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49ers 2019 roster battles: Wide receiver

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Breaking down the 49ers’ most contested roster battles this offseason.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers began organized team activities on Monday, marking a significant point of the offseason in which competition for a spot on the roster starts to heat up. It’s Year 3 for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Their roster, still rebuilding, has several positions that are far from certain heading into the 2019 season. Wide receiver is among the most contested.

There are only three roster locks from the 49ers’ current group of receivers. This year’s second- and third-round draft picks, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, are guaranteed to be among the team’s final 53. Second-year wideout Dante Pettis is another lock if the 49ers keep six receivers going into Week 1, like they’ve done the past two seasons. That leaves three roster spots for an additional eight receivers on the roster.

The candidates

Veteran Marquise Goodwin’s chances of making the cut are better than the rest of the group. The speedster is coming off a disappointing year but set career-highs in both receptions (56) and yards (962) in 2017. Goodwin battled a myriad of injuries and personal issues last season that dissipated the momentum of his breakout season. He’s only due $3.9 million in 2018, most of which is guaranteed. Outside of the roster spot, the 49ers wouldn’t benefit from Goodwin’s release, so he should have a chance to recapture his role as both leading receiver and the deep threat this offseason.

Behind Goodwin is third-year wideout Kendrick Bourne. The former undrafted free agent led the team last season with 487 yards on 42 receptions, scoring four times. Bourne filled in admirably for the injured Pierre Garcon in 2018 and has proven a reliable member of the 49ers’ receiving corps. He stands a good chance of making the team for the third year, but his spot is far from guaranteed.

Competing with Bourne for the fifth spot in the group is fellow third-year receiver Trent Taylor and offseason addition Jordan Matthews. After a promising rookie year of 43 catches for 430 yards, Taylor had offseason back surgery and struggled to recapture his 2017 form last season. Matthews was highly productive over his first three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles but only managed 582 yards and three touchdowns in the previous two seasons. Both Taylor and Matthews will be in the mix this offseason.

Rounding out the group with the best chances at a roster spot is Richie James. The second-year wideout wasn’t a factor for the offense in 2018, only accounting for 12 receptions for 75 yards. James’ value is on special teams, where he returned 23 kicks for 580 yards, one touchdown, and a 25.2-yard average. His ability in the return game may be what gives him the edge for a spot in 2019.

Max McCaffrey, Shawn Poindexter, and Malik Henry round out the group. McCaffrey was first added in December of 2017 but was released in 2018 after a foot surgery forced him to injured reserve. He was added to the team’s practice squad in November of last season and promoted to the active roster for the team’s final game. Poindexter was added as an undrafted free agent after totaling 42 catches for 759 yards and 11 touchdowns at Arizona. Henry caught 28 passes at West Georgia for 393 yards and five touchdowns. All three are currently on the outside looking in.