many factors that go into it. It’s a jigsaw of factors. It’s a process of putting it all together – the combine, the workouts. The biggest thing is what they do on their college tape. How they perform as a football player. That’s the most striking thing. There’s a lot of factors that weigh into it.”
For QB Andrew Luck to go to one of your former teams, is that special to see? To actually see him up there as the number one pick finally?
“It was. I must say that it was. I was happy for Andrew. I was happy that was happening to him. I was happy for the Luck family, that that was happening to their family. Really spent three years coaching Andrew and another year recruiting him, four years, watching Andrew grow to what he is now. I’m thrilled for him and his family, that that was happening to him.”
You already have three pretty accomplished wide receivers on the roster, with A.J. coming in, I know you’re mantra is always the competition. What do you expect A.J.’s arrival to mean for the other three veterans and for A.J. himself, mixing in to that group?
“The biggest thing I would say is that could be said for every position on our football team. That no matter what position we picked in the first round or what position we pick in the second round, and the third, the fourth, etc., that’s the reality of it. For a guy coming in to a position group on our football team, and for guys that are on our team at those position groups. We’ve got very good players already and very competitive players. I think anybody that comes in as a rookie has got to understand that now it’s real real. It’s going to get real fast, especially on our football team, because it will be competitive. But it’s not self-centered. Guys aren’t self-centered. It’s competitive without being self-centered. Everybody understands that the only way we win is as a team. That will make us stronger.”
Given the way you guys project the draft as it’s going along, at what point did you either know or feel very strongly that you were going to get him?
“The pick before us, Baltimore. We didn’t know what Baltimore would do. I think when Minnesota came up and made the trade with Baltimore, ‘Hey by the way, who you taking here?’ Then we knew it wasn’t going to be A.J. and we’d have our pick at 30. Really, up until that point you don’t know for sure.”
“We would have, had we not had our guy not be there. That’s something we told Minnesota.”