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 you get the idea.
Aside from Trent Baalke’s ACL All-Stars, the San Francisco 49ers haven’t been very good at drafting wide receivers. Fortunately, there’s still time for Aaron Burbridge to buck this trend. Connor Cook made a name for himself at Michigan State (only to be drafted as Derek Carr’s backup in Oakland), but he needed a wide receiver to get the ball to—enter Aaron Burbridge. The 2015 Big 10 Wide Receiver of the Year was taken in the sixth round and regarded with boom or bust potential. Despite turning some heads that following preseason, Burbridge remained relatively quiet through most of the regular season. His first catch came in Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a cool 15 yards. He’d go on to finish the season with seven receptions totaling 88 yards.
Still it’s hard to gauge his rookie season with those numbers. The 49ers were bad last year and the wide receivers themselves were equally awful. Burbridge showed some promise, but he’s got an uphill battle.
Weight: 206 lbs
Experience: 1 accrued season
He signed a four year rookie deal worth $2,340,000, with a base salary of $540,000 in 2017. If cut this year he’d carry a dead money hit of $25,089 and a cap savings of $540,000.
Why he might improve in 2017
Given that the 49ers now have a better offensive system in place, Burbridge could thrive with another season under his belt. In 2016, he wasn’t necessarily bad, he was just ‘there.’ He turned heads in the preseason and made a few good catches in the regular season. What Burbridge can work on is speed and getting himself down the field after catching the ball. Those few catches he made usually resulted in him taking a dive or fighting to get possession of the ball with no change of going downwind. If he can work on getting things into fifth gear and get a bit of separation, he could be a good situational game-changer.
Why he might regress in 2017
The 49ers wide receivers are much improved this year and Kyle Shanahan has all sorts of shiny toys to play with. While Burbridge made some catches, he had to fight rather hard to get any of them. The good news is that was his rookie season and he was adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. With another year under his belt, perhaps he gets some of that much needed separation and thrives in this new offense.
Odds of making the roster
Burbridge is on the bubble to make it in. If we see some improvement from him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it through final cuts, even if it’s for a couple games before he’s released. The 49ers have got some good talent at wide receiver and Burbridge is fighting an uphill battle.