San Francisco 49ers: 6 Remaining Storylines to Watch This Offseason
Which receivers will emerge?
The 49ers may have neglected the receiver position in the draft, but the depth chart at wideout is certainly crowded.
But the problem the Niners have is that it is a depth chart lacking in proven NFL pass-catchers beyond No. 1 Torrey Smith, who was under-targeted in his first season with San Francisco.
Behind Smith the 49ers have Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Jerome Simpson, DeAndre Smelter, Eric Rogers, Aaron Burbridge, DeAndrew White, Dres Anderson, DiAndre Campbell and undrafted free agents Bryce Treggs and Devon Cajuste, although the latter could well be converted to tight end.
Anderson, Campbell and Treggs would appear to have little hope of making the 53 and there is little in that list of pass-catchers to strike fear in opposing defenses.
Patton had a more promising season in 2015 but – while both he and Ellington have speed and the ability to make yards after the catch – both go into the 2016 campaign on notice having failed to make the impact many will have desired from them.
That is because Smelter, Rogers and Burbridge all have intriguing skill sets, which could put them in a position to overtake Patton and Ellington on the depth chart.
Rogers – who had a brief spell with the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 – measures up at 6’3″ and 210 pounds and racked up 87 catches, 1,448 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in the CFL last year and has already impressed teammate Smith, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"He’s [Rogers] huge. He’s a very long athlete — his arms touch the floor. He’s tall. He stands by us and he’s bigger than everyone by a mile. He has great ball skills. He works extremely hard, too, that’s both on and off the field in terms of learning the offense."
Smelter, who redshirted his opening year because of an ACL injury, possesses the same physical traits at 6’2″ and 226 pounds and uses his frame to good effect, winning at the catch point with physicality while also demonstrating good hands, body control and the elusiveness to make people miss after the catch.
Burbridge is similarly physical and has a knack for making spectacular catches, while DeAndrew White also figures to be in the mix having made the team as an undrafted free agent last year.
Having big physical receviers who can box out cornerbacks with their size and tack on yards after the catch is likely to be key to the success of Kelly’s offense, which relies heavily on the quick passing game. The 49ers now have a collection of those players, leaving Patton and Ellington with a fight on their hands in a position battle that will go a long way in deciding how the offense performs in 2016.
Next: Who will fill the Ian Williams' void?