San Francisco 49ers’ 2017 fifth-round draft pick Trent Taylor was Kyle Shanahan’s “draft crush,” and 49ers’ fans quickly learned why.
Taylor, who finished his rookie season with 430 yards and two touchdowns on 43 receptions, quickly became Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target on third down (Garoppolo’s predecessors at QB felt similarly about Taylor). Taylor was also the 49ers’ main punt returner.
And that brings us to 2018. The 49ers drafted Dante Pettis, who holds the NCAA record for punt returns for touchdowns, leading many to believe that Pettis will be the punt return guy.
So, let’s take a look at what 2018 has in store for Taylor in this edition of 90-in-90.
Experience: 1 accrued season
Weight: 180 lbs.
Taylor is in year two of the his four-year rookie contract. He will count for $605,487 against the 49ers’ 2018 salary cap. If the team cut him, they would carry $50,487 in dead money and clear $555,000 in cap space this year.
How He Might Improve in 2018
If Pettis is indeed going to be the man behind the punt, Taylor would find himself primarily working as the 49ers’ No. 1 man in the slot, an area in which he did well last season. As mentioned above, third down was the charm for Taylor in 2017, catching 63 percent of his receptions there, according to Pro Football Focus.
It is important that Taylor has fewer drops in 2018, especially if he is shedding his special teams duties. Last season, he had an 8.5 percent drop rate or four drops on 47 catchable targets (again from our good friends at PFF). That rate is going to have to come way down if the 49ers are to rely on Taylor more heavily in the slot.
Taylor is quick and elusive, averaging 10 yards per catch last season and 4.4 yards after the catch. Those numbers, especially the YAC, are sure to increase in his second season.
How He Might Regress in 2018
More targets could mean more drops, but I actually think it will be the opposite. With one NFL season behind him, Taylor will be more accustomed to the speed of the game, to his quarterback and to his offense. The wear and tear of being used in the offensive scheme may take it’s toll, but that’s football.
Odds of Making the Roster
Trent Taylor will absolutely make the 49ers’ roster. It’s just a matter of where he’ll be most utilized.