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49ers 90-in-90: Have we seen the best of Trent Taylor?

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is wide receiver Trent Taylor.

Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers 2017 fifth-round draft pick has gone from Kyle Shanahan’s draft crush to wide receiver coach Wes Welker’s pupil. Taylor finished his rookie season with 430 yards and two touchdowns on 43 receptions. In 2018, on 19 fewer targets with three quarterbacks, Taylor finished with 26 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown.

Taylor is competing to start in the slot for the 49ers and as the teams punt returner as well. Early on in his career, Taylor has consistently moved the chains. Thirty-nine of Taylor’s 69 career catches have gone for first downs.

The downside to Taylor is his ceiling. Last season he had only one reception go for 20 yards, and that he was schemed open on play-action. Creating separation isn’t an issue for Taylor. Creating after the catch is. Only twice last year did Taylor have over 13 yards after the catch. That’s one of the reasons the 49ers drafted two receivers early on in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Basic Info

Age: 25

Experience: 2 accrued seasons

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Cap Status

Taylor is in the third year of his four-year rookie contract. His 2019 cap number is $695,487. If the team were to cut Taylor, there would be $50,487 in dead money.

Why he might regress in 2019

Jalen Hurd catches on quick, and one of the running backs prove to be such a mismatch, that they take away touches from the pass-catchers not named Dante/Deebo/George. There will be plenty of mouths to feed in the 49ers offense this year. Taylor was never going to be a high-volume receiver in this offense.

Drops haven’t been a big issue for Taylor, but consistent catches may be. If I’m playing defensive back against Taylor, I’m sitting on every route under ten yards, and playing catch up if I need to. The predictability in Taylor’s route tree will be the reason he regresses if there are no changes from a year ago.

Why he might improve in 2019

Taylor is probably more 2017 than 2018, statistically speaking. He averaged ten yards per reception and caught 70% of his targets. Jimmy Garoppolo will be a big part of that. I think the real question is just how much better can Taylor get. Can he be a 50-catch receiver in this offense?

You can look at the added weapons in a couple of ways. With Dante Pettis as the teams WR1, Deebo Samuel the WR2, and George Kittle, Taylor should be facing the opponents worst defensive back on the field more often than not. That’s advantage Taylor, and that means more production. The new receivers on the 49ers roster will take away from Taylor’s volume, but it will improve his efficiency.

Odds on making the roster

-180, if you’re into gambling.

67%, if we’re throwing out random numbers.

Taylor was lining up as one of the punt gunners during minicamp practice last week. He’s going to be a mainstay on special teams this year. His experience as a returner will help as well.

If Taylor isn’t on the roster, it’s because Jordan Matthews did more than expected, or Jalen Hurd’s early progress made him expendable.