Do the 49ers really need a speed receiver?

The 49ers need a third receiver. That is clear. Most draft gurus agree that the Niners need a burner, someone who can “take the top off the defense,” someone who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash or a low 4.4. Someone like Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham.

I agree, the 49ers need a deep threat. The Niners already have two possession receivers who excel on underneath and intermediate routes — Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.

A third possession receiver would be redundant.

But the 49ers have to be careful not to draft a deep threat who isn’t a scoring threat. Deep threats who don’t score TDs are a dime a dozen — Chris Givens, Tiquan Underwood, Marquise Goodwin, Nate Washington, Donnie Avery, etc.

Last season, only 13 WRs caught at least 6 TDs and averaged at least 14 yards per catch — Josh Gordon (9/18.9), Riley Cooper (8/17.8), Calvin Johnson (12/17.7), DeSean Jackson (9/16.2), Alshon Jeffery (7/16.0), Vincent Jackson(7/15.7), Demaryius Thomas (14/15.5), Jordy Nelson (8/15.5), Rueben Randle (6/14.9), Eric Decker (11/14.8), Keenan Allen (8/14.7), A.J. Green (11/14.6), and Marvin Jones (10/14.0).

Of those 13 receivers, DeSean Jackson is the only one who is shorter than 6-2 and lighter than 200 pounds. Jackson is the exception. When it comes to the other 12 receivers, their average height is 6-3, their average weight is 219 pounds, their average arm length is 32-7/8 inches, their average hand size is 9-3/4 inches, and their average 40 time is 4.49 seconds.

Seven draft-eligible wide receivers fit that mold: Mike Evans (6-5, 231, 35-1/8, 9-5/8, 4.53), Jordan Matthews (6-3, 212, 33-1/4, 10-3/8, 4.46), Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 240, 34-5/8, 10-1/4, 4.61), Cody Latimer (6-2, 215, 32-5/8, 9-5/8, 4.38), Allen Robinson (6-3, 220, 32, 9-1/2, 4.47), Martavis Bryant (6-4, 211, 32-5/8, 9-1/2, 4.42), and Quincy Enunwa (6-2, 225, 32-5/8, 9-1/2, 4.45).

This article has 124 Comments

    1. NFL Network Tuesday Night had round-robin on NFL West. 4 Predictions — 2 named
      Seahawks to take division; Other took Cardinals or Rams. No one picked the 49ers,
      including Michael Silver. Will Niners’ cornerback or wide receiver picks change these
      off-season predictions?

      1. No. The media doesn’t give the 49ers credit for anything and that won’t change because of a good or excellent draft.

  1. Benjamin is not the best WR, but of the ones we can get I think he’ll be the best fit for the 49ers

  2. Boldin, Crabtree and Davis are the scoring threats in the red zone.

    They need a receiver that scares teams deep to open up the ground game and the underneath routes. Whether it is a big guy or small guy isn’t really the issue, nor is whether he is a red zone target.

    Ideally the WR they draft would also be a punt and kick returner.

    Also, you left out Allen Robinson from your list of receivers in this draft that fit the mold – especially after running a sub 4.5 40 at his pro day.

    1. Good call on Robinson.

      Not wise to draft a WR in Round 1 who is ineffective in the red zone, and thus an incomplete receiver. Better to draft a deep threat who also can score in the red zone.

          1. Sammy Watkins falls short on several of the criteria listed Grant,do you consider him a scoring threat?

    1. And yet the run calls came in anyway. This is where Harbaugh/Roman really struggle with stubbornness. You have to take advantage of these situations with the passing game; not continue running into the wall.

      1. This number shouldn’t be a surprise since the defense is based on the personnel the 49ers are putting on the field and they use more than 2 WR’s the least of any team in the league.

    2. “Frank Gore faced 4 or FEWER def. backs on an NFL-high 95% of his 2013 carries.”
      No surprise that teams stacked the box often…didn’t know it was THAT often though.
      But this is a fact I’m sure Harbaugh is well aware of and dead set on changing.

  3. Very interesting piece. Well done Grant.

    What this tells us is it’s not just about speed for the WR’s who make big plays. Martavis Bryant has been very intriguing to me throughout the offseason, but moreso now. Latimer and Matthews also fall into the exact neighborhood of the avg. posted by the NFL leaders Grant listed.

  4. Trent Baalke – not only needs draft a speed threat who is good in the red zone…

    Trent Baalke – needs to draft Michael Crabtree’s and Anquan Boldin’s future replacements now while the WR draft talent is deep and the 49ers have the picks…

    It usually takes 2-3 years to get great production from a drafted WR (Boldin was an exception). And we know how the 49ers do in signing big name free agents.

    With huge contracts of key 49ers players coming – Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, etc., I can’t see the 49ers giving Crabtree (a really good, but definitely not an elite WR) elite WR money which I almost guarantee Crabs and his agent expect…

    Trade up 2-3 pics and snag a future #1 WR in Evans. Draft another WR in a later round in this deep WR draft.

