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49ers mid-season review: Wide receivers

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The 49ers wide receiver situation has been flipped on its ear a bit through the first seven games. Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree remain the leaders in snaps, but Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have arguably been more effective with less work.

Thearon W. Henderson

The San Francisco 49ers are closing in on the end of their bye week, and will be returning to practice on Monday. We are not exactly halfway through the season, but the timing of the bye is close enough that it makes sense to take a look at where everything stands. We will be going through each position over the next week. Thus far we have looked at the quarterback position and running back position. Today, we move on to the wide receiver position.

Anquan Boldin

DYAR: 13 out of 72
DVOA: 15 out of 72

WPA: 27 out of 40
EPA: 13 out of 40

Grade: 0.2 (41 out of 109)
WR rating: 100.7 (34 out of 84)
Drop rate: 39 out of 84
Slot catch rate: 7 out of 51
Yards/pass route run: 1.79 (32 out of 84)

Michael Crabtree

DYAR: 44 out of 72
DVOA: 46 out of 72

Grade: -4.4 (96 out of 109)
WR rating: 99.8 (35 out of 84)
Drop rate: 69 out of 84
Slot catch rate: 5 out of 51
Yards/pass route run: 1.37 (53 out of 84)

Stevie Johnson

DYAR: 10 out of 72
DVOA: 3 out of 72

WPA: 28 out of 40
EPA: 14 out of 40

Grade: 7.8 (5 out of 109)
WR rating: 127.8 (5 out of 84)
Drop rate: 17 out of 84
Slot catch rate: 38 out of 135 (all receivers with a slot target, Stevie had 16 such targets, the first 37 players on this list are tied for 1st)
Yards/pass route run: 3.18 (2 out of 84)

Brandon Lloyd

DYAR: 7 out of 72 (for 5-27 passes)
DVOA: 14 out of 72 (for 5-27 passes

Grade: 1.4 (28 out of 109)
WR rating: 87.8 (50 out of 84)
Drop rate: 51 out of 84
Yards/pass route run: 2.02 (20 out of 84)

Bruce Ellington

DYAR: 31 out of 72 (for 5-27 passes)
DVOA: 22 out of 72 (for 5-27 passes)

Grade: -0.2 (80 out of 188 receivers with any targets)

The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2014 season with a wide receiver corps considered as deep as any this team had in the last decade. The 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd in April, and then acquired Stevie Johnson via draft-day trade with the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers already had Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree in the fold, but each of the last three years, injuries ravaged this group in one way or another.

The four wide receivers have remained relatively healthy this season, but the depth has proven huge for the 49ers anyway. At times, Johnson and Lloyd have been the best wide receivers on this team. Anquan Boldin remains a fairly consistent force, minus the occasional drop. Michael Crabtree is making plays, but has been fairly inconsistent this season.

If Johnson and Lloyd were not in the fold, we can't say exactly what would be going on because we don't know how the 49ers would be compensating for that difference. That being said, I think we can all say it's a good thing Johnson and Lloyd are on the roster. They have not played as many snaps as Boldin and Crabtree, but they have made the most of their limited work.

What has been interesting is the fact that Stevie Johnson has been the 49ers most effective receiver, but the team has not used him all that frequently. Here is a look at the snaps per game of each of the four receivers:

Boldin: 60.6
Crabtree: 503
Lloyd: 30.8 (divided over 6 games, was inactive for 1)
Johnson: 21

Is Stevie Johnson effective because he is out there in limited doses, and thus there is not a lot of film on him? Or is he effective because he is a good receiver and the 49ers need to use him more? Or maybe it is somewhere in the middle?

Any thoughts as to why the 49ers have used Johnson in a limited role? Lloyd has been fairly limited compared to Crabtree and Boldin, but he is still seeing almost 10 more snaps per game than Johnson. A few weeks back, Jim Harbaugh mentioned that Johnson was sick. Prior to that, Johnson had 19 snaps in Week 1, but then 32 and 38 in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. Since Week 3, he's had 13, 5, 15, and 25 snaps. Could we see that total rise even further?

Stevie Johnson has been incredibly effective in this limited role. He currently ranks second among receivers with at least 25 percent of targets in yards per route run. Simply put, he is incredibly productive.