The state of the San Francisco 49ers wide receivers was in a sorry state when Kyle Shanahan was named head coach of the 49ers. In 2016, the 49ers leader in receiving yard was Jeremy Kerley, and he only amassed 667 yards. Shanahan completely overhauled the position, bringing in key veterans and supplementing the roster with young, unproven players.
A lot has changed since then. In a recent edition of The Ringer NFL Show Podcast, Danny Kelly and Danny Heifetz discussed players they were excited about in 2018. When discussing the 49ers, they coined the phrase the “Shanahanaissance” because of the offensive guru’s revival of a once stagnant wide receiver corps. The 49ers now appear to have more wide receivers than they can roster, and will be forced to make some tough decisions. The final set of receivers could very well shake out as below.
San Francisco 49ers Wide Receivers Roster Predictions
In the NFL, there really is no such thing a lock. Players can and will be cut at any time if the team feels they have a replacement lined up. Having said that, there are four receivers on the 49ers that are as close to locks as there can be.
Though Pierre Garçon was injured for a good chunk of 2017, he is still expected to top the 49ers depth chart. His familiarity with Shanahan from their days with the Washington Professional Team, as well as his ability to move the sticks on third down, ensure he will make the roster
Last year, Marquise Goodwin nearly amassed double the receiving yards he had had in his career prior. His Olympic speed and rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo make him one of the most dangerous weapons in all of football.
Trent Taylor’s ability to create separation, especially on third down, make him an incredible asset in the passing game. The 49ers did not trade up in the second round for Dante Pettis for him not to make the roster. Pettis’ skill set makes him a perfect piece for Shanahan’s offense.
Of all the non-locks, Kendrick Bourne appears to have the best bet to make the 53-man roster. The second-year man out of Eastern Washington barely made the 49ers last year. He had little impact until injuries forced him onto the field late in the season. When he got his chance to play, he didn’t disappoint.
During this off-season, the 49ers coaching staff has spoken very highly of Bourne. Shanahan praised his strides as a receiver and as a person, saying “he really grew up a lot throughout the year.” The 49ers will hope he continues to grow throughout the years.
Prediction: 53-Man Roster
Aldrick Robinson has followed Shanahan throughout his career. Robinson played under Shanahan in Washington, with the Atlanta Falcons, and now with the 49ers. Robinson is a true pro, and the type of presence wanted in a locker room. He can help spread the gospel of Shanahan.
Despite his familiarity with the system, Robinson isn’t getting any younger. He will turn 30 in September. The 49ers will probably feel they can get both younger and cheaper at the bottom of their wide receiver depth chart.
Prediction: Roster Cut
John Lynch appears to have a knack for finding gems in the seventh round. After securing Adrian Colbert last year, Lynch added Richie James out of Middle Tennessee State. James has been the darling of the preseason. His speed and quickness make him a perfect slot receiver and return man. The emergence of James may lead to some calling for the trade of more established receivers, such as Garçon or Taylor.
It is easy to get worked up over a player after an incredible preseason, but one shouldn’t get carried away. At the end of the day, James is a seventh-round pick that has broken both of his collarbones. He is an incredibly promising player, but more than likely needs a season on the practice squad. He may get claimed before he can make it to the practice squad, but the 49ers have enough talent that they will get by, especially considering Pettis and Taylor’s skillset overlaps with James.
Prediction: Practice Squad
Of all the receivers on the roster, Aaron Burbridge is the lone holdover from the brief Chip Kelly era. Burbridge may have been cut last year, but he tore his hamstring, and the 49ers were able to stash him on the injured reserve. Fully recovered, Burbridge has a strong chance to make the roster.
Burbridge’s ticket onto the roster is as a special teams player. Shanahan has praised his ability to add value on special teams, and also complemented his development as a receiver. Burbridge and Raheem Mostert give the 49ers an excellent pair of gunners and weapons that can really affect the field position game. As the sixth receiver on the depth chart, Burbridge won’t need to make a contribution as a receiver and can focus on special teams.
Prediction: 53-Man Roster
Victor Bolden Jr.
Victor Bolden Jr. was one of three rookies to consistently make the 53-man roster last year. This year, the competition has greatly increased. As a receiver, Bolden is still a work in progress. As a kickoff return man, Bolden is electric.
Unfortunately for Bolden, it is impossible for him to make the opening day roster. Bolden must serve a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Upon his return, the 49ers receiver corps will probably be settled, and Bolden will be on the outside looking in.
Prediction: Roster Cut
The Last Word
The roster transformation of the 49ers in the Shanahan era has been greatly felt in the wide receiver department. The 49ers have an immense amount of talent and will be forced to make some tough decisions. Having a franchise quarterback and an offensive guru will help mitigate the loss of any of these receivers. The 49ers haven’t had this deep and intriguing of a wide receiver corps for a very long time. Hopefully, this group is a huge part of 49ers run to a sixth Lombardi trophy.