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San Francisco 49ers positional review: Wide receivers

The San Francisco 49ers saw some good things and some very bad things from the wide receiver position in 2012.


The wide receiver position was a big question mark this offseason, as Joshua Morgan departed for free agency, the legendary Brett Swain wasn't brought back, and Michael Crabtree still hadn't quite come into his own.

Nobody can suggest that the 49ers didn't make a concentrated effort to improve the position, of course. They signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss in free agency, and made A.J. Jenkins their first-round pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

That being said, the position turned out to be very poor last season. Their were significant injuries to both Manningham and Kyle Williams, the No. 3 wide receiver, and Jenkins rarely saw the field. When Chad Hall was introduced into the mix, we knew the 49ers were in trouble.

We're going to run through each receiver and recap their season below. Then, we'll take a brief look forward to free agency and possibly the NFL Draft.

Michael Crabtree

Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD KR YDS AVG Lng TD PR Yds Avg Lng TD
16 85 1105 69.1 13.0 49 9 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

For the first offseason since he was drafted, I don't have an ill word to say of Crabtree. I never subscribed to the "diva" talk, but I've been continually unimpressed by his play until this year. Crabtree stepped right into that No. 1 receiver role and became a reliable target for Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

As you can see above, he broke 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and he became a very solid end zone threat with nine touchdowns. Getting a receiver to hit that average yards per game of around 70-75 is the butter zone for a No. 1 guy in my opinion, and Crabtree was less than a yard short of doing so.

He can go deep, he can run any route, and he is absolutely ridiculous once he gets the football in his hands. He makes defenders miss and he has that second effort to get things done. 49ers fans should be nothing but ecstatic with Crabtree's play in 2012-13.

Mario Manningham

Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD KR YDS AVG Lng TD PR Yds Avg Lng TD
12 42 449 37.4 10.7 40 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The 49ers received an upgrade at the wide receiver position when they let Joshua Morgan sign with the Washington Redskins and made an addition in the form of Mario Manningham, formerly with the New York Giants.

Unfortunately, Manningham was unable to produce as much as Morgan did before he left. That isn't to say that he was bad on the field or anything like that. He just dealt with injuries throughout the season, eventually getting placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL and PCL in the Week 16 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

When he was actually on the field though, he produced. More accurately, when the 49ers were into passing the ball, Manningham made some great things happen. It seemed like every one of his receptions were at the sideline, taking up a decent chunk of yardage, or near the line of scrimmage, which he'd then take for big yardage.

Manningham is possibly better than Crabtree with the football in his hands. He has more awareness than any receiver I've ever seen when it comes to his surroundings and which direction he should go. Manningham isn't the fastest receiver on the field, but he's great at making people miss, and that showed in limited capacity in 2012.

Kyle Williams

Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD KR YDS AVG Lng TD PR Yds Avg Lng TD
11 14 212 19.3 15.1 57 1 13 353 27.2 94 0 0 52 13.0 20 0

Williams took the field in 2012 with the intention of changing the fans' perception of him. Rather, he wanted redemption for his mistakes in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, even though us rational fans know that he didn't need it.

Unfortunately, his season was cut short, once again, by injuries. He was banged up a little throughout the season, but he was showing some good stuff on kick returns and had decent yardage when he was catching the football. Like Crabtree and Manningham, Williams looked good with the football in his hands.

Going forward, I see no reason to get rid of Williams. He's a low-risk guy who still has plenty of chances to show he's worth the 49ers' time.

Randy Moss

Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD KR YDS AVG Lng TD PR Yds Avg Lng TD
16 28 434 27.1 15.5 55 3 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Moss exceeded my expectations by a great deal. He actually went out there, ran some routes and caught enough footballs to make an impression on the football team. Truthfully, I didn't even think he'd make the roster and I like Moss' personality and what he's been able to do in his career.

However, it's clear that Moss was thrust into a role that he's just not able to handle at this stage in his career. Through injuries, he became the No. 2 receiver and he struggled big time. He was bad in the Super Bowl and he didn't do much to draw coverage like you'd expect.

All things considered, it was a good year, relatively speaking. But he's likely not in San Francisco's plans going forward, plus he wants to leave so that's that.

Ted Ginn Jr.

Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD KR YDS AVG Lng TD PR Yds Avg Lng TD
13 2 1 0.1 0.5 1 0 11 253 23.0 31 0 0 326 10.2 38 0

Ginn is no longer a wide receiver for the 49ers. That's something Jim Harbaugh realized this season and it's good that he did, because he is not a good wide receiver. He's a valuable kick returner, though I think Williams is better at this point.

Ginn's dad wants him to go elsewhere because the 49ers "don't use him." As Ginn is a free agent this offseason, we could certainly see that, as he has nothing to offer the wide receiver position going forward.

A.J. Jenkins

There are no stats. Jenkins' season was a failure, but it's not like he was given many opportunities. He was drafted earlier than he should have been and he didn't catch the one pass that went his way this year. You can bet that the 49ers' coaching staff weren't happy with Jenkins in practice and weren't confident in him in his rookie year, because when push came to shove, they gave another rookie, LaMichael James, plenty of playing time.

That said, they drafted him for a reason. Writing him off as a bust would be an idiotic move at this point, and hopefully Jenkins can grow to be part of the group of receivers going forward.

Looking Forward

Crabtree will hopefully continue his progression and not take a step back, and if the 49ers are still confident in Manningham, his contract number for 2013 isn't prohibitive and he could be back as the No. 2 guy. And honestly, that's a combination that I'm not dissatisfied with.

Still, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the 49ers to take a look at some of the top names this year. There are some big names hitting free agency, and someone like Percy Harvin just might be available via a trade. I'd be all for the 49ers getting creative with the cap to bring in a weapon for Kaepernick.

Jenkins really needs to step up, and I don't think the 49ers should spend a high pick on a receiver because I think Jenkins needs a chance. I would expect Jenkins, Crabtree and Williams to return for sure in 2013, with Manningham being a maybe and Ginn not being a factor. Moss will certainly be gone.

There's guys like Ricardo Lockette who will compete during the preseason but I don't have much of an opinion on him, so we'll leave that out for now. Free agency still seems like the best option for addition for the 49ers.