49ers: First Down Conversions; Are we Undervaluing Jeremy Kerley?

Niners Live is now back on its analytical A game in 49ers: First down Conversions; Are we undervaluing Jeremy Kerley?


Why he’s so valuable

After claiming the undisputed MVP of the team in 2016, the San Francisco 49ers re-signed the open man, Jeremy Kerley, to a well-deserved and hard-earned contract extension for the foreseeable future. In 2016, he lead the team in every major category when it came to the receiver position, accounting for 64 catches for 667 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 10.4 yards per catch. Not to mention racking up eight catches for 20 plus yards and 193 yards after the catch.

Shortly after the 2016 season concluded, Niners live pointed out Why Jeremy Kerley is Kyle Shanahan best version of Taylor Gabriel. In 2016, Gabriel amassed 35 receptions for 579 yards on 49 targets with 21 of them going for a first down. Gabriel also proved to be a vital asset for then offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the Atlanta Falcons during their run to the Super Bowl, as 50 percent of his targets in the postseason accounted for first downs (Espn.com).

Important to note: In his career, Kerley has accounted for 141 first downs on 246 receptions while averaging 11.8 yards per catch. In 2016, out of 64 catches, 33 of them went for first downs for an astonishing 51.6 percent (Espn.com). Not to mention he played in 90 games over his six-year career. Can you say durability?

How he’s made an early impact

Kerley has already set himself apart after being one of the only 22 players on the 2016 49ers who became free agents retained by the new regime. WR Coach Mike Lafleur was told he’s a pro by teammate and longtime 49er Joe Staley and so far, he hasn’t disappointed. “He’s always on his assignments, he knows the details of what we’re we’re trying to do, and he’s out there making plays,” said Lafleur (via Matt Barrows Sacramento Bee).

Clutch and Tough with a Dawg Mentality

Since the first game of the 2016 season, fans all witnessed the ability to make touch/acrobatic catches. Will Shanahan rely on Kerley to be a chain mover as he did Taylor Gabriel in Atlanta? It sure seems like a no-brainer, as Kerley was credited with only one drop pass to his name in 2016, and catching 55.7 percent of the passes thrown his way. Who can forget in week 12 against the Miami Dolphins when he went up and snagged the ball out of mid-air and had enough presence of mind to come down in bounds, albeit, with not much room to spare.

With the plethora of weapons coach Shanahan will have to work with this year, look for him to utilize Kerley’s skill set in more ways than one. Don’t be surprised this season to see Kerley as one of the unsung heroes for this team, making timely catches and making a name for himself once again as a big time play maker in the National Football League.

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As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated, but never duplicated… Go Niners.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.