Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton are two players I've seen hyped up the most here on Niners Nation, and that's understandable. Young, high-potential receivers are just too exciting to pass up and I fully agree that one of Ellington or Patton (or both!) could wind up playing a big role this season behind Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin.
But I also think that another player is getting a bit overlooked here: Jerome Simpson.
Sure, it would be amazing for the San Francisco 49ers if Ellington or Patton turned out to be the real deal and yeah, Simpson is just old enough to the point where it wouldn't be particularly exciting if he seized the No. 3 wide receiver job but that doesn't change the fact that I think he's got a pretty solid chance of earning that job.
Simpson is a flashy player, on the practice field and in games. He gets noticed and that's important, especially for a team that has plenty of other positions to worry about a whole lot more than wide receiver. If Simpson can step it up in training camp and gain the confidence of the coaches, we could see him play a role similar to Stevie Johnson's was a year ago. Hopefully Simpson would be able to exceed Johnson's numbers though, of course.
Simpson has been in the NFL for seven seasons, though he's only seen action in 57 games over five seasons. He did play in all 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, where he caught 48 passes for 726 yards and a touchdown, and played all 16 games in 2011 as well. He's shown flashes of spectacular catch ability, but didn't exactly have the best quarterback throwing him the ball in Minnesota.
I think Simpson's route-running and his ability to go up and get the ball make him a real solid boom or bust candidate. Fortunately for the 49ers, if he winds up on the bust end of that spectrum, they don't have a ton invested in him. I just think Simpson has shown enough to have some confidence heading into a potential battle for the No. 3 role, especially up against Patton and Ellington.
That will all, of course, depend on Simpson staying out of trouble. He's had multiple off-field issues related to drugs and alcohol, so much so that he became the poster-boy to counter Jed York's "win with class" statement shortly after his signing. I can't talk about where Simpson is mentally, what he's done in the past or what he's likely to do in the future, I can only say that I hope he's passed it and that the 49ers provide a stable enough support structure. He can flourish in San Francisco, he just has to let himself.
Why he could improve:
Simpson has had multiple chances, so we can't use the "second chance" factor here. Still, the 49ers believe in him, it's a change of scenery and he's got a very capable quarterback throwing him the football. Simpson is exactly the kind of receiver that can sneak huge gains while Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are busied up with defenders, and it all just depends on him giving the 49ers confidence in his abilities to find his way onto the field. He's not going to suddenly become one of the best receivers in the league, but I think the potential is there.
Why he could regress:
Simpson is 29 years old and hasn't really caught on anywhere he's went in the NFL. The trend hasn't been him being excellent and filling everyone with confidence -- the trend has been him disappointing off the field and limiting his chances to actually get on the field. It's also possible he gets beat by one of the other receivers and never sees a pass thrown his way by Colin Kaepernick.
Odds of making the roster:
This one is a little tricky, but ultimately I feel like the 49ers signed him to a two-year deal for a reason. Even if he doesn't get the No. 3 job I feel like Simpson will have a roster spot this season. The 49ers didn't exactly break the bank in signing him and his contract came with no guaranteed money, but the two-year deal still is working in his favor, I think. I'll put his chances of making the roster somewhere around 75 percent.