If Jimmy Garoppolo was the number one breakout star of 2017, Marquise Goodwin was definitely 1b. He won the hearts of many 49ers fans after a touching exchange with Austin DeMello, a young fan suffering from a brain tumor. Late in the season, Goodwin suffered the loss of both a parent and a child in the span of a month. After each loss Goodwin was adamant about playing, endearing him even more to the fan base.
On the field, Goodwin’s season was a tale of two halves. During the first 8 weeks Goodwin filled the speedster role that Kyle Shanahan requires. Goodwin often ran deep post routes to open things up for Pierre Garçon in the middle of the field. Over the first half of the season, while Garçon was still healthy, Goodwin averaged just under 19 yards per reception with nearly 50% of his total yards coming on passes 20 or more yards downfield.
After Garçon’s injury, Goodwin shed the reputation of being a one-trick pony, aided by a quick rapport with The Savior Jimmy Garoppolo. During Garoppolo’s five starts, Goodwin ranked 7th in yards per route run and 3rd in YPRR from the slot. He improved his drop rate from 15.4% over the first 8 weeks to just 5.6% over the final 8. When a concussion prematurely ended his season in week 17 he was just 38 yards away from his first thousand-yard season, more than doubling his previous season high.
Experience: 5 accrued seasons
Weight: 179 pounds
The 49ers recently signed Goodwin to a 3 year, $18.85 million extension in March. This was after signing a 2-year $6 million deal in 2017. His cap hit for 2018 is 6.27 million, including a fully guaranteed base salary.
Goodwin is the 33rd highest paid receiver based on average per-year cost. He ranks just above Golden Tate and below Mohamed Sanu.
Why he might improve in 2018
Goodwin might be swimming in a perfect confluence of experience, scheme fit, and quarterback chemistry. As Matt Ryan will tell you, Shanahan’s playbook can be overwhelming. It’s why his offenses see a bloom in year two, after the players have time to assimilate the complexities. 2018 will continue to see Kyle Shanahan give wide receivers the gift of wide open, uncovered, greenery. And the trust that Goodwin built with the 49ers new franchise quarterback could continue in 2018.
Marquise Goodwin played just four full games with Jimmy GQ. But if you extrapolate those four games to a full season you’d get a ridiculous 108 receptions for 1,424 yards. Even if Goodwin achieves 80% of this total it would be a career year for the former Longhorn and the most yards for a 49ers wide receiver since Anquan Boldin in 2013.
Why he might regress in 2018
Perhaps Goodwin’s late season surge simply isn’t sustainable over the course of a 16 game season. Much of Goodwin’s success at the end of 2017 was due to target share. In weeks 1 through 8 Goodwin saw just 11.4% of the 49ers wide receiver targets. In weeks 9 through 16, after Pierre Garçon’s injury, Goodwin saw a whopping 40.1% of the team’s wide receiver targets. That volume likely won’t be sustained with a fully healthy Garçon.
The return of Pierre Garçon may also reduce Goodwin’s intermediate route frequency. Jimmy GQ feasts on the intermediate routes. He was Pro Football Focus’s 4th best rated quarterback on intermediate routes. On throws 20 or more yards downfield, though, Garoppolo’s accuracy was below league average.
Marquise Goodwin’s drop rate over the last couple seasons has hovered around 10%. During his breakout 8 weeks Goodwin cut that rate in half. If Goodwin reverts back to his butterfinger ways, and he sees reduced opportunity, the precipitous fall to the mean could be upon us.
Odds of making the roster
Goodwin is a lock to make the roster and is entrenched as one of the top receiving options for 2018. It will definitely be interesting to see if he can sustain his amazing 2017 finish across all of 2018.