The San Francisco 49ers overhauled their wide receiver depth chart last year, entering the season with an entirely group of pass catchers. The team signed Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin on the first day of free agency, and then signed Aldrick Robinson one day later. They followed that up by drafting Trent Taylor in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and signing Kendrick Bourne as an undrafted free agent. There were some additional moves, but for purposes of moving forward, those were the big ones.
Garçon and Robinson had experience with new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garçon and Shanahan had worked together in Washington, while Robinson had worked with Shanahan first in Washington, and then again in Atlanta. While Garçon emerged as a presence for the 49ers before going on injured reserve, Robinson’s 2017 season was less productive.
Robinson finished the year with 19 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He finished one catch off his career high, but also had a career high 48 targets. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson’s passer rating when targeted last season was 68.4. Additionally, his 0.98 yards per route run (YPRR) was 82nd out of 93 eligible receivers. By comparison, Goodwin led the team with a YPRR of 1.94, followed by Garçon (1.79), Bourne (1.28), and then Taylor (1.19).
Age: 29 (30 on September 24)
Experience: 5 accrued seasons
Weight: 187 pounds
Signed a two-year contract last year. He is due a base salary of $1.65 million this season, with a $300,000 roster bonus and $100,000 workout bonus. His cap hit for this final year of his contract is $2.2 million. None of his salary is guaranteed.
Why he might improve in 2018
The only way I see Robinson taking a notable step forward is if somehow the light goes on for him. Coming into the NFL, he had solid straight line speed, but there were questions about getting separation to stretch the field. It’s hard to see him as anything more than what he has been. A fourth or fifth receiver who can occasionally emerge with a surprise big game.
Why he might regress in 2018
Along the same lines as what I said above, Robinson seems like a “what you see is what you get” kind of player. He’s a functional end of the depth chart receiver who can step in and make a play here and there, but it’s hard to see upside here.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers decision to draft Dante Pettis does not bode well for Robinson. He finished third among the wide receivers in snaps last season. That happened because of Garçon’s neck injury and seemingly the fact that Kendrick Bourne did not quite emerge until the latter half of the season.
All of that is to say that he faces a dogfight for a roster spot. At this point, Garçon, Goodwin, Taylor, and Pettis all seem like roster likes. Kendrick Bourne impress, but it’s hard to say he is a stone-cold lock for a roster spot. In reality, I see him, Robinson, and seventh round pick Richie James as the most likely to be competing for one, maaaaaybe two roster spots. Victor Bolden and others will get opportunities as well, but that seems to be the competition for now — and Robinson seems to face an uphill climb.