Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players in 2017 takes a look at rookie wide receiver Trent Taylor and the kind of impact he’ll have this season.
Taylor, 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, is a prototypical slot receiver capable of doubling in the return game.
But it’s Taylor’s ability on offense that spoke measures at the collegiate level:
It’s worth pointing out Taylor led all college receivers in receiving yards last season.
Taylor’s offensive coordinator at La. Tech had some special things to say about the rookie, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“A lot of times you hear people say, “This guy is the next Wes Welker,’” said Franklin. “Every small, white kid’s been Wes Welker since Wes Welker became a star. I’m telling you, Trent Taylor really is.”
Welker, arguably the best slot receiver in recent NFL memory, is a lofty comparison.
So what will Taylor have to do to live up to such a comparison?
Why He’ll Improve
So the agility is there, which is an excellent trait to have out of the slot.
But it isn’t this attribute that makes Taylor special. It’s his ability to haul in catchable passes at such a high rate. Just take a look at these Pro Football Focus breakdowns from Jeff Deeney and Louie Benjamin, respectively:
Simply put, Taylor is about as productive as it gets out of this vital position. And with NFL offenses regularly operating three-wide formations, Taylor should have plenty of chances to see his impact grow.
Oh, and it helps he’s more than just a moderate return guy.
Why He’ll Regress
It’s hard to find legitimate reasons why Taylor won’t pan out at the NFL level.
Sure, the size is an issue. But there are more than a few slot receivers who have commanded high numbers while boasting a smallish stature. Heck, Welker (5-foot-9) and T.Y. Hilton (5-foot-10) are receivers who never let size be an issue.
Taylor’s 28 3/4-inch arms aren’t the longest, though, which limits his catch radius.
Additionally, La. Tech’s route tree is much simpler than anything Taylor will encounter under head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense — widely viewed as one of the most complex in the NFL.
This learning curve could present some serious problems as Taylor forces himself to adjust to better coverages at the pro level.
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What to Expect in 2017
Taylor could wind up making a serious impact right away on special teams, especially if he’s able to secure a punt return job right out of the gate.
The Niners re-signed fellow slow receiver Jeremy Kerley during the offseason, who led San Francisco in 2016 with 667 receiving yards.
Kerley should be considered the favorite to start at this position in Week 1 and for a while thereafter. While the competition for this spot is good, it’s a bit far-fetched to assume Taylor is seriously challenging Kerley for starting reps right now.
Any sort of replacement — Taylor for Kerley — probably doesn’t end up happening until the end of 2017 at the earliest.
This isn’t exactly a bad thing, though. For Kerley, it’s a chance to showcase his value in a way that seriously helps a talent-questionable 49ers offense.
And for Taylor, Kerley’s abilities can provide key insight on what it takes to succeed in an NFL-style offense.
When 2018 rolls around, thought, Taylor may be the player to watch. Heck, maybe even sooner.