Once upon a time, the 49ers almost won a NFC Championship game in which only one of their WRs caught a pass. He only caught one. Injuries had taken their toll, and the offense just wasn't clicking that game. This story really is more of a testament to how good the defense was last year than how crappy the receiving corps was. They kept us in that game all sorts.
But this story does serve as a good contrast to this year's corps. The plan all offseason was to upgrade at the position, and they have. Quite a bit so, in fact. Though not all of it has come from outside players. Michael Crabtree is having a career year, actually. He has 39 receptions for 440 yards and 3 TDs. That's good for a sweet 11.3 yard average and a cool 55 yards per game. His best stat, though? 176 yards after the catch. That was his strong suit in college and it is carrying over. From an eyeball test perspective, I think Crabs is clearly the best WR on the team. He has been much better this year at creating separation downfield and exploiting that separation on short to medium depth passes when he has the ball in his hands.
Our number two guy has got to be Mario Manningham - recent injury bug notwithstanding. He has 28 catches for 278 yards and 1 TD with a solid 9.9 yard average. I have particularly enjoyed his speed this season. Anytime the offense can get him on an end-around play in which he rushes the ball to the outside, it usually makes a nice game. He moves through a crowd well and can really pick up steam. I would like to see him be a bit more consistent in the second half, but so far the signing has worked out really well.
The signing that was maybe a slight risk (though not really from a monetary standpoint) but that has paid off really well has been Randy Moss. So far Moss only has 13 catches, but has 235 yards on those receptions for an outstanding 18.1 yard average. Throw in 2 TDs to boot, and I am a happy camper. I also think that Moss' second half has the potential to be even bigger. The impression that I get is that Jim Harbaugh has explained to Moss that due to his time off, he will be eased into the starting rotation. I bet he gets more and more playtime as the season progresses. To his credit, Moss has been an outstanding leader for this team, accepting his role magnanimously. And it really shows. When he scored his last TD, the entire team was pumped for such an amazing accomplishment.
To round out our bunch, we have Kyle Williams (10 receptions for 128 yards, 1 TD, and a 12.8 yard average) and Ted Ginn Jr. (with just one reception). Both have been relegated to special team status - particularly due to injuries. Kyle had a nice couple of showings this season, but his big weakness is still the same: he doesn't have the size for creating deep separation. The speed is there, and so are the hands for the most part. I think he can contribute for this team, but isn't anywhere near the talent level of the top three. That said, I love his character. He has rebounded from his NFC Championship fumbles with aplomb, and I salute him for that.