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Young wide receivers will have to show a lot in OTAs to emerge from the pack

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The 49ers have much of their wide receiver depth chart settled. The younger players have a lot to show to find some breathing room.

The San Francisco 49ers kick off their organized team practice activities (OTAs) on May 21st. Those will run through June 7th, followed by mandatory minicamp June 12th through 14th. This is as important a period as any in the offseason. Players have been going through classroom work, and had individual work on the field. OTAs and minicamp are when teams really get to implement the playbook and get players ready for training camp.

This also means players can take a step forward in competitions for either a starting job or simply a chance to make the roster. We’re just over a week away from the start of OTAs, so I thought now is a good time to preview each position heading into the on-field workouts.

Today, we move on to the wide receivers.

Depth chart: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson, Richie James, Victor Bolden Jr., Aaron Burbridge, Maxwell McCaffrey, Steven Dunbar, DeAndre Carter

The 49ers overhauled the wide receiver position last year, replacing all of the starters between free agency and the draft. A year later, they made a big move in the draft with the trade up in the second round to acquire Dante Pettis. They spent a seventh round pick on Richie James and welcome back Victor Bolden from injured reserve, but the bulk of the depth chart did not change much heading into 2018.

The big question is how they plan on using Pettis. Some draft analysts have referred to him as a slot receiver. He did not actually play all that much time in the slot, and instead is a guy who could be moved all around the field. He’ll likely get a big shot as the team’s punt returner, but where they use him as a wide receiver will tell us a lot about the depth chart.

What OTAs mean for the position

I’d say Kendrick Bourne has as much to gain or lose in OTAs (and training camp) as anybody on this depth chart. After Pierre Garçon went on IR, Bourne got his opportunity and showed some serious signs. He attended Eastern Washington University, and their quarter system meant he had to wait until finals ended in June before he could join the team. This year he has a whole offseason to better learn the playbook and his role in it.

Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, and Trent Taylor will all face competition in OTAs and camp, but all three seem fairly well locked in heading into the coming season. It seems like the addition of Pettis is a big challenge to Bourne in particular. He’ll need to show some progress in OTAs to build on his momentum the second half of last season.

Victor Bolden is another receiver who faces a serious challenge to his role on the team. He had only 27 offensive snaps, but he got a decent amount of work as the team’s kick returner. The 49ers added several return specialists. Bolden will need to show progress in his work in the passing game, otherwise his limited role could be on the chopping block.