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Jeremy Kerley ranked fourth among slot receivers in separation stat

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The 49ers had issues at wide receiver, but they got a lot more than anybody expected in Jeremy Kerley.

Earlier this week, I pointed out that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton ranked fourth among No. 3 receivers in a new stat that measured separation a receiver gets. In a follow-up to that, the same stat ranks Jeremy Kerley fourth among slot receivers. Here’s how NFL.com describes the stat:

The separation stat comes from the sensors measuring, “how much separation a receiver earned from the defender covering them when their quarterback threw them the ball.” It is probably not a perfect piece of information, but it is one more tool to add to our tool box in figuring out what players are doing on the field at any given moment.

The 49ers acquired Kerley in a trade with the Detroit Lions after Bruce Ellington suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. They sent Brandon Thomas to the Lions in the deal, and it turned out to be one of the most productive trades in recent memory. Thomas was waived a few days later, while Kerley finished the season with 64 receptions for 667 yards and three touchdowns. He also ranked No. 17 in the NFL in average punt return at 7.5 yards.

Here is what NFL.com had to say about Kerley’s performance this season. He hits free agency in March.

Kerley led the team with 115 targets and 667 yards, reminding us once again just how much volume Chip Kelly funnels to the interior members of his passing game. The veteran slot receiver was more productive with the more traditional approach of Blaine Gabbert, averaging 19.2 fewer yards per game with Colin Kaepernick under center. Among all the players on this list, Kerley is the most limited in terms of his usage, as he took 91 percent of his snaps from the slot and saw just seven targets overall on the outside. He did prove to be a useful player in a wide receiver rotation however, averaging 3.13 yards of separation on his slot targets with a rather high, for a receiver with his role, 9.6 air yards per target. Kerley is set to be a free agent this offseason and the talent-deprived 49ers should consider offering him an extension.