Okay, faithful, we’re back in the Silverado for another ride. As always, thanks for joining me, and it’s a pleasure seeing you again. This ride, we’ll take a moment to thoroughly examine the state of the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver group heading into the 2020 season, how they performed this past season, and what can be expected from them in the upcoming season. You know the drill, buckle up, and we’ll be on our way.
Talk about a perfect fit and great addition to the Kyle Shanahan offense. In his rookie season, Deebo did some of everything in his debut to the NFL as he racked up 57 receptions, 802 yards, 3 TD’s receiving, 14 rushes, 159, 3 TD’s, and 23 total forced missed tackles. The young man gets it done, period.
During the regular season he’d already earned his respect as a rookie, but he made sure to give the world one more,
”Here comes Deebo!”
type performance in the Super Bowl in his rookie year! On the night, he had five receptions for 39 yards and three rushes for 53 yards. He was smooth what they call, cutting up on the biggest stage.
When he took off down the right sideline for what was the longest run by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history,
I just knew it was going to be one of those games for the 49ers and one of those games for Deebo. The team ended up taking an L, but the beauty of it is, he’ll only get better and he’ll most likely get another shot.
Something about Deebo some (most) seem to forget, is he can actually run the whole route tree as he’s an excellent route runner in terms of releases, cuts, getting into and out of his breaks, and selling routes creating separation.
With his ability to bully defenders as a runner, his talent as a receiver is overlooked and perhaps even questioned at times. Okay, well I can get how it’s questioned as he did lead the team with nine drops on the season, and that definitely needs to get better and will get better as he does.
Speaking as a youth football coach and defensive coordinator myself, I’m not saying it’s excusable because it’s not but, but it is understandable. Hold on; just hear me out. Remove your emotions, and truly listen to me. His drops were a result of trying to trap the ball with his pads as a means to secure passes. Again, not saying it’s excusable but any receiver trying to trap passes will see drops.
The issue was he’d allow the ball to get into his pads, and quite often result in a drop. Very common mistake. That’s mental, though, he’ll grow out of that. His catches are solid. Oh, and he can block. So aside from the mental drops, I see him as a complete receiver; he’s just not very tall at 6’0.
But this isn’t and wasn’t a Deebo ride, so these few highlights from the season and of him grinding to be better as we speak in the off-season I’ll be done. The future is very bright for this team and this young man. Can’t wait for his second act. Keep being a bully and a dawg out there, Deebo!
Though his 12 receptions, 186 yards, 1 TD weren’t flattering, after his first touchdown in Week 2 vs. Cincinnati, it seemed he might have another decent year.
Unfortunately, that was his last and only trip to the end zone as life and injuries limited his production on the field. While his last two seasons in San Francisco weren’t worth bragging about, his 2017 campaign when he gained 962 yards and 2 TD’s was his career-best.
Fans might remember this play from 2017. It was Shanahan's first win as a head coach and CJ Beathard was the starter. He chucked it deep to Marquise Goodwin. The defense was a Spagnuolo coached defense (now KC DC). Touchdown. pic.twitter.com/ke7si4BE1y— rich (@richjmadrid) February 12, 2020
He even had some folks beginning to rethink the one-trick pony title as he showed he could run more than just a go route and showed some toughness making contested catches.
If you would have told me in March of 2017 that Marquise Goodwin would be the 49ers best receiver I would have probably laughed at you. Look at how he gets on top of the DB and gets out of his break.— Oscar Aparicio (@BetterRivals) October 3, 2018
Then look at the Chargers take out all their Nickelback hate on poor Beathard pic.twitter.com/EWwJF0eH8B
Seeing as how this is a “what have you done for me lately”type business, his future with the 49ers is uncertain. Word on the street is Goodwin will most likely be coming out the blocks with another team this season. According to Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, “Goodwin is too valuable to release, but doesn’t rule out a trade.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m the type that places more value on what someone doesn’t say, than what they do say. And what Shanahan didn’t say, was he was looking forward to a Goodwin return. Guess time will tell how all this plays out. Either way, I wish him and his family the best if he indeed moves on.
Richie James Jr
Since being drafted in 2018, James Jr. has shown some flashes of his explosiveness as a wide receiver with his limited touches. In week 1 on the road in Tampa Bay, it looked as if James might have finally found his stride and a place in the rotation as he caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He also caught a nifty, well-designed throwback screen pass vs. the Arizona Cardinals in week 11 when he scooted down the left sideline for 57 yards to set up the 49ers inside Arizona territory.
I have to admit, at the onset of the play, I wasn’t sure how good of an idea it was, but James made the most of what looked to be a questionable call once the ball was in his hands.
The screen pass was his was most memorable play of the 2019 season, his biggest gain yards wise as a receiver, and the biggest play thus far in his career as a receiver as well. James finished the season with six receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD.
While he put together a few splash plays as a receiver showing what he is capable of, he’s been most effective (and used) on special teams as a punt and kick returner. Ironically, with his elusiveness (ability to make people miss) and explosiveness, (his turbo button), he’s been more successful as a kick returner (43 returns, 1008 yards, 1 TD) than punt returner (45 returns, 339 yards, 0 TD’s) in two seasons.
He scored his only special teams’ touchdown on a kick return vs. the Seattle Seahawks in week 15 of the 2018 season when he smooth took off for 96 yards as he had reservations for six in the end zone.
He also had a nice return vs. the rams this past season in Week 16 and was close to taking this to the house.
Oh, and in case some forgot, he too showed up on the stat sheet and big-play sheet in the Super Bowl.
