With the 34th pick in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers finally addressed the wide receiver position by selecting Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor. And although they brought in free agents Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, Taylor may very well end up being the most impactful of the bunch.
Those two words may best describe new San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor.
Or, perhaps, unheralded and/or overlooked.
San Francisco 49ers
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At 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, being overlooked is probably not all the uncommon.
Even while putting up 38 touchdowns and 2,700 yards receiving in his junior and senior seasons of high school, only Louisiana Tech offered Taylor a scholarship.
Taylor did not disappoint.
The former Bulldog racked up 327 receptions for 4,179 yards and 32 touchdowns. Even with those gaudy numbers, his teammate and fellow wide receiver Carlos Henderson was touted by NFL scouts to be a better prospect.
Henderson was drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos.
But what may separate Taylor from, not only Henderson, but other smaller receivers is his willingness to work the middle of the field from the slot. Taylor has no fear of going over the middle and absorbing or delivering contact.
That may be because he delivered some vicious hits playing in the secondary on his high school team.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan loved what he saw from Taylor, stating, “I thought what impressed me the most about (Taylor) besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands he ran angry and pissed off.”
Shanahan puts a premium on slot receivers getting separation in his system.
Taylor’s ability to operate over the middle will bring a component back to the offense the team hasn’t had since Vernon Davis donned the red and gold at the tight end position. It will also allow fellow Niners receivers Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson and Co. to see more one-on-one coverage on the outside or, at the very minimum, provide better spacing to operate in.
As you can see in the video below, Taylor’s unimpressive 4.63 40-yard time doesn’t seem to affect his game speed or shiftiness:
While Jeremy Kerley will provide plenty of competition for Taylor out of the slot, Kerley may not be able to match Taylor’s physicality. And for a team lacking a physical presence on either side of the ball the past few seasons, Taylor’s arrival may be a welcome change.
There are plenty of wide receivers in the league with ideal size and weight who lack physical and mental toughness, so Taylor’s willingness to bring that to his game despite his size is a rarity.
Shanahan has stated on several occasions an organization knows they are progressing and getting better if, and when, it cuts players they know can play in the league. And while the finalized 53-man roster is still months away, the competition for roster spots at wide receiver will be heavily contested over the course of summer minicamps and training camp later this offseason.
Add to the fact Taylor may come in feeling like he has something to prove, and the 49ers may have found themselves NFL Draft gold in the fifth round.