The San Francisco 49ers have a promising crop of wide receivers atop their depth chart, but second-year pro Kendrick Bourne might be the guy to watch in 2018.
Not great, but it’s understandable. The Niners don’t exactly boast a lot of “star power,” which is ultimately the biggest criteria factor most analysts and pundits would use. Outside veteran receiver Pierre Garçon and, to a lesser extent, Marquise Goodwin, few among the NFL’s national fanbase would know San Francisco’s wideouts’ names.
And one player not getting enough love is second-year wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
It’s not hard to understand why. The former Eastern Washington target had just 16 receptions for 257 yards last season. That’s nowhere near enough to garner national attention.
But that’s possibly a good thing, though. Flying under the radar, Bourne has an excellent chance to be a premier playmaker for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense this season and beyond.
At 6-foot-1, Bourne is already among the tallest receivers on Shanahan’s otherwise short receiving crop. That could bode well for Bourne’s use in the red zone, where San Francisco ranked 27th in touchdown efficiency.
There are plenty of other reasons too.
Kendrick Bourne and the Deep-Play Ability
One of the fortes from Shanahan’s complex offense is the ability to scheme guys to get open, therefore maximizing yards after the catch.
This is an area in which Bourne wins. The below play, as shown by former KNBR 680 insider Kevin Jones, shows how Bourne’s acceleration after the catch in Week 15 against the Tennessee Titans resulted in a massive 54-yard gain:
Bourne ran a 4.68 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine a year ago. But it’s his second-level acceleration that works here.
Pro Football Focus‘ analytics suggest Bourne can excel in this area too. On 31 targets last year, Bourne posted a yards-per-route-run metric of 1.28 — third behind Garçon (1.94) and Goodwin (1.79) on the team. By that alone, Bourne should have already sealed a role as the team’s No. 3 receiver on the outside.
And there are reasons to expect an even better mark in 2018.
Bourne was mostly a non-factor the first nine games of his rookie season, getting just six-plus targets once (Week 9 versus the Arizona Cardinals) during that same stretch. Yet he finished out the final three games of 2017 with targets of six, five and five in Weeks 15 through 17, respectively.
Seems as if Bourne developed a nice little chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, right?
Adding to the under-the-radar hype, KNBR 680’s Larry Krueger spoke highly of Bourne when the former appeared on 49ers Webzone’s No Huddle podcast last week, saying:
"San Francisco 49ers Niner Noise 0d - 2023 NFL Draft: EDGE Byron Young could be impact player for 49ers More headlines around FanSided: 1d - 5 low-key NFL Draft options for 49ers who are flying under the radar 1d - Updated 49ers salary cap space ahead of 2023 NFL Draft 1d - Deebo Samuel fully admits his hatred of LA Rams 2d - 2023 mock NFL Draft 3.0: Final 11th-hour edition (with trades) 2d - Trey Lance rumors: 49ers likely didn't have trade market for QB More News at Niner Noise Now, the guy who I think can impact things dramatically – and I know this sounds crazy because you’re talking about an undrafted free agent – but I’m a huge fan of Kendrick Bourne. Every time I look up, it seems that Kendrick Bourne is spending time in the facilities, getting reps, getting better.I thought at the end of last year, he showed on a few different plays, big-time run-after-the-catch ability. I’m not saying Jerry Rice (or) John Taylor run-after-the-catch ability, but better run-after-the-catch ability than I’ve seen on almost any other receiver besides that duo in a Niner uniform. I’m really, really excited about Kendrick Bourne."
All those traits certainly showed up on the film too.
At any rate, Bourne is well on his way to emerging as another one of those late-round/undrafted gems the 49ers discovered last year.
And if his trajectory continues at the expected rate, there are more than a few reasons to expect he’ll have a major impact in 2018 and beyond.