Last offseason we saw the San Francisco 49ers make big additions to the wide receiving core, and this year we should expect more of the same. With players Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. heading to free agency and Mario Manningham unlikely to be ready for training camp, the 49er WR core appears thin once again.
Last season the receiver position was addressed heavily in free agency before getting to the draft. Between not having a lot of projected cap room, and while having 11 draft picks plus potentially 3 more once compensatory picks are issued, it’s safe to say the 49ers focus on improving the roster will come through the draft only.
The 49ers used a first round pick last year at the position on A.J. Jenkins and with the needs in the secondary and the defensive line, don’t expect the wide-out position being the 1st round pick again this year. Yes I know Jenkins didn’t record a single catch, but the organization has stood strong behind the pick recently and given the fact that Jenkins has already started working out with Kaepernick, the organization will give him till the end of his rookie contract to prove himself.
To accurately predict who the 49ers should target in the draft, we should look and what type of players they are losing. Randy Moss was brought in as a big red zone target and as a threat to stretch the field. While his contributions on the field weren’t spectacular he did help WR Michael Crabtree develop into the player we thought we drafted back in 2009. As for Ted Ginn Jr., we are losing a slot receiver and a good punt/kickoff returner. So with those type of players in mind here are the receivers the 49ers should target.
1. Josh Boyce TCU. Projected 4th-5th round. He could have stayed for his senior season to move up in the draft next year, but why risk injury for a guy that has already graduated. He isn’t a product of a system and didn’t have good quarterback play after the starter Casey Pachall was kicked off the team. The guy was near the top in every category at the combine (for what that is worth) and led his team in every receiving category. At 5’11’’ 203 pounds, with 4.38 speed, he could definitely play slot and he is a sound blocker to help the run game. 2 inches taller and this guy would be a sure-fire 2ndround pick.
2. Terrance Williams Baylor. Projected 2nd-3rd round. Double digit touchdown receptions the last 2 seasons and he led the nation in receiving yards for 2012 is all you need to know. Not bad after losing RGIII last season. I think while he isn’t the most physically gifted WR in the draft, he is the player least likely to bust. The only reason he isn’t number 1 on this list is because at 6’1’’ 201 pounds, he matches the guys currently on the roster in Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins. He does has some return experience which would help considerably if Ted Ginn Jr. isn’t resigned.
3. Justin Hunter Tennessee. Projected 2nd-3rd round. 6’4’’ 200 pounds, with 4.4 speed that can beat man coverage, high point the football, and make the difficult catch in traffic. That all screams 1st round potential, but a 2011 ACL tear really set back his game. His teammate Patterson is a better receiver at this point, but since I don’t think the 49ers will take a receiver in the first round he didn’t make the list. Hunter had some off moments during his 2012 campaign, hopefully he can get back on track after being healthy over a year. Once again this is a low risk, high reward that the 49ers seem to put themselves in every year with a wide receiver.
4. Corey Fuller Virginia Tech. Projected 5th round. This would be an intriguing pick for the 49ers. Fuller is a former track star that transferred so he could focus on football. He came on late this last season and will need some work to become a consistent player at the next level. At 6’2’’ 204 pounds and runs a 4.43 40, Fuller has the meaurables to be a deep threat at the next level. He would be a project, but his potential alone is worth a mid to late round pick.
5. Markus Wheaton Oregon St. Projected 3rd round. He was the best receiver on the North team during the Senior Bowl. The all-time leader for receptions in Oregon State history really excels in deep passing routes. He was consistently in the top 10 in competitive drills at the combine and hall of famer Michael Irvin said he had natural hands. Although he is only 5’11’’ 189 he still is an effective blocker.