It didn’t seem likely, that was for sure. That is, until Adam Schefter reported the 49ers having “‘real but guarded’ interest” (whatever that means) in DeSean Jackson before he ended up signing with Washington.
Either Jackson’s agent used the 49ers as a pawn to drive up his client’s price, or the 49ers had legitimate interest. Since there were several other teams with more cap room that would’ve presumably been a fit (the Raiders, Jets and Bills, to name a few), it sounds like if San Francisco was indeed active in their pursuit of the speedy wideout who’s been known to return a punt or two, it would’ve been at a man-I-want-to-win-a-Super-Bowl discount, which no one under 30 ever seems all that interested in.
There was no way the 49ers were going to throw their salary structure out of whack for Jackson, who ended up getting a reported $16 million guaranteed from Washington. But the fact that they were willing to move salary around and presumably change or expand their offensive philosophy a bit (three-WR sets haven’t been all that common in Ninerland since Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman arrived) shows they hope to provide Colin Kaepernick with more receiving weapons than a 49ers quarterback has enjoyed in two decades.
The 49ers have 11 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, including a whopping six of the first 100 selections. That means they can grab multiple receivers if they choose, including one of the many red zone threats who go 6-3 or taller. Assuming the 49ers really wanted Jackson, it might also be safe to assume they’ll target a speed guy regardless of size. The only question is whether they’d use their first selection (No. 30 overall) or trade up for a receiver, since they have just as many question marks (if not more) at cornerback.
Jackson is a singular talent who’s proven he can dominate at the NFL level, which is why the 49ers were interested. But here are two comparable draft-eligible receivers the 49ers might look at in May.
Jackson is listed at 5-10, 169. His 40 times before the 2008 NFL Draft ranged from 4.27 to 4.43.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Height: 5-9 – Weight: 189
40 Time: 4.33
- 2013 receiving stats: 128 receptions, 1,730 yards, 16 TD
- 2013 special teams stats: 18 punt returns, 72 PR yards, 0 TD
I started writing this post yesterday, and Cooks — the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner — helped validate the idea behind it with these comments about Jackson:
“His game is unbelievable,” said Cooks. “The man can blow the top off, catch the deep routes, catch the underneath routes, produce in the return game. He’s just special. He’s a freak. I definitely admire his game. Maybe Chip Kelly is looking to take another speedy receiver in that first round, and that could be me. Who knows? And if that’s the case, a lot of people will wonder ‘Can he do it like DeSean Jackson?’ In my opinion, I can do it like him and do it better.”
Cooks was incredible productive as a receiver in 2013, but has shown nothing to hint he’ll be even a decent returner in the NFL, let alone a home run threat like Jackson. He also has short arms, something that could scare away Trent Baalke. But as you can see in this highlight package, Cooks has no problem catching balls in traffic. He’s a top draft crush for many 49ers fans and writers, and chances are he’ll be gone before the 49ers’ first scheduled pick.
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Height: 5-11 – Weight: 198
40 Time: 4.43
- 2013 receiving: 59 receptions, 1,152 yards, eight TD
- 2013 special teams: 19 punt returns, 160 PR yards, 0 TD; 32 kickoff returns, 895 KR yards, 0 TD
Beckham has longer arms than Cooks. While he’s not an elite return man, he’s decent (he returned 35 punts for 320 yards and two touchdowns in 2012).
In case the 49ers decide to go with a cornerback first, here are two other comparable receivers based on size/speed that they might be able to snag in the middle rounds.
Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Height: 5-9 – Weight: 197
40 Time: 4.45
Dri Archer, WR/RB, Kent State
Height: 5-8 – Weight: 173
40 Time: 4.26