San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor saw a drastic drop in production for 2018 — something he will need to turn around in 2019 if he hopes to retain a roster spot among up-and-coming wideouts.
The San Francisco 49ers struggled immensely when it came to proficient wide receivers in 2018. Any year a team doesn’t have one single wide receiver reach 1,000 yards is a bad year. This is something the Niners will need to work on in the offseason if they have the expectations of being competitive for 2019.
While they will likely bolster the receiving corps via free agency and the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, players already on the roster need to step up, improve and provide some flashiness. One such player who will need to strap on his rocket skates is Trent Taylor, who will be moving into his third year with the 49ers.
Drafted by the 49ers in Round 5 of the 2017 NFL Draft, Taylor had a rather impressive rookie year. As the Niners’ No. 1 receiver in the slot, he received plenty of snaps and quickly became a fan favorite. He showed explosiveness in his route running and would become head coach Kyle Shanahan’s go-to man on third down.
Once quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took to the field, Taylor’s stock rose even further, with Garoppolo and Taylor appearing to have great chemistry with each other. Add to that Taylor’s reliability at punt returning, and it seemed that he would continue his rise into 2018.
However, that was not to be.
Come the 2018 offseason, Taylor would undergo what at the time Shanahan called “minor” back surgery due to wear-and-tear issues. He missed some 2018 preseason training due to the surgery and was expected to bounce back in time for the regular season.
However, Taylor saw a dramatic decrease in both snaps and production, with Shanahan choosing to increase playing time for wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and rookie Richie James Jr. Whether Taylor had any niggling back issues hampering him is one possibility for his decline, along with the fact that Garoppolo was absent for most of the season following his ACL tear.
Whatever the case, Taylor just didn’t seem to be himself for the 2018 season, and his numbers prove it. His rookie year saw Taylor with 43 receptions for 430 yards, averaging 10 yards per reception and two touchdowns, with a reasonable 71.7 catch percentage to go along with it. He had 30 punt returns for 281 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per return.
Compare that to 2018, where Taylor recorded just 26 receptions for 215 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per reception with one touchdown. His catch percentage also saw a decrease to 63.4 percent. He was sparingly used in the returning role, with just 10 returns for 78 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per reception.
With Bourne finishing the season with the 49ers’ most receiving yards, 487 yards from 42 receptions, Taylor will likely have some stiff competition going into this year’s training camp. Couple that with the fact that, at this stage, James looks to have cemented the return role and Taylor might just be in a bit of trouble.
With the draft and free agency looming upon us, Taylor’s predicament will only further increase as we see some new additions to the 49ers squad. While we all know that Taylor has the skills and abilities to be a starter in the NFL, something that he has already shown, he will need to get back to at least the level he was in his rookie year in order to continue to push for a spot on the roster.
Coming into his third year, he needs to start showing signs of improvement in all areas of his game. Hopefully it is as simple that a lingering back issue is all that has caused his sophomore slump, and given adequate offseason time to properly recover, he can return to his former self.