    Then we won’t cry so much when Baalke has to let Crabtree test Free Agency…

  5. More and more I feel most confident with Robinson and Matthews as WR targets. If we had more holes at WR, I’d love to pair up a Robinson/Matthews with the likes of a Paul Richardson/Beckham/Cooks/Ellington.

    1. Maybe that’s becauset those two names have gotten mentioned here so much lately…

  6. The most interesting news this offseason is the coaching staff is actually considering a change in philosophy. Beginning with the offense.
    However they won’t draft any offensive players the first day unless they can move up in the top 15. If they stay at 30 it will be CB or OLB or D-line.

    1. I don’t think it’ll be a philosophy change.
      More like an expansion.

    1. MWD,
      I like Brandon Coleman but I’m not convinced that he can stretch the field. At 6’6″ and 225-230 lbs he could be a redzone nightmare for DB’s.
      His best season at Rutgers was 2012 with 43 receptions and 10 TD’ and his longest reception coming in at 85 yrds.
      If Coleman can add another 20 lbs he might be a TE threat, but trying to change a players position (especially in the pro level) could be a daunting task.

      If Coleman is available in the 4-5 rds it would peak my interest.

    2. Here is CBS sports comment about Brandon Coleman by Rob Lang:


      In 38 career games and 26 starts at wide receiver, Coleman caught 92 receptions for 1,743 yards and 20 touchdowns – tying him with Tim Brown for the school record. While his size is obviously one of his greatest assets, Coleman also possesses good speed, averaging 18.9 yards per reception over his career and recording three of the 10 longest receptions in school history (92, 86, 85).
      Coleman possesses many traits to intrigue scouts but may not be the sum of his parts. He struggles to gain separation – especially against press coverage – and with more and more clubs taking this approach on defense, he could find that his draft stock doesn’t quite match up to his hype. Despite a junior season (43 catches for 718 yards, 10 TDs) that wasn’t nearly as successful as his 2012 campaign (34/538/four), Coleman elected to leave Rutgers early for a shot at the NFL.

      While perhaps not the guaranteed top 100 prospect that his buzz suggests, there is no question that Coleman projects well as a red zone specialist.”

  7. The most interesting news this offseason is the coaching staff is actually considering a change in philosophy.

    I really hope so. I’m kind of afraid that’s almost like asking a leopard to change it’s spots, but I sure hope so! If we would have scored TD’s instead of field goals on just half of those red zone trips last season…

  8. I can’t imagine having 10 1/4 ” hands!
    Mine are like 7 1/2″.
    I mean…how could you NOT catch a ball with mitts that ginormous???

  9. I haven’t been able to find a lot of info about him but Jermaine Jones from St. Augustine has potential. 6’4″ 200 4.40. Guessing he’s probably UFA material, what I have found doesn’t suggest a lot of production but I don’t know anything about the team either.

  10. With crab, boldin, and daivis, a speed reciever would keep defenses honest. Open things up. We neef a guy who can outrun kaeps arm….. he overthrows enough to know our receiving core can’t keep up with his arm. Until he learns touch, we need a djax type, who is s hell of a burner who can outrun his arm strength

  11. We gotta keep in mind that we’re not JUST drafting for speed to compliment Boldin and Crabtree in 2014. We’re also LIKELY drafting Crab’s replacement. And Boldin will be gone in 1-2 years as well. If I had to guess, I’d say that they want a sturdy WR that fits our physical style, whom also happens to have speed. I’m going to place my bet on Allen Robinson, Donte Moncrief, and possibly Martavis Bryant.

    We’ve learned from our AJ Jenkins mistake. That type of WR just isn’t a fit for our style of offense. Yea, they could use someone like that in the slot this next year with 3 WR formations. But once Crabtree leaves, are they the type of WR they can play all 3 downs?

    I’m going to say we pass on Beckham and Cooks. Especially considering that we’d have to trade up to acquire one of them most likely. If we’re going to trade up, it better be for one of the top CBs like Justin Gilbert or Kyle Fuller.

    1. Dan,
      I agree with your points. But the one thing (imo) that hampered A.J. was his clear disdain for contact.
      All the speed and college stats don’t mean a thing when a player becomes intimidated by the speed and physicality at the pro level.

      1. I have to admit I do find it kind of funny that because AJ Jenkins didn’t pan out the 49ers should now have “learned their lesson” about taking smaller WRs. The failure of one player should not lead them to change the type of player they are after. And it hasn’t – the year after taking Jenkins they took Patton, who is a similar sized WR.

        Add in 2011 when they took Ronald Johnson as a late round flyer, another similar sized receiver. This would appear to be the type of receiver Baalke likes.

        Then you look at the types of receivers Harbaugh had at Stanford… Doug Baldwin, Chris Owusu, Griff Whalen, Ryan Whalen – he doesn’t mind having smaller receivers on the roster.

          1. I’ve seen the evidence with VD vs Kam, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of Kam intimidating Boldin….

