SF 49ers: Too bad Trent Taylor never panned out like Wes Welker

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor (15) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor (15) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

SF 49ers fans were rightfully excited about slot receiver Trent Taylor becoming the next version of Wes Welker, only to see those hopes dashed.

Well, it’s a matter of “what could have been” for the SF 49ers and their 2017 fifth-round NFL Draft pick, slot receiver Trent Taylor.

A year removed from leading all college football with 1,803 receiving yards at Louisiana Tech, the 5-foot-8 Taylor drew plenty of comparisons to another shortish pass-catcher who had plenty of success at the NFL level, now-Niners assistant coach Wes Welker, who made his notable impact with both the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos during his playing days.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling wrote this about the comparison, including a key quote from head coach Kyle Shanahan, not long after San Francisco selected Taylor that year:

"Taylor will never beat NFL cornerbacks on the outside, but Shanahan believes the rookie’s skill set is custom-made for success in confined spaces.“I thought he was as good at the slot role as anyone that we were looking at in the draft,” Shanahan explained in late April. “He really owned that spot. He was very quick. His body’s always under him. He can make cuts.“I thought what impressed me the most about him besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands, he ran angry and pissed off. He got up the field. He’s not scared to get hit. He’s a very competitive, violent runner and those are the guys to me who keep you on the field and move the chains.”Shanahan’s description reads like a Welker scouting report from a decade ago. The premier inside route runner of his generation, Welker consistently beat single coverage with elite short-area quickness while reading defensive keys on the same wavelength as his quarterbacks."

Well, that never happened. Too bad.

True, Taylor flashed plenty of promise during his rookie season. In addition to his 43 catches for 430 yards amid the SF 49ers beginning of a total roster rebuild, the La. Tech product had 19 third-down receptions for a first down. That was tied for ninth best among all receivers in 2017 and most among rookies along with LA Rams first-year receiver, Cooper Kupp.

But fans know the story too well. A back injury stunted Taylor’s development and rapport in 2018, while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo also went down with his torn ACL that year. During training camp the following year, amid what looked like to be a resurgent campaign from Taylor, he suffered a Jones fracture in his foot that landed him on injured reserve.

He never returned that season, undergoing several surgeries and setbacks during that span.

Now fully healthy in 2020, Taylor has turned into a shadow of his former hopeful self:

Trent Taylor Receiving Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 12/8/2020.

Welker would become a perennial 1,000-yard receiver by his fourth year in the league. Taylor, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch for the SF 49ers during their Week 13 loss at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.

And it doesn’t appear as if Shanahan has any kind of long-term plans for him beyond this season.

A free agent to be in 2021, Taylor is all but guaranteed to be shown the door. San Francisco already has a top-two wide receiver tandem in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and a deep wideout class in next year’s draft only makes the slim prospects for a would-be Taylor return that much dimmer.

For a career that started off with so much promise and hype, it’s a shame injuries got in the way and derailed what could have been a near-parallel trajectory between Taylor and his predecessor, Welker.

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Or, perhaps, SF 49ers fans just need to understand the comparison between the two was nothing more than the often-too-used player comps nearly every NFL Draft prospect receives upon joining the league.

Nothing more. And it’s too bad that’s the case.