Niner Noise continues it’s ‘State of the Franchise’ series with a look at the wide receiver position, where the 49ers have introduced several new faces to provide weapons on the offensive front.
Wide receiver is a position the San Francisco 49ers invested a lot to upgrade this season, and there’s a lot of new faces at the position.
More than one NFL Draft pick was spent on the position, while the Niners also made a significant addition from free agency also.
Combine that with the array of promising receivers from last season, and the wide receiver battle will be one of the biggest battles during training camp.
In the “State of the Franchise” series, we look at the current state of the 2019 roster as the 49ers get closer to training camp, position by position.
We won’t be doing full player profiles, for those we recommend taking a look at the “Who Is?” series by Niner Noise.
2019 State of the Franchise: Wide receivers
Kendrick Bourne showed some good progression in his second year with 42 catches for 487 yards and four touchdowns, but he faces a battle to stay on the roster with the 49ers new additions.
That being said, Bourne has shown good progression so far and could still yet be a factor in the offense.
To this end, Goodwin will be more of a deep threat for San Francisco than he could have been previously as the No. 1 receiver.
Malik Henry is an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia. He probably won’t be able to make inroads in the tough wide receiver depth chart.
Jalen Hurd was drafted in the third round to be the big mismatch the 49ers have been waiting for. He’s currently a bit raw, so he may need to take some time to adjust to the NFL.
Richie James is more of a returner than a receiver in this group of players, as he’s behind another player in the battle to be the starting slot receiver. His special teams ability may be enough to keep him on the roster.
Jordan Matthews is the only receiver to come over from free agency, and he’s drawn some good reviews already in his work. He’s developed a chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Niners will be well aware of his talent for touchdown receptions in the red zone (touchdown efficiency was a stat the 49ers finished in dead last for last season).
Expect a big battle between him and Bourne in camp.
Max McCaffrey is a returnee from the bottom of the 49ers’ receiving depth chart last season.
McCaffrey is not a special teams standout, which makes his odds of getting on the practice squad slim.
Dante Pettis had a promising rookie season, expanding his role down the stretch after the 49ers bye week.
The 49ers did a great job to coach Pettis up during the bye week, and his momentum should continue this season as he becomes a starter.
Shawn Poindexter is a second undrafted free agent in the 49ers fold, but adds a bit of intrigue to the mix.
At 6-foot-5, Poindexter is the tallest receiver in the 49ers receiving corps, and of his 42 catches in his senior season he caught a whopping eleven touchdowns.
There’s mismatch potential in Poindexter, who could be a candidate for the practice squad.
Deebo Samuel is the second receiver in a row the 49ers have taken in the second round, and it’s possible we see Samuel and Pettis starting on the field together a lot.
His position on the roster is assured, the question is how big his rookie season will be.
After being hampered by injuries last season, Trent Taylor looks set to return as the team’s primary slot receiver.
Taylor enjoys a fine chemistry with Garoppolo, and having former Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker as the 49ers’ receiving coach means that he could enjoy a potential breakout season this year.
This is a hard one to predict. The undrafted free agents are unlikely to get through to the 53-man roster, while James and Bourne face uphill battles to stay on.
The 49ers look like they could have signed a steal in Matthews given his budding chemistry with Garoppolo, and the rookies in Samuel and Hurd will be on the roster no matter what.
It’s a tough decision but I believe the UDFAs, McCaffrey, Bourne and James may find themselves on the outer.
The only asterisk is on James, could he stay on as a returner? Only time can tell.