The folks at Pro Football Focus put together a look at the slot position earlier this week, but in a slightly different way. They looked at the top ten slot weapons in the NFL, but combined players on both sides of the ball. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is returning from a torn ACL, but he ranked No. 1. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was No. 2, and cornerback Chris Harris ranked No. 3.
Nobody from the San Francisco 49ers appeared on the list, as the team looks to figure out the slot, among so many other things. They have a lot of new wide receivers competing for the slot position, and appear to be moving slot corner, Jimmie Ward to the outside this season. That opens up a lot of opportunities.
The 49ers best slot receiver the last few years has been Anquan Boldin. PFF has ranked him among the league leaders in slot target percentage and yards per route run out of the slot. He is no longer with the 49ers, leaving a few options open. Greg Cosell recently suggested Bruce Ellington could catch 80 balls out of the slot. The team also has sixth round pick Aaron Burbridge learning the slot. Eric Rogers has also said he can play in the slot. The 49ers are likely going to experiment with a variety of options throughout training camp.
Jimmie Ward spent most of OTAs and minicamp working on the outside. He moved inside to the slot during one OTA, but it seems like he is focusing on the outside role. However, if Dontae Johnson, Rashard Robinson, or Kenneth Acker can claim the third cornerback role, that could end up with Ward moving inside when the season gets going. Additionally, the team drafted Will Redmond as a potential slot corner of the future. He is recovering from a torn ACL, so his status for 2016 remains a question mark. Any other thoughts on who might land in the slot on the defensive side of the ball this year?