San Francisco 49ers: Is Redshirting Top Draft Picks a Dumb Idea?

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2012

AJ Jenkins
AJ JenkinsThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are the only team in the NFL that has not played either their first- or second round-draft draft picks in any NFL games this year.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Every team in the NFL has played either its first-round or second-round picks from last April's draft.

Except for the 49ers.

The only reason the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't played guard David DeCasro is because of ACL and MCL injuries he incurred during preseason, but what's the 49ers excuse for not playing LaMichael James and A.J. Jenkins?

They are not injured and have been used in practice throughout the season.  Still, they haven't seen a minute of a playing time since preseason.  

Could they have helped in last week's loss against the St. Louis Rams?  It's possible, especially with speedy running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Kyle Williams out for the season, both lost (via due to injuries incurred on the same play two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints.

So if Jenkins and James are available in practice, why haven't they been called up to play?  Reps are a crucial part of a rookie's development, and it's not like the 49ers offense has been lighting it up as of late.  In the past two games, the 49ers have averaged just 15 points per game (via on offense.  Subtract the field goals, and that figure looks even worse. 

The 49ers appeared to add "speed" to their offense when they drafted Jenkins and James, but that has yet to appear.  It's difficult to say whether the two haven't played because Harbaugh's experimenting with some sort of collegiate "redshirt" principle, where players sit out for a year, or because they aren't performing well in practice.

But this much is clear:  If James and Jenkins can contribute anything in an actual game, now is the time to play them, especially now that another 49ers receiver, Mario Manningham, may have reinjured his shoulder in their loss to the Rams.  That leaves just Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and the often injured Ted Ginn, Jr. to line up as receivers.  

Ginn must cover punt and kickoff return duties full time now that Kyle Williams is out, so activating Jenkins seems like a must.

But if Jim Harbaugh is trying to apply collegiate concepts at the pro level—which he seems intent on doing—then fans can only hope his redshirting principle doesn't end up looking like that botched zone-read pitch from last Sunday's game.  

We all know how that turned out...