We have been debating the San Francisco 49ers wide receivers for much of the offseason on this site.
Since it was confirmed that veteran Emmanuel Sanders was leaving in free agency, the receiving group didn’t inspire a lot of confidence going into the 2020 season.
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan looked thrilled when they were able to move up at the NFL Draft to select Arizona State pass catcher Brandon Aiyuk, helping to makeup for the loss of Sanders.
It is assumed that Aiyuk will come in and be the No. 2 receiver behind Deebo Samuel, who finished his rookie year with 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns. There are a lot of question marks after Aiyuk and Samuel, some related to injuries, others to on-field performance.
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows was asked in his most recent mailbag who would slot in as the No. 3 behind the pair. Here is what he had to say:
“In terms of snap count, Kendrick Bourne likely would have the third-most snaps at season’s end. But it probably would vary game to game. If the 49ers go with a small, quick lineup, maybe Trent Taylor sees a higher-than-usual play count. If they go power, perhaps it’s Jalen Hurd. Shanahan wants to be able to do many different things out of the same formations. Having a variable receiving corps allows him to do that.”
This is what makes the 49ers offense so dangerous. Tight end George Kittle is obviously the No. 1 option in the passing game, so not having a clear cut go-to receiver isn’t a huge strain on the team. Shanahan has shown he can scheme open pretty much any player on the field, so pairing this many options with his brilliant offensive mind makes complete sense.
San Francisco apparently has big plans for Taylor next year, who we hope is fully healthy after missing all of 2019 with a foot injury. Hurd is another offensive weapon who didn’t play in 2019 while dealing with a back injury, but he should see some red zone opportunities given his size, speed and ability to create mismatches.
Although Aiyuk is a first-round pick, you never know what kind of production you will get out of a rookie. The lack of a normal offseason will impact his development, but if he is a quick-learner, the team should get him up to speed whenever they’re allowed to come together for training camp.
I think Taylor will have a strong season in 2020, pending his health. With Aiyuk and Samuel bringing speed and agility to the position, Taylor is the guy who can make the tough catches underneath and be a steady option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
I expect Samuel to have the most receptions and yards, followed by Aiyuk and then Taylor. How do you think the 49ers receivers will rank in 2020?
Onto some more links:
Although Garoppolo deservedly gets some flack for his performance in the fourth-quarter of the Super Bowl, his 2019 regular season numbers were very good. NBC Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson gives some insight into three important quarterback stats that Jimmy G finished top-five in last year.
Power rankings are always fun for fans to debate. ESPN released its post-draft NFL rankings and has San Francisco in a pretty spot heading into 2020.
Aiyuk transferred to a Division 1 school after spending a couple of seasons in junior college. A former 49er receiver had a similar path to the NFL, but hopefully the result isn’t the same. (NBC Bay Area)
The NFC West is expected to be the toughest division in football in 2020. NFL Network’s Gennaro Filice graded how each of the NFC West teams did at the NFL Draft and he had some high praise for the Niners.
The legendary Don Shula passed away yesterday. He won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, but also lost four times in the Big Game. One of those came against Joe Montana and the 49ers. NBC Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson give us seven wild facts from that Super Bowl matchup.
Speaking of Montana, with all of the hype surrounding ESPN’s, “The Last Dance,” he went back through some of his old photos and gave us this gem.