Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
Yesterday, I put together a 90-in-90 breakdown of new 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin. It turned out timely, given the news of Michael Crabtree's Achilles tear. Given how much more important the wide receiver position battle is in light of the injury, I figured I'd continue with a returning wide receiver in Kyle Williams.
It has been a bit of a roller coaster for Williams since the 49ers selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He had one reception in five games as a rookie. His second season he had 20 receptions for 241 yards in 13 games, and seemed to be making strides. Unfortunately, his 2011 season was capped by his crucial fumble and muffed punt in the NFC Championship Game. While many things cost the 49ers that game, it was not surprising that most people latched onto Williams as the scape goat.
Williams returned in 2012 sounding extremely motivated to overcome the mistakes in the NFC Championship Game. He struggled out of the gate with only two receptions in the first four games. Over the next six games he had at least one reception in every game, totaling 12 receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't anything spectacular, but he did appear to be taking a small step forward.
Unfortunately, his season ended on Nov. 25 when he suffered a torn ACL. He was placed on injured reserve, and has since spent the offseason rehabbing back. Last week, Williams posted a picture on Instagram indicating he had been given the green light from his doctor. Williams has said he will be ready by the start of training camp, and given Crabtree's injury, that's pretty important.
Why he could improve in 2013
Williams has flashed signs from time to time, but he's never quite broken out. He seemed to work well with Colin Kaepernick, but we never saw substantial production between the two. A full training camp with Kap could help him build on some strong showings he had before the ACL injury. The absence of Crabtree will open the door for more snaps for Williams throughout camp, and then potentially well into the regular season. He has as good a chance as any of their wide receivers of breaking through in 2013.
Why he could regress in 2013
Obviously the injury could get in the way, but even if he is 100%, the 49ers have added some talented receivers over the last two years. He should make the roster, but with 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and 2013 fourth-round pick Quinton Patton coming in to camp, Williams will be pushed for snaps and targets. And while Williams has shown flashes of talent over the last three years, the breakout has not happened yet. Maybe it will happen this year, but it's possible he gets lapped by Jenkins and Patton. That would not necessarily be the worst thing if it means Jenkins and Patton stepped up their game, but Williams faces a tough test.
Odds of making the roster
Prior to Crabtree's injury, Williams was somewhere between lock and strong bubble. He was going to make it barring some monster performances by the rest of the wide receivers down the depth chart. The loss of Crabtree just about locks in his roster spot. The question will be where he ends up emerging among the many 49ers wide receivers. If the 49ers find success in the passing game, it will be in part because one of the young wide receivers emerges as a legit threat. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will be important cogs, but that third receiving threat will be the one to watch. Will it be Kyle Williams?