No. 5: Richie James Jr. shows what we’ve been waiting for
Rookie wide receiver Richie James Jr. has had a fairly quiet season, being primarily utilized as a kick returner. With head coach Kyle Shanahan unwilling to risk further injury to wide receiver Dante Pettis, James has had to settle for the role he has been placed in.
He has however seen limited game time at the receiver position with five receptions for 94 yards, averaging 18.8 yards per reception.
James has racked up 525 yards for the season from 22 kickoff returns. Over the past several weeks, James has had two fumbles while attempting to return kicks. This saw Shanahan replace him with wide receiver Trent Taylor in Week 14’s win over the Denver Broncos.
However, Sunday saw James redeem himself with an amazing 97-yard kickoff return touchdown, the first 49ers’ kick-off return touchdown since 2011:
While he had only one other return for the game, he is worth a mention due to the sheer excitement of the run. If James can continue to hold onto the ball, the 49ers may have found a replacement for Pettis at returner.