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Kyle Shanahan thinks rookie WR John Ross is ‘a true separator ... a difference-maker’

The 49ers have speed on the roster, but can they get a consistent difference-maker out of Marquise Goodwin?

During the 2017 NFL draft, MMQB’s Peter King was embedded with the San Francisco 49ers front office, during which time he got a whole host of interesting nuggets. In his feature on day one, he mentioned the 49ers’ first round interests included running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver John Ross, edge rushers Charles Harris, T.J. Watt, and Takkarist McKinley, and possibly Jabrill Peppers. Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster were at the top, so they ended up not getting any of that group.

In his latest MMQB column, King offered up a nugget about John Ross. King was breaking down the bottom half of his power rankings, and in his section on the Cincinnati Bengals, he had a comment from Kyle Shanahan about Ross.

“A true separator,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “A difference-maker.”

The Bengals ended up drafting Ross with the ninth pick. Given Reuben Foster’s slip down the draft board, even if the 49ers were picking there, they would have taken Foster over Ross. That being said, it provides a little bit of insight into what Shanahan might look for in a wide receiver down the road.

The 49ers drafted Trent Taylor in the fifth round, but primarily added wide receivers in free agency. They signed Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, and Aldrick Robinson, while also extending Jeremy Kerley. Those four veterans can offer a lot in the short term, but it seems unlikely they will be critical components if and when the 49ers find themselves back in Super Bowl contention. Maybe the 49ers return to form in a year or two and Pierre Garçon is the big name receiver for them, but it seems a decent bet it will take a little longer than that.

There were absolutely no questions about John Ross’ speed. He broke the Combine record with a ridiculous 4.22 40. However, size and past injuries raise plenty of questions about his long-term viability. But Kyle Shanahan saw him as the kind of home-run hitter that could be critical to offensive development. The 49ers have some intriguing speed in Marquise Goodwin, although his size and route-running are question marks. It remains to be seen if after four seasons in the NFL he can take a significant step forward.