Like most fans many of us are eager to see our new "toys" from the 2012 NFL Draft in action as soon as possible. The 49ers spent high picks on guys such as A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, so we are looking for instant gratification for our investment.
Still, the team is deep at both the RB and WR position and other game-day needs exist, such as backups at key positions without such depth. For this reason I think it's possible, and even likely that the 49ers do not dress either of their first two draft-picks for the contest against Green Bay this week.
In Jenkins' case, keep in mind that the 49ers rarely used even three wide receivers in 2011, including when Joshua Morgan and Braylon Edwards were both healthy and on the squad. It's not their identity to spread the field and throw the ball around.
Granted there are new weapons in the fold this year and one could argue that the reason the passing game was less prevalent in 2011 was due to lack of talent at the WR position, I don't see Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman changing their philosophy drastically.
Even if Ted Ginn is inactive due to injury (which looks more and more possible as Ginn did not participate in practice Wednesday), his primary role is as kickoff and punt returner...roles that will be filled by players other than Jenkins.
There would also be four WRs at Greg Roman's disposal, even with the absence of Ginn. Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are no slouches as a corps or receivers. Considering the 49ers use two tight ends far more than they use three or more WRs, I think that four is plenty.
Lastly, perhaps an omen for Jenkins, he was wearing a Packers jersey as a member of the scout team as of writing this post on Wednesday. These players don't get as much or any practice with the actual game-plan being installed during the week leading up to a contest.
In James' case, the potential absence of Brandon Jacobs (also did not practice Wed.) would seem to suggest there is room for another RB...but I don't see it that way. Jacobs was brought in to be insurance for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter over the course of a long NFL season. The team needs a guy who can run inside and help carry the load, a trusted veteran, etc.
They were also looking for a boost in short-yardage situations...something James would not provide in Jacobs' absence. My guess is that Gore or even Anthony Dixon would handle those scenarios when they arise. Again, I think that three RBs is plenty, especially considering that the 49ers suited-up the same aforementioned three backs in 2011 for the entire season, using Hunter as the bell-cow when Gore was injured.
James has been getting some work as a kickoff and punt returner, but I'm not sure he's ready for the role just yet, at least not the punt return job. If Ginn is indeed too hurt to play on Sunday, expect to see Kyle Williams handle punts and some combination of Kendall Hunter, Delanie Walker, and other players back on kickoffs. I would trust James on the kickoff returns, but I don't see any other role for him that would justify deactivating another player.
Quite frankly I don't think that either player is ready for a feature role just yet. Again, the team is deep. There's no need to rush these guys on the field. Injuries and ineffectiveness by other players at their position are things that are bound to happen, and I'm sure they'll be elevated at one point or another.
Lastly, playing a team like Green Bay requires a lot of help from the secondary and linebackers. For this reason I wouldn't want to risk being short-handed in these areas when the positions that Jenkins and James play are adequately stocked with depth and their services are not needed.