Niner Noise takes a look at second-year San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor, as the latest part of our 2018 “Who Is?” series, projecting what he’ll be asked to do this upcoming season.
A year ago, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch proved he could find worthwhile talent in the latter stages of the NFL Draft — an aspect the guy he replaced, Trent Baalke, largely struggled with during his time in Santa Clara.
One of Lynch’s hits in the 2017 draft was wide receiver Trent Taylor — Round 5, No. 177 overall.
Taylor’s collegiate accolades at Louisiana Tech were notable, particularly his NCAA-leading 1,803 receiving yards in 2016. And while Taylor came nowhere close to that kind of production his rookie, year, her certainly made his mark over the course of the season.
His 43 receptions were tied for third among all Niners pass catchers last year, while his 430 receiving yards ranked fourth.
Taylor also made notable contributions on special teams, returning 30 punts and averaging 9.4 yards per attempt — tied for ninth best in the NFL last season.
But where Taylor made his money was on third down, particularly when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took over starting duties in Week 12. Taylor had a total of 18 third-down receptions for first downs a year ago — tied for ninth best in the league and tied for first among rookies with Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp.
Yet with some new faces to San Francisco’s receiving corps this year, what should fans expect out of Taylor as he hits year two of his pro career?
Why Trent Taylor Improves in 2018
Standing at just 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, Taylor is your prototypical slot receiver capable of commanding routes all over the middle of the field. And while height is always going to be an issue with players of Taylor’s stature, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense isn’t exactly predicated on big-bodied targets. It’s more about route running and scheming to get guys open.
Taylor had some issues with this early on in 2017, which is understandable as Shanahan’s offense is one of the most complex in the NFL.
A full year in the system should do Taylor some good. According to Pro Football Focus, the usually sure-handed Taylor had four drops on 47 catchable passes, equating for a drop rate of 8.51 percent.
Look for that number to improve this season, as Taylor won’t be dealing with the “concentration drops” many first-year players endure.
Why He Regresses
It’s hard to imagine Taylor suffering any sort of regression, physically or ability-wise, in 2018. Yet the 49ers added two more notable receivers via the draft this offseason — Washington’s Dante Pettis and MTSU’s Richie James.
Pettis, in particular, could take away some targets from Taylor over the course of the year. So could the healthy return of veteran wideout Pierre Garçon, who missed half of 2017 with a neck injury.
In simpler terms, there’s likely to be a bit more ball distribution over the course of the year. And while this should make the Niners’ overall offensive attack better and more varied, it also could easily cut into Taylor’s stat line this season.
So if Taylor wants to see his numbers increase from a year ago, he’d better remain a viable third-down weapon for Garoppolo and Co.
San Francisco 49ers
What to Expect with the 49ers in 2018
Pettis might not be a direct threat to Taylor’s 2018 snap count, as the Niners will likely ease the rookie into a role as the year moves along. And Pettis is more than capable of lining up anywhere on the field, not just in the slot.
Perhaps the only legitimate threat to Taylor this training camp will be James who, like Taylor, has a similar small-statured build — 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.
But Taylor would have to completely flop in camp and the preseason to allow James to overtake him on the depth chart. It’s hard to foresee that, yet it’s good Taylor is going to be pressed a bit by a young and eager first-year player. Remember, competition is a good thing.
A full year of Garoppolo at quarterback should help negate many of the concerns of Taylor’s stats taking a hit because of ball distribution. Therefore it wouldn’t be a shock at all to see his 2018 numbers increase over what Taylor produced last season.
His reception numbers might increase between the range of 50 or 60 this season, while his total yardage could easily jump upwards of 500 to 600.
Anything more would be an absolute bonus.
Most importantly, Taylor’s abilities on third down should be a major weapon for Shanahan’s offense. Look for that to stay a trend too.