After making free-agent upgrades to the wide receiving corps., the San Francisco 49ers will look for increased production from a unit that was sub-par at best in 2016.
Here is a glance at the pass catchers who are currently on the team’s roster as we enter the second week of preseason.
1. Pierre Garcon
2. Marquise Goodwin
3. Jeremy Kerley
4. Aldrick Robinson
5. Trent Taylor
6. Aaron Burbridge
7. DeAndre Smelter
8. Kendrick Bourne
9. Victor Bolden Jr.
10. DeAndre Carter
11. Louis Murphy
12. Tim Patrick
From this list, it’s evident that new head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were intent on providing the offense with as much depth and competition as possible. So far so good it would appear, as even players who were un-drafted rookies are stepping up and have begun making some noise in an all-out effort to make the final 53-man roster.
In previous years, teams were forced teams to reduce their rosters from 90 to 75 before the final two preseason games were played. Instead, now there will be only one cut-down from a 90-man roster to a 53-man following the final contests before the regular season commences.
This should allow more time for 49ers' receivers, and the team as a whole to showcase their abilities in an attempt to be one of the last 53 men standing for the 2017 campaign.
With that said, let’s take a look at what receivers should be wearing red and gold at Levi’s Stadium on September 10 against the Carolina Panthers.
“The Sure Things”
WR Pierre Garcon
WR Marquise Goodwin
It should come as no surprise that the 49ers' top two free-agent signings at receiver are virtual locks to make the team.
Garcon has been his usual reliable self since inking his deal at the start of free agency last March. He has led by example and helped his younger counterparts as they transition into the life of an NFL player. At 31, he should be the team’s leading receiver this season.
Goodwin as well will have no issues making the team as the No. 2 receiver on the depth chart. He has shown lightning quick speed and separation ability in his short time in Shanahan’s offense. He has also said that for the first time in his career he feels as though he is being properly utilized and coached. Something that was not the norm over his time with the Buffalo Bills.
“The Second Tier”
WR Jeremy Kerley
WR Aldrick Robinson
WR Trent Taylor
Kerley was the only wideout from last seasons disaster that the new regime elected to retain. They signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million free agent contract. This directly correlated to him being the team’s leading receiver in 2016, even after he was added via trade less than a week before the season began.
Robinson is another Shanahan disciple, having played for the him at stints with Washington and Atlanta. He knows the system and what the new head coach expects from his players. Not to mention with his 4.43 second 40-yard dash time, he should help in creating matchup problems with Goodwin.
As has been noted here and in many other publications, WR Trent Taylor was Kyle Shanahan’s draft crush. The one player he felt that he simply had to have. Of course rookie running back Joe Williams fits that description as well, but Taylor might have been that much more coveted. He showed some flash in the 49ers' preseason opener last Friday night in Kansas City.
“The Sixth Man”
The most pressing question here is whether or not the team will elect to enter the regular season with six receivers on the 53-man roster. If they decide to do so, I see that man being none other than undrafted rookie, WR Kendrick Bourne.
Bourne will still have a tough, uphill battle if he is to make the final cut at the end the preseason. Although after posting a line of four catches for 88 yards, and a touchdown against the Chiefs, he seemingly has catapulted himself to the top name on the list of those fighting for the possible final roster spot.
Once again, it’s still relatively early on the preseason process and the coaching staff and front office have a great deal of work left in determining the 53-man roster. With that being said I don’t see the top five receivers changing from now until the first regular season game.
That sixth spot? It’s still anyone’s game.