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Does free agency or the draft hold the 49ers’ wide receiver of the future?

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49ers Wide Receiver Draft Free Agency
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The San Francisco 49ers are in the market for a wide receiver this offseason. Should the 49ers use free agency or the draft to land their wide receiver of the future?

 

Now that the San Francisco 49ers have their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely pivot to finding their wide receiver of the future — either via free agency, the 2018 NFL draft, or both.

The advantage of obtaining talent in free agency lies in the information gleaned over a player’s four years in the league; you’re signing a known quantity — but for this, you pay a heavy price. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry translated his 400 catches and 4000 yards into an approximately $16 million franchise tender in 2018, although questions remain regarding who the slot receiver will play for next season. Fellow 2014 draftee Allen Robinson — if he avoids the franchise tag — will surely garner top dollar on the open market.

Even if Robinson is franchised, there will be other viable options in free agency, because the 2014 NFL Draft was the year of the wide receiver. In 2014, five receivers were drafted in the first round, and seven more were selected in the second, and all but one — Cody Latimer — are considered hits to varying degrees. Productive first-rounders like Odell Beckham and Mike Evans will be locked up this season via their fifth-year options, but others like Sammy Watkins and Jordan Matthews will likely hit the market.

Since the 2014 receiver class was so immediately productive, NFL teams predictably overreacted in 2015, drafting six wide receivers in the first round of the draft. The bust rate in 2015 was considerably higher in the early rounds, led by first-rounders Kevin White and Breshad Perriman, who have combined for 64 total catches in their three years in the league.

General managers have slowly come to their senses, drafting four first-round receivers in 2016, and then three in 2017, but although these young receivers still have room to grow, few early-round picks have lived up to their draft position. That’s not to say that there haven’t been wide receiver hits in the draft, and with undrafted free agents — but the top of the draft wasn’t as fruitful as teams expected.

Take the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, just three years after trading up into the first round to select receiver and return-specialist Cordarrelle Patterson. In 2017, the Vikings had a deep playoff run, partially thanks to the play of their two top receivers — neither of which were their two former first-round picks. Patterson watched the 2017 playoffs from home as an Oakland Raider, after being relegated to mostly special-teams duties. Treadwell — who is still searching for that elusive first touchdown — played third-fiddle in Minnesota to undrafted free agent Adam Thielen and fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs.

Although this year’s wide-receiver draft class isn’t the strongest, there is likely a top-tier receiver — and a number of consistent starters — to be found, and they won’t all be first-day selections. So, how can we tell which college receivers are most likely to excel at the next level? We have next month’s NFL Combine, which will open a window into a prospect’s measurables, but we can also analyze both the film and the statistics from each receiver’s college career.

Next, we’ll take a look at which college stats are indicators of wide receiver success in the NFL, and how the 2018 NFL Draft prospects — specifically those linked to the San Francisco 49ers – measure up.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers, a FanRag Sports network partner. You may have seen Chris’ work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, NinerNoise, 49erswebzone, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers vs. Packers: San Francisco Week 6 Game Balls & Highlights

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San Francisco 49ers game balls highlights C.J. Beathard Marquise Goodwin
© Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

We hand out a pair of game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from the Niners’ heartbreaking last-second loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers under the lights on Monday Night Football.

On Tuesday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out two game balls from the San Francisco 49ers’ near-upset of the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 of the 2018 NFL regular season.

After what will hopefully be the 49ers’ worst game of the 2018 season, San Francisco put up a fight during their Week 6 matchup at Lambeau Field, as the team held the lead over Green Bay from the second quarter until the two-minute warning. Unfortunately, the Niners allowed the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers to stay within a score in the closing minutes of the game. Two drives later, Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby finished the 49ers off as he booted his fourth field goal of the day through the uprights as time expired.

Although the 49ers weren’t able to pull off the upset, their players showed heart by rebounding after last week’s poor showing. Our weekly game balls go to two Niners who kept San Francisco in the game with their strong offensive performances:

49ers QB C.J. Beathard

After losing the game for his team in Week 5, 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard came to play against Green Bay on Monday Night Football, and outplayed Rodgers over much of the game. Beathard was nearly perfect in the first half of the contest, as the QB connected with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on a pair of long touchdown passes.

Although he was in an obvious groove, Beathard wasn’t given the opportunity to continue at the same pace in the second half. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made an obvious attempt to milk the clock, although San Francisco only held a one-score lead. Then, at the end of a passive second half, Beathard picked the wrong time to take a risky shot downfield, after he was given great field position and had minimal yardage to gain for a game-winning field goal try.

On a crucial third down, instead of going with a high-percentage throw, Beathard elected to air it out deep to Goodwin. Unfortunately, the duo’s first-half magic was gone, as the poorly thrown pass was intercepted by Green Bay. Given one final opportunity, Rodgers — with a bit of help from the officiating crew — led the Packers down the field to victory.

Even though the 49ers weren’t able to leave Lambeau Field with a win, Beathard played near peak levels until the final drives of the game. When a backup quarterback hangs tough against a future Hall-of-Fame QB, he deserves a weekly game ball:

 

49ers WR Marquise Goodwin.

As 49ers top wide receiver Marquise Goodwin returned to the field from injury on Monday, so did the explosiveness of San Francisco’s offense. A week after each of the Niners’ wideouts failed to average over 10 yards a reception, Goodwin averaged over 30 yards per catch against the Packers on Monday night.

A healthy Goodwin is the missing piece the 49ers’ offense has lacked in 2018, as his ability to stretch the field gives the Niners a true deep threat, while also opening up San Francisco’s intermediate passing game. Goodwin’s blazing speed combined with his improved route-running skills places cornerbacks into constant conflict; when corners try to keep pace with the wideout, he shows off his ability to score from anywhere on the field, but when defensive backs respect his deep game, Goodwin simply works his way open for easy receptions.

Goodwin finished the contest with 126 yards on four catches, including touchdown scores of 67 and 30 yards. If Goodwin remains healthy, expect more of the same from the San Francisco 49ers’ No. 1 wide receiver:

Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ last-second loss — on Tuesday’s Rapid React podcast:

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San Francisco 49ers

Podcast: What’s Going On With Solomon Thomas?

Brian Peacock

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© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Podcast for Thursday, October 18 

  • Guest Dylan DeSimone of Fourth and Nine
  • Solomon Thomas has gone from top-3 pick to part-time player
  • Mike McGlinchey has been a stud rookie for the 49ers
  • Getting through the social media venting period as L’s mount

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San Francisco 49ers

Podcast: Crossover Wednesday with Locked on Rams

Brian Peacock

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© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Podcast for Wednesday, October 17 

  • Guest: Brad Mader of Locked on Rams
  • Todd Gurley is a man-child
  • Jared Goff’s development under head coach Sean McVay
  • Key Matchups on Sunday
  • Predictions

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