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PFF: 49ers need 2020 version of Emmanuel Sanders

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The Niners could use a new veteran presence in the wide receiver room

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

We’re about 11 days past the official start of NFL free agency, and the 49ers have been one of the more reserved teams in their moves aside from shipping DeForest Buckner off to the Indianapolis Colts. They’ve re-signed guys like Jimmie Ward and Arik Armstead while adding plenty of role players, including defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, linebacker Joe Walker, and guard Tom Compton.

After all of these moves, the fellows over at Pro Football Focus still believe the 49ers offense is missing a key piece. It’s one that certainly helped them reach their potential in 2019 and played a key role in their journey to the super bowl.

PFF believes the Niners will need to find their 2020 version of what Emmanuel Sanders was for this team last season: A proven, savvy veteran wide receiver to continue guiding and grooming the young wideouts on this team. Rookie Deebo Samuel certainly found his stride towards the end of the year with that sensei presence, pairing with Sanders and tight end George Kittle to lead the passing game.

Sanders’ reliability is going to be missed dearly. He was credited with just a single drop among his 96 targets. The Niners will have a hard time finding that veteran in the free-agent pool, however. It’s an underwhelming group, and the only names that stand out to me are Demaryius Thomas (if they want another former Broncos WR) and Taylor Gabriel, who has experience under Kyle Shanahan while in Atlanta.

If neither of those names fails to strike your fancy, then they may have to scrap the idea of a proven vet for an exciting rookie talent. At least of the top-3 receivers in this draft will be available at 13. Depending on who you ask, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb could all be the first one off the board.

PFF lists the Niners’ secondary needs as cornerback and interior offensive line. Both very understandable as Akhello Witherspoon got his lunch taken too often in 2019, and Richard Sherman is still as old as he is. Former UDFA Emmanuel Moseley was a bright spot in the secondary, and he’s played his way into stick with this team for the foreseeable future. With two first-round picks, they could easily snag a top corner at 31, or if they really like someone, at 13. The interior offensive line group is not the best this year, and I don’t see many going on day one.

Do you all agree with PFF’s choices? Did they get the needs right or was one or two left out?