No. 3: Trent Taylor starts at slot receiver
Let me start by saying I really like what slot wideout Jeremy Kerley brought to the 49ers receiving corps last year. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgotten season for the Niners.
His numbers, while not spectacular, were fairly impressive considering the inconsistent play last year of quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick and that porous offensive line. Kerley stepped up while most of the offense struggled to move the ball.
“I thought he was as good at the slot role as anyone we were looking at in the draft. What impressed me the most besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands, he ran angry and pissed off.” — Kyle Shanahan on Trent Taylor
That said, rookie Trent Taylor brings game speed, nifty route-running and can be physical when need be. That ability may stem from him playing safety (among other positions) in high school. The reason he was head coach Kyle Shanahan’s draft crush may be that he brings all that even though he stands just 5-foot-8 and weighing 178 pounds.
As Shanahan stated in an interview on 49ers.com, “I thought he was as good at the slot role as anyone we were looking at in the draft. What impressed me the most besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands, he ran angry and pissed off.”
Perhaps the physicality stood out to Shanahan because anyone who watched tape of last year’s Niners team saw a team that, quite frankly, was not physical at all.
Add that to the fact Taylor’s production last season at Louisiana Tech — 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns led the nation — and it’s easy to see why Taylor was Shanahan’s draft crush.
With new GM John Lynch, physical, competitive players tend to make quite an impression due to the fact Lynch himself was a physical player, albeit on the defensive side of the ball.
But when you are trying to rebuild a team and create a culture, tough, competitive players with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove will go a long way in restoring this team back to the hierarchy of the NFL elite.
And while the competition between Kerley, Taylor and the rest of the receiving corps promises to be a battle, Taylor just strikes me as the type of player to will rise to the challenge and find success.
He’s proven everyone wrong all along the way from high school to college. So why stop now?