The San Francisco 49ers hit on both of their fifth round picks this past year, with tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Trent Taylor both emerging as consistent threats.
Taylor in particular turned into a regular threat on third down coming out of the slot. 63 percent of his receptions came on third down, according to Pro Football Focus. Additionally, when targeted on slant routes this season, Taylor caught all 15 passes in his direction, for 189 yards and a touchdown. PFF named him the best receiver this past season on slant routes.
Bleacher Report is currently going through positions to rank out the best players in the NFL, based primarily on film analysis. They recently they ranked slot receivers for the past season. Doug Baldwin, Adam Thielen, and Golden Tate were the top three such receivers, while Trent Taylor ranked No. 23 out of 36 eligible receivers.
The analysts like what Taylor can do as a slot receiver, but they appear to have ranked him where they did primarily because of the drops he had this season.
Trent Taylor is your typical slot receiver. He is a small and extremely quick, and he does his best work within eight yards of the line of scrimmage. Because of his stature (5’8”, 178 pounds), his catch radius is small, so he can’t afford to drop as many passes as he did in his rookie season. He was a surprisingly good blocker this season, and his route running was as good as advertised. Taylor will always be limited by his size, but he can be an effective player in this league, assuming he can solve his drop issues.
According to PFF, Taylor had four drops on 47 catchable targets. That 8.51 percent drop rate was tied for 58th out of 93 receivers with at least 40 targets. It’s not a good rate, but seems more like a little below average.
The 49ers will be looking for improvement in this category, in part because he’s proven himself to have strong hands. In Taylor’s final season at Louisiana Tech when he caught 136 passes, he had a 2.84 percent drop rate. Over the course of his entire college career, he was targeted 397 times, and only had 12 drops (3.02 percent).
Taylor took a step back in the NFL in terms of drop rate, but his proven success in college suggests he should be able to improve in that area. It’s certainly not a lock that he will have drop rates similar to his college years, but the evidence at hand suggests he should improve in that category in year two.