One of the highlights in the San Francisco 49ers preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys was the play of rookie wide receiver Richie James. For a seventh round pick, the 49ers got some mighty fine production out of him already, and his reports during camp have been positive. It began early in the night, and ended with him catching the game-winning touchdown from Nick Mullens. It was enough to hear him a nod on Pro Football Focus’ preseason Week 1 team of the week.
The evening gave a nice glimpse of what James can bring to the table. The big thing is his yards after catch (YAC) potential. Here it is on full display in a bubble screen:
And here’s a nice catch on a Jimmy Garoppolo throw. It seems a bit late from Jimmy G, and had it been timed better, James could have been off to the races.
And here’s that aforementioned game-winning TD:
This play was more impressive than I’d realized. Great throw from Nick Mullens with a lineman in his face, threading the pass between two defenders. Big ups to Richie James for enduring the hit and holding on to the ball. What a finish. #49ers— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) August 10, 2018
( : @49ers)pic.twitter.com/TvRAzeFcUT
So what does this mean? There are going to be some really tough decisions to make in a few weeks. Decisions that will probably have some of these guys playing for other teams on a 53-man roster. The 49ers have a very underrated group of wide receivers this year.
The 49ers kept six wide receivers to start 2017. I had Pierre Garçon, Trent Taylor, and Marquise Goodwin as absolute locks. Barring complete disaster, Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne would follow suit. I don’t see that changing. Richie James was a question mark, especially with players like Aaron Burbridge coming in and having some high marks in camp. It’s only one game, but if James keeps this up, he might put someone out of a job. This would put Burbridge, Victor Bolden Jr., and Aldrick Robinson on the outside looking in. The 49ers have too much young productive talent at wide receiver.
Some very, very difficult decisions are going to be made on the 53-man roster. And make no mistake, given the atrocious play of the wide receivers pre-2017, this is a nice problem to have.