The 2016 NFL Draft is barely complete, but 2017 draft chatter is already underway. Mel Kiper recently released positional rankings (offensive, defensive) and a big board. He won't be updating these for quite a while, likely not until the season gets going. However, things are right now, and aside from being a fun way to pass the offseason, it gives us some names to have on our radar heading into the 2016 college football season.
Kiper's articles are Insider-protected, so I'll take some time over the next few weeks to go over the notable positions. We can use them to get a better idea of who is out there, while also assessing where things stand on the 49ers depth chart for the given position. We started with the quarterback position, and today we move on to the wide receivers.
Kiper broke down his rankings by seniors and underclassmen. We don't know which underclassmen are going to declare, as every year there are at least a couple surprises among players many think will go pro. Here is how he ranks out his wide receivers three months before the season starts:
- Corey Davis, Western Michigan
- Mike Williams, Clemson
- Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
- Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
- Travis Dural, LSU
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
- Malachi Dupre, LSU
- Darren Carrington, Oregon
- Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
- KD Cannon, Baylor
Here is some of his discussion on the position:
Smith-Schuster can be a monster at times; he is physical, fast and fearless. LSU is clearly not short on talent, but somebody has to do a better job of getting these guys the ball. Williams is one to watch. A neck injury last season cost him a chance to enter the 2016 draft, and he should have a huge year with Deshaun Watson.
The 49ers did not address the wide receiver position until the sixth round, when they selected Aaron Burbridge. The team also signed Devon Cajuste and Bryce Treggs as undrafted free agents. Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington are potentially early front-runners for starter reps opposite Torrey Smith, but there are a lot of young options at the position. DeAndre Smelter and Eric Rogers are two particularly intriguing options, but DeAndrew White, Dres Anderson, and DiAndre Campbell are all in the mix as well.
It's too early to begin to assess what the 49ers might do at the wide receiver position a year from now. There is a lot of work to do for any of these guys to reach their potential, but the there is certainly plenty of volume. I'm not holding my breath on anybody in particular, but if the 49ers offense does take a step forward, Smelter and Rogers remain the two guys I see potentially shining. And if the offense does not find any kind of consistency, will we see Baalke take a chance on a higher round wide receiver? Or will A.J. Jenkins leave him WR gun-shy for the foreseeable future?