NFL Spin Zone: 49ers have middle-of-the-pack wide receiver corps
By Peter Panacy
At least the 49ers aren’t suffering from a dearth of talent at wide receiver, but the folks at NFL Spin Zone recognize there’s improvement needed.
One of the bigger question marks facing the San Francisco 49ers this offseason and into training camp was whether or not the team’s wide receiver depth was going to be good enough.
Granted, if any team is relying too heavily on their third, fourth or even fifth wide receiver during any given season, it’s a sign of hard times. But the 2020 Niners found out all too harshly just how bad injury attrition and positional shortages can be with regards to this position.
Particularly with their top two wideouts, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, each missing substantial stretches of time a year ago.
Both Samuel and Aiyuk are cemented in as San Francisco’s WR1 and WR2, and you can swap either player for the No. 1 spot if you so wish.
Yet injury concerns and a lack of depth are the primary reasons why Randy Gurzi over at FanSided’s NFL Spin Zone didn’t rank the 49ers’ wide receiver corps any higher than 15th entering the 2021 season.
His explanation makes sense:
"For the past few years, the San Francisco 49ers have been trying to improve their wide receivers corps and they have been able to bring in a few playmakers. Deebo Samuel is the best of the bunch but he’s struggled with health. He played in only seven games last season but if he’s healthy in 2021, he can probably put up some big plays like he did in 2019 when he helped them get to the Super Bowl.There’s also Brandon Aiyuk who had 784 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. He could continue to develop and become a force — and having Trey Lance could help that. There’s still a need for more help as their top pass-catcher is still their tight end, George Kittle. He’s an elite player but he could use some help as well."
Let’s cross off the worry about Kittle being the No. 1 pass-catcher for a moment here. It’s the same factor with the AFC champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, with tight end Travis Kelce anyway.
49ers should worry about health, lack of depth at wide receiver
The Niners elected not to use one of their eight selections in the 2021 NFL Draft on a wide receiver despite it being regarded as an awfully deep class, and this move was somewhat shocking in the wake of losing No. 3 wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to free agency.
While Bourne wasn’t exactly a prolific wideout by any means, he was at least regularly good for two or three catches per game and was a mainstay, at least in terms of health and availability.
Samuel, meanwhile, was limited to just seven games last year and saw a dramatic decline in impact after posting 802 receiving yards during his rookie 2019 season before dropping to 391 a year ago.
Read More: Deebo Samuel injury history and updates
The hope, of course, is for Samuel to return fully healthy, finally pairing with Aiyuk on a regular basis. Should this be the case, San Francisco’s wide receiver situation looks far better than it otherwise would have been if either player was entering 2021 banged up.
The 49ers are banking on Aiyuk’s second-year impact being massive, too.
After those two, however, it’s still a fairly open-ended question as to which player separates from the pack to replace Bourne.
The veteran, Mohamed Sanu, was one of the favorites to do so during organized team activities, while fourth-year pro Trent Sherfield was one of the Niners’ early standouts in Week 1 of training camp. Depth wideouts, Jauan Jennings and Jalen Hurd, are also in the mix despite both never having seen a regular-season snap in their respective careers yet.
Either way, it’s possible to admit NFL Spin Zone is sleeping a bit on the tandem of Samuel and Aiyuk, provided they both stay healthy. Yet San Francisco can’t be considered as well guarded against injuries to either of those two, as the depth behind them is still questionable at best.