I'd say a good portion of folks here on Niners Nation suspected that the San Francisco 49ers got a good deal when they traded a sixth-round pick for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. I'd take it a step further and suggest that most of us here expected Boldin to have a strong season alongside Michael Crabtree.
But I doubt a single person here foresaw the kind of season he ended up having.
Boldin finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,170 yards and seven touchdowns. He had a 208-yard outing against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, and managed to put up 149 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, both of which were important games to win. He also put up 136 receiving yards against the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
In short: Boldin was very good, and a true No. 1 receiver. Next season, he could do it again, but this time he'll have Crabtree and Stevie Johnson to pull coverage off of him. I honestly have no clue how the 49ers' passing game will look in 2013, though admittedly I'm a little worried that the 49ers will eschew the potential of the three-wide set to stick with the more traditional offense, but we'll see. Anyway ...
Now, we once again have to give the disclaimer when it comes to Pro Football Focus and much of it being subjective, but they do have some very interesting stats outside of the controversial ratings. Boldin ended up at the top of one of those interesting stats: out routes.
Last season, Pro Football Focus started tracking every route that every NFL receiver ran -- and while I'm skeptical that they're going to be 100 percent accurate, especially with the lesser-known players, they're valuable to help illustrate a bigger picture. Recently, they had a piece on ESPN, restricted to subscribers, in which they rank the best receivers "on each of the basic routes in the route tree, using total yards as a guide."
You can see that DeSean Jackson of the Washington football team is the top when it comes to crossing routes, but slants, out routes, in routes, comebacks, hitches/curls and corner routes are also among the routes ranked. Boldin was ranked top on out routes, while Calvin Johnson was tops for slants, Andre Johnson on in routes, Victor Cruz on comebacks, Josh Gordon on hitches/curls and T.Y. Hilton on corner routes.
Here's what they have to say about Boldin:
In one of the more underrated offseason moves of the past couple of years, the 49ers brought in Boldin for pennies on the dollar before 2013, and he's continued to do well as one of the league's best possession receivers. Out-breaking routes were his forte a year ago, as he led the league with 224 yards on 16 catches on outs and 55 more yards on shorter, quick outs.
Boldin wasn't just a possession receiver when it came to the out route, as he showed his ability to create big plays from the slot, where he caught 12 outs for 189 yards (15.8 yards per reception). The 49ers' passing offense was inconsistent throughout much of 2013, but Boldin was one constant, and the out route was a big part of his game.
Now, I didn't go back and do any of the watching myself (not every snap), but this is cool information to have. We already knew that Boldin was excellent at just about everything he does, and we obviously knew he was solid with this route, but it's still interesting to see it laid out like this. Let's hope we find Crabtree on this list for one of his routes next season.