49ers training camp: 3 problems Kyle Shanahan will face at wide receiver

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Despite years’ efforts trying to upgrade the position, the 49ers still face problems at wide receiver, and training camp could ultimately reveal them.

The San Francisco 49ers have used at least one pick in the NFL Draft on a wide receiver each year since 2002. And yet it seems as if regardless the Niners’ actions during the draft and in each offseason, it’s not long before more questions abound regarding this position.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t immune to the seemingly forever search the franchise has had to find its next face-of-the-team wideout. In 2017, Shanahan and the 49ers used a fifth-round pick on slot receiver Trent Taylor, and the results since then have been so-so. In 2018, Dante Pettis was the pick, while Deebo Samuel was the selection last year.

Now, the hope is rookie wideouts Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings will fill this void.

Perhaps the 2020 offseason has highlighted the glaring void San Francisco has had at this position for years now. Arguably the best one-two punches the 49ers have had since the days of Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens have been Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin back in 2013 and 2014, then Samuel and now-New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the second half of 2019.

With the Niners kicking off training camp, the lack of a dynamic tandem is more apparent than ever. In truth, Shanahan lacks a top-notch WR1, especially with Samuel potentially out for the first few weeks of the regular season with a Jones fracture in his left foot.

The San Jose Mercury News‘ Dieter Kurtenbach probably argued it best in the wake of San Francisco bringing aboard two more wideouts before camp, Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson:

"Even if both Nelson and Austin impress — even if both climb up the depth chart and are solid options for the 49ers come the regular season — I feel comfortable in saying that neither player will be what the Niners really need: a No. 1 wide receiver. These are role players, gadget-play options, or returners at best. With Deebo Samuel out (and we might be having this conversation if Samuel was still in) the Niners lack an every-down, go-to option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners were missing that player last year, too, until they traded for Emmanuel Sanders."

Simply put, the 49ers are hurting at this vital position. They got by early in 2019 amid an eight-game win streak. But replicating that won’t be as easy this year, meaning Shanahan will have to figure out ways to address these three specific problems his wide receivers face in training camp.