Jimmy Garoppolo is an excellent reward for a franchise that is experiencing a rough season. But unlike his former team, the San Francisco 49ers are in need of weapons at his disposal. Niners Live takes a look at this year’s receiving and tight end cores and tells you which ones are safe, which ones have a shot and which players will not be back.
Imagine that you bought a shiny new car from the dealership. You make sure the insurance is top notch, study the owner’s manual looking for ways to get the top performance and even go as far as finding ways to keep the new car smell inside just a little longer; and then comes the reality of filling the gas tank. Do you fill the tank with top-notch gasoline or do you go with the lower grade? This is what Head Coach Kyle Shanahan must answer as he decides how to mold his newest acquisition, Jimmy Garoppolo. Let’s look at what he has so far at wide receiver and tight end.
Pierre Garcon will be 32 next season and has no touchdowns in 8 games despite being the most productive receiver on the team. He is also currently the only starter with a big frame to go with his clutch hands, which is an area of emphasis for the 49ers in the offseason.
Trent Taylor has not been used on a consistent basis, but has been productive as a slot receiver and right behind Garcon in terms of productivity. Given that this is his first NFL Season, it’s conceivable to think of him as a young Danny Amendola when imagining him receiving passes from Garoppolo.
George Kittle has been the very definition of inconsistency this season. His blocking game has declined from his days at Iowa and, quite frankly, he has dropped more passes than previously anticipated. However, some of this can be dismissed as rookie jitters and his ability to beat linebackers in coverage, making him a safe bet to be part of the 49ers plans in 2018.
The same can be said of tight end Cole Hikutini. The 49ers waited until the last possible moment to place Hikutini on the injured reserve list. His frame and pass-catching prowess remind many of the days when the New England Patriots used the double tight end pass catching g attack of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski .
You don’t have to go home, but you’ve got to get the hell out of here
Marquise Goodwin, as Niners Live has pointed out all season, is respected for his speed and pretty much nothing else. The continued dropped passes for this 5th-year receiver don’t justify the salary, or his spot.
Logan Paulsen was never a pass-catching threat, but had a reputation of being an excellent blocker. That was the rationale behind his free agent signing. Yet, we have seen little evidence that this philosophy has paid dividends; it also doesn’t help that he has been cut and added back at least three times this season.
Aldrick Robinson had the advantage of playing in Shanahan’s system for four seasons; but can it really be an advantage if you’re still dropping passes in key moments? We think not.
On The Fence
Garrett Celek is a tight end that Kyle Shanahan didn’t anticipate making the team, let alone get playing time. Yet, with the limited number of snaps he has seen this season, Celek has proven effective. And consistent. We trust that the powers that be in Santa Clara are rethinking his place on the squad.
Kendrick Bourne has been getting playing time in Garcon’s absence and while he has a lot of ground to cover in the next 7 games of the season, he has shown the ability to separate from defenders. While he has dropped passes, unlike Robinson and Goodwin, he seems to take it personally, meaning he actually wants to be a part of the rebuild, something we can’t honestly say about the aforementioned receivers.
Victor Bolden has the kind of speed that can change a game, but has shown no evidence of a pass-catching threat. Think of him as a cheaper, younger alternative to Marquise Goodwin. A depth guy at best, for right now.
DeAndre Smelter has been on the practice squad for two of his three seasons. His unique size at the wide receiving position makes him a matchup problem for a cornerback, which is why he has been kept on as a member of the 49ers. The problem is, he is an exact prototype of Pierre Garcon and until Garcon is gone, Smelter’s chances of seeing regular snaps become very slim.
The Bottom Line
No one has feared the 49ers passing game for the past three seasons. Having Garoppolo as the new signal caller will not, alone, change that. The 49ers are in need of playmakers who put fear in the secondary, CONSISTENTLY. It’s hard to imagine a receiving corps that is uniformly the same in terms of height and weight. The 49ers lack a receiver who can challenge the defender for jump balls, or a receiver who serves as a big target for the quarterback. The question remaining is whether they choose to go after a big name free agent receiver, or address that need in the draft. If this is truly Garoppolo’s team, he will have some sway as to the new prototype of pass catchers that grace the Red & Gold in 2018.
Important to note: The 49ers lead the league in drops with 21.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims