49ers news: Pro Football Focus ranks Niners wide receivers 25th

Kendrick Bourne #84 and Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Kendrick Bourne #84 and Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The 49ers don’t exactly boast the best wide receiver corps entering 2020, and Pro Football Focus took notice of this banged-up group.

In fairness, the San Francisco 49ers had one of the worst-performing wide receiver corps over the first half of 2019 and still managed to start that season 8-0.

So it isn’t as if Pro Football Focus’ latest ranking of all 32 teams’ wide receiver corps is the end-all, be-all of analysis and projecting how teams will square up when Week 1 of the 2020 season finally kicks off.

PFF’s Steve Palazzolo recently broke down his listing of each team’s wide receivers, and the Niners didn’t exactly open the year high on his predictive list.

Palazzolo’s rationale was as follows:

"San Francisco hit the jackpot with Deebo Samuel in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he has the skill set to be the true No. 1 this season. You could find Samuel all over the field last year, as he was used in the backfield and on jet sweeps while also threatening the middle of the field on conventional routes. This added up to him ranking fifth in the league with 484 yards after the catch during the regular season while ranking third with an average of 8.5 yards after the catch per reception.Samuel is banged up and will likely miss some time, but when healthy, he’s dynamic both before and after the catch. Some of the “space” plays could go to rookie first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk, who averaged 9.9 yards after the catch per reception on his 98 career college catches. Samuel and Aiyuk are perfect fits for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and his deployment of the dangerous receivers will keep defenses in a bind."

It’s true about Samuel, who became only the second rookie in team history to record more than 900 yards from scrimmage (961) with the other being the Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice, back in 1985 with 953.

But Samuel is out with a Jones fracture in his left foot now, and it’s possible he misses the first quarter of 2020 if not longer. This essentially leaves only three other pro-level proven options: Trent Taylor, who is coming off a Jones fracture of his own, Kendrick Bourne and third-year pro Dante Pettis, who was relegated to an inactive role in Super Bowl LIV after a promising finish to his 2018 campaign.

This puts a lot of pressure, as Palazzolo noted, on Aiyuk to transition from a promising collegiate prospect into a bona fide receiving threat.

Aiyuk fits the mold for what Shanahan wants out of his receiving corps: excellent separation skills and the ability to create yards after the catch. Yet Aiyuk wasn’t asked to run the most complex of route trees while at Arizona State, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to assume the rookie struggles early in his adjustment to one of the league’s most complex and intricate offenses.

Especially without an offseason comprised of rookie minicamp and organized team activities.

There are some bonuses here, however. San Francisco already has a No. 1 receiving threat on its roster, tight end George Kittle, who led all Niners pass catchers in receiving yards the past two seasons. It’ll be up to him to shoulder a sizable portion of the Niners’ aerial attack, while Shanahan’s offense is still first predicated on the run.

Plus, with Samuel on the mend to start the year, one can expect the 49ers to find out awfully quick whether or not they have something of exceptional value in Aiyuk.

Even if the Niners wide receiver corps doesn’t rank high, it’s important to note the team got by just fine without a bona fide No. 1 wideout for the first half of 2019 until now-New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders came aboard via a trade.

Next. 3 wide receivers who can benefit from Deebo Samuel injury. dark

If the same situation winds up presenting itself this year, though, a trade doesn’t seem too likely, as the Niners are limited in draft capital and have spent the better portion of the past three years investing heavily in their wide receiver room.

It’s time to see who out of this group ascends to the surface, even if that process takes a little bit of time to mature.