3rd & 3 Garoppolo connects with Richie James Jr for a big gain down the sideline to the KC 20. @Senseispunk creates a little separation just before the ball gets there. #SFvsKC #49ersHive pic.twitter.com/keGzBrbVqR— 49ersHive (@49ersHive) August 26, 2019
I’ll be the first to admit, when the 49ers traded up to get Pettis in the 2018 draft, I was a bit confused. I understand he lead the NCAA in punt return touchdowns with 9 in one season, but he only returned nine punts for 27 yards in his rookie season. I still don’t get trading up to get him for his punt return abilities to all but use him in the punt return game. As I digress.
Pettis actually had a decent rookie season as a receiver as he was able to get good separation running his routes and racked up 27 receptions, 467 yards, 5 TD’s, and showed some promise as a viable option in the receiving game. Though he didn’t have the expected impact in the return game, he did indeed begin to establish himself as a reliable receiver.
Dante Pettis finishes his rookie season with a 113.8 passer rating when targeted— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) December 31, 2018
In 2019, looking to avoid the sophomore slump, Pettis did just the opposite. Instead of a slump, it was more of a wall. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but it started in OTAs and training camp. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan had been riding him from the start.
While his 2019 season didn’t go quite as planned, he finished the season with 11 receptions, 109 yards, 2 TDs. His first was actually the first actually was a game-winner in the home opener vs. Pittsburgh in week 3.
His second came in Week 9 vs. Arizona
.@JimmyG_10 throws his fourth TD of the night!— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2019
A 21-yard toss to Dante Pettis @dmainy_13 #GoNiners
: #SFvsAZ on @NFLNetwork | @NFLonFOX | @PrimeVideo
How to watch: https://t.co/I6INVckndX pic.twitter.com/ABjxziNiTW
Even though this next play didn’t go for a touchdown, he per usual ran a nice route, made the catch, then broke a tackle and turned upfield for a nice gain. Keep in mind; he was lined up from a pure dawg in Marcus Peters.
Kyle Shanahan isn’t giving up on Dante Pettis & neither am I. Pettis has tons of potential & great route running skills.— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) February 26, 2020
Shanahan said he wanted Pettis to go on a “mission” to improve in the offseason. Im pulling for Dante to come back strong. #49ers pic.twitter.com/5O8R99AL4U
Yeah, he had Peters looking more like a lost puppy off the line. This play and his reaction gave me hope he’d be in for a big season. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Moving along, what’s ironic is some of his best work in terms of route running, he didn’t even see the ball.
I have a hard time believing this dude Dante Pettis can’t figure it out. Too much ability. He has already shown he can do it over a stretch of games. He just has to get out of his own head. Figure it out Pettis pic.twitter.com/ol7hAVfqA4— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) December 25, 2019
It’ll be interesting to see how this wide receiver group looks week 1 of the 2020 regular season.
I’m sure I’m just one of many looking forward to a healthy Hurd this season. So, in short, please get healthy. The end.
Niners drafted 6’4 Jalen Hurd & fans still obsessed with the idea of big WRs pic.twitter.com/89pHBcVHFs— Black Soulutions (@MrRoscoes) February 22, 2020
More of the same can be said about Taylor. When healthy, he’s a 3rd down go to and a safety net for Jimmy Garappolo and was decent in the return game. But again, the operative term here is healthy. Time will tell.
After an amazing training camp, Trent Taylor had his 2019 season cut short bc of a dreaded injury.— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) February 5, 2020
His return will be another bright spot for this upcoming Legendary Revenge Tour. [ #49ers ] pic.twitter.com/6FgvNFM5N9
For context, in my humble opinion. The Benjamin signing was a veteran depth move, he also has a history with Shanahan, and he’s fast. So I guess he’s seen as yet another “speed” piece on the chessboard. Other than that, considering his drop history and unwillingness to take contact, I truly have no idea why he was brought in.
I can see Shanahan saying to Benjamin, “Look, don’t make me look bad and regret this. As fast as I brought you in, I’ll send out you out.” Yes, this should be interesting faithful.
As the theme of this group and this ride goes beyond Deebo has been, we’ll see how this all plays out.
Before you go
So, as always, thanks for riding, and it was my pleasure. I don’t know about you, but I really have no idea how this group is going to look once the season starts. I mean, at this point as far as a sure thing, it’s Deebo a #1 and then what? Auditions for #2 and down So I have to ask. How concerned are you about the receiver group? Will someone already here step up? Will there be a day one starter via the draft? Will both Taylor and Hurd be healthy? With injuries as they’ve had, it’s one of those, “I’ll believe it when I see them suited up and balling type situations.”
I’m as faithful as they come, but counting on either of them is like counting money before it’s in your hands. Never a good idea. I’ve seen a couple of articles in which Taylor was listed as a starter.
Hate to rain on their parades, but not even in the land of wishful thinking, can you do that. I get the theory of it, but you’re better off with a name like James Jr or Pettis. At least they’ve yet to deal with any significant injuries and have played the last year. I know James didn’t see a lot of burn at receiver and Pettis all but showed up on the side of a milk carton, but I mean, I’d rather use those two names than guys who were on IR.
I’m definitely thrilled the 49ers have a dynamic wide receiver like Deebo, and he’ll continue to improve, but he’ll most definitely need some help. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention Kendrick Bourne, well, he’s a restricted free agent, and it’s no real guarantee he’ll be back. Of course, I’d love to have him back, but again we’ll have to wait and see.
So for now, Deebo is our only true #1 wide receiver, this is fact, not fiction. It looks like for the foreseeable future, this group will be quite young. Speaking of young, who are you looking for the 49ers to take in the draft at receiver if they indeed take one at #13? Talk to me. However it plays out, these question marks at receiver need to become periods sooner than later.