Last week we kicked off our look back at the decade that was by assessing the 49ers' five biggest draft disappointments and the five best draft choices. There are some sites putting together ballots for every single position to determine an all-decade team. Initially I was going to do that, but I've decided to go more for positions where there is some question about it, and where the debate is a bit more intriguing.
For example, at quarterback, Jeff Garcia was the 49ers best QB this decade. I don't even think you can include other quarterbacks in the debate. Is somebody really going to argue Tim Rattay, Alex Smith, or Shaun Hill was better this decade? The same holds true at the #1 wide receiver spot. Even if you didn't like the man, Terrell Owens was the best 49ers wide receiver this past decade and I can't think of any remotely reasonable argument otherwise. From 2000-2003, TO had 370 receptions, 5,265 receiving yards, and 51 TDs. Nobody comes close to that.
However, that doesn't mean we can't debate who was the second best wide receiver for the 49ers this past decade. This isn't a question of who would be the best #2 receiver on a team. The question is simply, after TO, who was the best 49ers wide receiver this decade? And the response to that leaves a fairly motley list. It does include one season of Jerry Rice as a bit of a statistical baseline.
After the jump we run through the candidates...
Tai Streets (2000-2003): 166 receptions, 1,983 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns
Streets was a 6th round pick out of MIchigan in 1999, and would have gone in the second or third round had he not blown out his Achilles a few weeks before the draft in a pick-up basketball game. Once Streets recovered from the injury, the 49ers ended up with a fairly decent receiver. He played sparingly in 1999, but from 2000-2003 he put up very serviceable numbers. Not superstar numbers, but certainly serviceable. In 2002, he finished with 72 receptions and proved to be a very solid second banana to Terrell Owens. Throw in a steadily improving Eric Johnson (who would blow up 2 years later), and the 49ers had some decent receivers (JJ Stokes still stunk it up).
Arnaz Battle (2003-2009): 178 receptions, 2,150 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Battle gets a lot of crap, but given the context of his career with the 49ers (likely finished after this past season), he was a decent wide receiver to have. His best season came in 2006 when he snagged 59 balls for 686 yards and 3 touchdowns. I honestly think Battle was one guy who maximized his ability as a wide receiver. He was never going to be a superstar, but he was a very decent receiver for some awful teams. And given the 49ers punt return troubles this season, folks might have forgotten that Battle was actually a decent punt returner for a couple years.
J.J. Stokes (2000-2002): 116 receptions, 1,441 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Given that the 49ers moved up in the draft to grab JJ Stokes, it's easy for 49ers fans to be disappointed in his production. He definitely would have made a top 5 draft bust list of the 90s. However, during this past decade he was statistically the #3 or #4 receiver (depending on your thoughts on Brandon Lloyd). His best season came in 2001 when he finished with 54 receptions for 585 yards and 7 touchdowns. It's a shame he could never capitalize on his size and potential.
Brandon Lloyd (2003-2005): 105 receptions, 1,510 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns
There are definitely not a lot of 49ers fans who care for Brandon Lloyd. Another guy with talent who really couldn't do much with it during his time in San Francisco. At this point he's mostly remembered for this fine maneuver. His best season (as a 49er AND as a pro) was his last with the team (2005), when he finished with 48 catches for 733 yards and 5 touchdowns. Considering how awful that 2005 team was (Lloyd was easily their leading receiver), those numbers might be a small miracle.
Cedrick Wilson (2001-2004): 97 receptions, 1,203 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
As you can see, we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for this group. Wilson was a decent enough receiver for the 49ers, and during his best year (2004), he was arguably their best wide receiver, leading their WRs in catches and yards. Wilson finished that season with 47 catches for 641 yards and 3 touchdowns. Eric Johnson was the leading overall receiver that year.
Isaac Bruce (2008-2009): 82 receptions, 1,099 yards, 7 touchdowns
In two seasons (or really one and a half since he sat out much of the second half of this season), Bruce put together decent numbers. In 2008 he was the team's leading receiver with 61 catches for 835 yards, which tied Frank Gore for the most receptions in a season since 2004, and was the most yards since TO in 2003. He was JTO/Shaun Hill's go-to guy for much of 2008 and showed he still had a trick or two up his sleeve. This past season started slowly and never really got going before he stepped aside to let the young receivers step up.
Jerry Rice (2000): 75 receptions, 805 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
This was Rice's final season with the 49ers and he showed he still had something in the tank. He was officially the #2 man behind TO at this point, but he put together a #2 season we would love to see from Josh Morgan. I was concerned including Rice would lead to a skewed result, but I figure what the heck. Everybody here can decide for themselves who they think was the second best receiver this decade.