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The 49ers have a specific type of receiver they target

Every WR on the roster has a few traits in common.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday—during the owners meeting—Kyle Shanahan mentioned that the team definitely needed to add help at wide receiver. That was a follow-up question after being asked about new free agent signee Jordan Matthews. That tells us that the San Francisco 49ers will be drafting a receiver. What it doesn’t do is tell us the type of receiver that the team is interested in.

The numbers that matter

Initially, I knew that Shanahan favored receivers that ran a sub 7.00 3-cone.

So today’s pro day was big for Harry. Unfortunately, he didn’t do any of the shuttle runs. Stephen White, of SB Nation, had a great breakdown of what Harry can do. He is White’s favorite receiver.

I dug into the six receivers that are still on the roster that got a target last year and found out they all had other traits in common. Each receiver has at least a 32” vertical. What was probably more telling—and more comparable—is that each receiver also has a short shuttle time under 4.25 seconds. The team clearly values quickness over a 40-yard dash. As they should. In the NFL, you have to be able to get open in tight spaces. It’s rare that a foot race will be the main reason a receiver got open over the course of a game. Sure, a 4.3 is great. To succeed in the NFL, having some “wiggle” is imperative. Separation>speed.

Who are the targets

Here is a list of the Niners receivers listed first, followed by the receivers in the upcoming draft that meet the threshold. You’ll only see names on here for guys that have completed all the drills. So a guy like Hakeem Butler from Iowa State—who had his pro day on Monday—won’t be listed because all he did was run a 40. Still missing info from J.J Arcega-Whiteside and A.J. Brown as well. Besides that, there were a lot of popular names that didn’t make the cut.

Dante Pettis was still recovering from an ankle injury. So his pro day numbers below weren’t even at 100%. It also may be worth noting that the team could have made him run a short shuttle when they hosted him on a private visit.

I find it interesting that of all the receivers that were invited to the combine—there were 48—only eight pass the threshold. There could certainly be other factors. Dynasty guys are big on market share and breakout age. I try to stay away from that. The Niners do value age it appears, but there’s still some guesswork included in that.

The good news is—if the list truly is down to this eight—each of the receivers had at least 647 yards.

Finding the fit

Shanahan seemed happy with Pettis at the “X” receiver position. He spoke about Matthews and Taylor. He hinted at the team looking for that “Z” receiver, that you usually move around with motion, and scheme to get open. That screams Morgan and Isabella in the third round. Both are very good when they have the ball in their hand. Isabella is a former running back. Oh, he can also fly. Isabella ran a 4.31 40-yard dash.

What I always find interesting with these is how much leeway do you give? Let’s say the team likes Ohio State receiver Terry McLaurin. The team got a good look at McLaurin at the Senior Bowl. McLaurin also ran a 7.01 3-cone. Do you just say to heck with it or is he completely off your board? Who knows. This will be interesting to look back on a month from now and see if the threshold will remain in tact after the team adds a receiver.