Wide receiver is considered to be one of the top needs for the San Francisco 49ers heading into 2019. But just how big a priority should Kyle Shanahan place on the position?
No San Francisco 49ers wide receiver crested 500 receiving yards in 2018.
The Niners’ leading wideout last year was Kendrick Bourne, who led all teammates at this position with a mere 487 yards. And San Francisco hasn’t had a 1,000-yard wide receiver since former NFL great Anquan Boldin did it back in 2014.
That’s pretty bad.
So it should make sense fans are clamoring about the idea of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, the perennial Pro Bowler, possibly coming to San Francisco this offseason. He’d be a true top-tier impact player, a game changer of epic proportions for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
But while most would agree Brown would make a massive difference, is pursuing a well-known wide receiver an absolute priority for the 49ers right now?
It is, sure. The question is, however, just how big a priority it is. For starters, take a look at the Niners’ wide receiving numbers from last season. They’re not pretty:
Based off those numbers alone — the NFL is a numbers game, after all — the 49ers need some serious help here. Yet the situation might not be quite as dire as one could think.
It seems highly unlikely veteran wideout Pierre Garçon is back with the team in 2019, freeing up a spot for one of the younger receivers, namely someone like Bourne or the 2018 rookie, Richie James. James has some explosiveness to his game, an attribute fellow slot receiver Trent Taylor generally lacks. Yet Taylor, San Francisco’s primary third-down weapon in 2017, was hindered by a back injury all of last year.
Injuries also hindered both Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, who were widely viewed to be the team’s two best pass-catching weapons at the position. Goodwin, who just revealed the family tragedy he endured this year, didn’t come close to replicating his 2017 efforts that nearly netted him 1,000 yards.
This isn’t to say Goodwin winds up being an every-down receiver for Shanahan in 2019. Rather it’s just a point to make that bigger numbers could easily be on the horizon for San Francisco’s speed threat.
As for Pettis? Well, the first two-thirds of his rookie campaign were also hindered by injury. But as Niner Noise broke down earlier, Pettis’ efforts over his final five games of 2018 would average out to a total of nearly 1,150 receiving yards in a full 16-game season.
That’s more the kind of production for which San Francisco is hoping.
Again, the 49ers would more than benefit from a big-name wide receiver this offseason, either through free agency or the 2019 NFL Draft.
But it’s just as possible the Niners aren’t putting as high a priority on adding someone here as much of the fanbase is.