There’s good reason to be concerned about the 49ers’ wide receiving corps. For a few minutes there it seemed like they would have one of the better tandems in the league. Anquan Boldin was a really nice pick up — the sixth round pick was a drop in the bucket and the only concern was his cap hit. He was certain to complement Michael Crabtree quite well.
For now though, he can only compliment Michael Crabtree. “Hey Crab, nice shoes! You look like you’re walking better.”
Now, there’s a big party out wide. The team has yet to solidify a replacement for Crabtree, and the drop off between Boldin and the rest of his cohorts is pretty significant:
Anquan Boldin: 10 seasons, 140 games played (14/season), 772 catches (77.2/season), 10,165 yards (1,016.5/season), 58 touchdowns (5.8/season)
Now for the rest of the crew: A good portion of the potential starters have no regular season experience. You know those names well: Ricardo Lockette, Quinton Patton and Chuck Jacobs. Then there’s A.J. Jenkins … but I’m sure you know how he did last year too.
Regarding those who do have NFL experience:
Austin Collie: 4 seasons, 42 games played (10.5/season), 173 catches (43.2/season), 1,845 yards (461.2/season), 16 touchdowns (4/season)
Kyle Williams: 3 seasons, 29 games played (9.6/season), 35 catches (11.6/season), 461 yards (153.6/season), 4 touchdowns (1.3/season)
Lavelle Hawkins: 5 seasons, 52 games played (10.4/season), 71 catches (14.2/season), 771 yards (154.2/season), 1 touchdown (I won’t rub it in)
Marlon Moore: 3 seasons, 29 games played (9.6/season), 12 catches (4/season), 244 yards (81.3/season), 2 touchdowns (Not good either)
Chad Hall: 2 seasons, 15 games played (7.5/season), 14 catches (7/season), 135 yards (67.5/season), 2 touchdowns (1/season)
Kassim Osgood: 10 seasons, 152 games played (15.2/season)*, 44 catches (4.4/season), 749 yards (74.9/season), 5 touchdowns (0.5/season)
Vernon Davis: Just kidding, he’s not playing wideout everybody chill
*Osgood appeared in most games as a special teams player rather than a wide receiver
I’m sorry if my list doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the 49ers’ pass-catchers, but this is what the team is dealing with. Truthfully, these stats are only skin deep. There are many variables preventing players from producing. Both Collie and Williams have had their careers hampered by various injuries, although it doesn’t excuse their lack of success. Durability is an important part of being a difference maker on the football field, and neither player has proven they can stay healthy.
Others, like Hawkins and Moore, have suffered through poor quarterbacking. Hawkins’ best season was in 2011, when Matt Hasselbeck was quarterback. Moore’s quarterbacks were Chad Henne, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill. What’s more troubling, however, is not what they did or didn’t do while on the field, it was how little many of these players saw the field at all.
Pro Football Focus keeps track of snaps, and since we’re (probably unfairly) comparing them to Anquan Boldin, let’s use him as a baseline to judge the top three players in terms of wide receiver experience:
— 2012 (including playoffs): Played in 19 games — 1,164 of 1,378 snaps — On field for 84% of offensive plays
— 2011 (including playoffs): Played in 16 games — 1,033 of 1,188 snaps — On field for 87% of offensive plays
— 2010 (including playoffs): Played in 18 games — 1,133 of 1,227 snaps — On field for 92% of offensive plays
— 2012: Played only in Week 3 — On field for 14 of 81 offensive plays in that game
— 2011: Played in 16 games — 614 of 1,004 snaps — On field for 61% of offensive plays
— 2010 (including playoffs): Played in 9 games — 420 of 1,212 snaps — On field for 34% of offensive plays
— 2012: Played in 6 games — 52 of 1,026 snaps — On field for .05% of offensive plays
— 2011: Played in 16 games — 560 of 1,045 snaps — On field for 54% of offensive plays
— 2010: Played in 3 games — On field for 44 of 189 offensive plays in those games
— 2012: Played in 11 games — 251 of 701 snaps — On field for 35% of offensive plays before suffering injury
— 2011: Played in 15 games — 385 of 1,195 snaps — On field for 32% of offensive plays
— 2010: Played in 2 games — On field for 7 of 111 offensive plays
With experience in mind, Collie could be leading this three-horse race. Hawkins has the most experience as an X or Y wide receiver, while Collie is the more experienced slot receiver and Williams has the edge as far as the 49ers’ system is concerned. Moore has been impressive in camp, but will it translate come game time? This leaves Hall, Martin and Osgood on the perimeter, with Osgood almost guaranteed a roster spot based on his special teams abilities, not receiving prowess.
The outliers, however, are the ones whose abilities can’t be quantified through the spectrum of actual NFL experience. Lockette has the added benefit of being Colin Kaepernick’s roommate. Despite being in his second season, Jenkins is just starting to stand out in practice while carrying the higher expectations that come with getting drafted in the first round. Patton has been talked up, but expectations that he’ll be productive in 2013 may be premature.
If you’re looking for big plays this preseason from Boldin, you’ll probably be disappointed. The 49ers not only need to keep Boldin healthy, they need to see what the other receivers can do in live action.