Much was uncertain at the beginning of the 49ers 2017 season, except for one thing: Pierre Garçon was WR1. Now, just one year later with new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, much more is clear about the offense, except who will be the number one wide receiver.
When Garçon’s season ended in Week 8, he was on track to reach 1,000 yards if he had stayed healthy. He knew Kyle Shanahan’s system, and was a proven, reliable target. He caught 40 of the 67 passes sent his way for 500 yards in his eight games. After the 49ers put Garçon on IR, Marquise Goodwin became the go to receiver.
Goodwin caught 56 of his 105 targets in 2017 and really seemed to get on a roll once Garoppolo took over. 613 of his 962 yards came in the final eight games of the season, as well as his two touchdowns. The coaching staff has been very complimentary of his improved route running and the front office rewarded him with a lucrative three year contract extension.
The next two players in receiving yards were rookies George Kittle 43/63 for 515 yards and Trent Taylor 43/60 for 430 yards. They also had the highest percentage of passes caught with Kittle at 68.3 percent and Taylor at 71.7 percent. If both stay healthy, could they become one of the best tandems in the league? Could Taylor end up being one of the more productive slot receivers in the league? Could Kittle’s productivity rival that of a wide receiver?
That, of course, is not the whole picture. The 49ers moved up in the draft to select Dante Pettis and then also found a gem in Richie James Jr. in the seventh round. Both have been dynamic in the preseason making big plays with all of the quarterbacks on the roster. And don’t sleep on Kendrick Bourne, who rounds out the bunch.
Who will end up leading the pack? Who will be the most reliable target? Will Goodwin’s production eclipse that of Garçon? Will one of the rookies surpass all of them? Most likely the targets will be spread out over all of the weapons, but if you could only have one, who would you take?