49ers roster turnover: Have the wide receivers improved?

USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers are dealing with injury issues at the wide receiver position, leaving them with one starter, and a lot of other question marks. Are the 49ers in better shape now at wide receiver compared to the end of last season?

The 49ers rookies report to training camp in a week and a half, and this past weekend I started up a new series of articles titled "49ers roster turnover". I'll be going through the various position groups and considering how the roster has changed over the last 12 months. We'll take a look at the team's depth chart heading into the first preseason game last year, prior to Week 1 of the regular season, the Super Bowl and then how it currently stands. Four depth charts give us an idea of how the roster developed over the course of the year.

More roster turnover: Interior OL Outside Linebacker

Today we'll take a look at what has quickly become a controversial position: wide receiver. The wide receiver position has seen a good deal of turnover, while also dealing with various injury concerns. For the purposes of this depth chart, I'm listing Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham in a separate injured status. Manningham would be back before Crabtree, but MM's availability at training camp is up in the air, and he very well could start the season on the PUP list. Kyle Williams could be included there as well, but all indications are that he'll be back in time for the beginning of training camp, or at least shortly thereafter.

Preseason 2012 depth chart

WR: Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Joe Hastings, Nathan Palmer, Brian Tyms
WR: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., Brett Swain, Chris Owusu, Ben Hannula

Week 1 depth chart

WR: Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins
WR: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Jr.

Super Bowl depth chart

WR: Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins, Chad Hall
WR: Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr.

IR: Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham

Current depth chart

Z-WR: Anquan Boldin, Ricardo Lockette, Quinton Patton, Kassim Osgood
X-WR: Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Marlon Moore, Chuck Jacobs
Slot WR: A.J. Jenkins, Chad Hall

Injury: Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham

My, how things can change! First off, looking at that Super Bowl depth chart continues to amaze me. The 49ers had plenty of weapons elsewhere, but those wide receivers? WOW.

Looking at the current depth chart, Ricardo Lockette has received all sorts of press as Colin Kaepernick's roommate, but it remains to be seen if that will be enough to keep him ahead of Quinton Patton on the depth chart. Lockette is a guy I'll be paying particularly close attention to as training camp progresses. Obviously Jenkins and Patton are worth watching, but Lockette is the guy who seemingly has the most to do in justifying a roster spot. Jenkins and Patton are not going anywhere, but Lockette has no guarantees of anything.

Assuming Kyle Williams is healthy, he should have the initial leg up on the starting spot opposite Anquan Boldin. Jenkins and Patton will get plenty of opportunities to show their worth, but Williams has the veteran edge, along with the kind of skill set that could conceivably help him lock down a starting job. Williams is in the final year of his contract, so it will be interesting to see what he can show before free agency.

How do the 49ers look heading into training camp compared to the end of last season? In considering my own vote, I am looking at this group as being without Crabtree AND Manningham. They'll eventually be back, but for now, the wide receivers will need to produce as they currently stand.

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