Five 49ers Who Need to Make the Leap in 2016
The frustration with Quinton Patton reached boiling point among some 49ers fans in 2015.
Wide receiver Patton has yet to deliver much since being taken in the fourth round in 2013 and continues to draw the ire of the fan base with a lack of productivity, some baffling decisions with the ball in his hands and an on-field demeanor that means he is always a penalty risk.
Patton did actually enjoy his best year in a 49er uniform in 2015, but the fact that came in a season where he finished with 30 catches for 394 yards and one touchdown speaks volumes about the paucity of production that has left San Francisco supporters exasperated.
For all his faults, Patton has relatively good size for the position at 6-foot-0 and 204 pounds, has the athleticism to make people miss and generate yards after the catch and is a hands-catcher who attacks the ball instead of waiting for it to come to his chest.
But, having struggled to showcase those talents in three seasons with the Niners, he now faces a substantial threat to his playing time in the form of two relative unknowns.
Eric Rogers, given a second chance in the NFL after a superb sojourn north of the border in the CFL, and DeAndre Smelter — another of Baalke’s torn ACL reclamation projects — both figure to be significant players in the battle to start across from Torrey Smith at wideout.
Rogers is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and Smelter is 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, meaning both have the size to box out defenders over the middle and the leaping ability to go up for jump balls. While neither can claim to be as shifty as Patton in space, they are each good enough after the catch to potentially be considered better options than him.
By all accounts Bruce Ellington has enjoyed a strong offseason and, with his speed and ability as a runner out of the backfield, is somebody Kelly is likely to be keen to keep around.
It would be unusual to see more than six wide receivers on the 49ers roster, and the presence of the likes of Jerome Simpson and rookie Aaron Burbridge mean it is possible Patton misses out on the 53-man roster.
Patton will still be expected to make the team come the final roster cuts, but the Niners now have fallback options who are more impressive physically than the former Louisiana Tech star. The 2016 season is make-or-break for Patton, it is time for him to put up or shut up.
Next: Eli Harold