  12. Grant, Great job and Thank you!!!! This is exactly the type of material i would love to read. I truly appropriate it. Thanks again.

  13. I would be very happy if we can pick up any of the following guys in:

    First Round #30

    Mike Evans (no way this will happen)

    Second Round

    Jordan Mathews

    Third Round

    Cody Latimore

  14. As far as I can tell there are two ways to beat press coverage… muscle through it or speed around it. I’m hoping the 49ers get two receivers, one speedy and one big. If the first receiver is a big guy (say Benjamin), then go for speed in the 3rd round… or visa versa.

    What seems to be overlooked in 40 times is the importance of the last 15 yards. Rice’s first steps in a route were usually no very fast, but they were absolutely uniform. Suddenly he would be parallel to the DBs, then past them. His smooth style presented an optical illusion that fooled DBs into thinking he wasn’t closing quickly.

    There seem to be different speed spots that translate to what Madden might call “football speed.” How fast is the receiver coming out of a break? How much does he accelerate after 20 yards? Does he “have another gear” when chased from behind? Alot of these “big but slow” guys are probably faster then we think, just not in the 40 time.

    Maybe some day sports science will explain exactly why certain receivers with slow 40 times routinely run by defenses on game day

    1. Great comment. Benjamin has shown the ability to run by defenses, and so has Lee.

      1. College defenses Grant. NFL defenses will be able play against him because of his stiff hips and his lack of physicality.
        Lee would be a great option if he could stay on the field long enough.

      2. Benjamin has always been older than his opponents. The dude couldn’t even finish his senior season in high school because he turned 19 years and 9 months old. This was with 2 games left in the regular season.

        1. True. Seems like a late bloomer who is blooming big time, but he could bust big time, too.

      3. “FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin “blew off” a workout with an NFL coach who made a “special trip” for the visit, according to’s Gil Brandt.

        Per Brandt, Benjamin said he was “too tired.” We aren’t sure if the specified coach was a head or positional coach, but this is not positive buzz. Benjamin was slow to develop during his time at FSU and broke out on the scene during his 23 year-old redshirt sophomore season. He still had lapses in concentration, which led to a drop rate over nine percent.”

          1. Sounds like the one of the typical anonymous reports circulated prior to the draft.

  15. Lions are reportedly wanting to trade up to get Sammy Watkins. That would be one freakin’ scary WR corps. Megatron, Tate, and Watkins? Wow.

    1. They can be the Cowboys of the North and lose a bunch of high scoring games.

  16. I read this somewhere and I totally agree. Who cares what type of receiver the 49ers draft just as long as he is good? If the 49ers fielded 3 receivers that were all carbon copy of Crabtree they would be lethal. They may not burn you deep but they will precise routes and get open enough to make the catch, and they will catch it. I don’t care if the receiver is big, small, fast or (tad) slow. If he is good, then I will be happy.

  17. It is a question, right …? I realize that I have belabored the point in the past, but I would think that I would go for CB’s in the 1st and 2nd picks (unless of course Watkins or Evans unexpectedly falls to us). My “same ole’ thing” is why concentrate on WR’s before we have a QB that is accurate enough to deliver the ball to them. Personally, I just don’t have the confidence in CK to hit the receivers with a ‘catchable’ pass, short or medium that can free-up the box for Gore, Hunter, LaMichael, or Lattimore to show their magic. Yes, I realize that some of you want him extended before it’s time; or cannonized for not having proved himself yet. That was my thought when we signed Gabbert, who is better at short and medium passes. Ok, ….bring it….

  18. At his Pro Day, Allen Robinson posted a 4.48 40, a 42-inch vert, and a 6.54 3-cone. Seems like a guy who can play all three receiver spots.

    1. How did he go from a 4.60 at the combine to a 4.48 at his pro day? Not only that but he managed to jump 3″ higher also? Flubber?

          1. Wouldn’t know. I don’t get close enough to any guy in order to smell them up, mostly because I can usually smell them from 10 miles away. Not a good thing when you live in a windy state with most flat land.

        1. That is one possible explanation. Though it is curious that all scouts in attendance clocked him at under 4.6s (I’ve read the range was between “4.42s and 4.47s, with some 4.5s”).

          Another explanation would be that, for whatever reason, he just didn’t run as fast as he could have at the combine. Much like he clearly didn’t jump as high as he could have at the combine. Or maybe he had the wind at his back during his pro day (would have been an impressive feat if the photos in the link are to be believed – appears it was indoors).

          1. So he didn’t run as fast or jump as high during a nationally televised event because he thought he’d hold off and make the private workout look considerably better?

            1. Maybe my sentence structure or wording was poor. When I say “didn’t run as fast as he could have” I don’t mean he intentionally was dogging it. There are plenty of reasons why someone doesn’t run as fast one day as the next – sickness, soreness, tiredness, technique slightly out, whatever.

              1. Those kinds of things get mentioned though. Like well he ran 4.60 today but he’s got a cold so we expect to do better at the pro day.

          2. Were there somehow that many more competent people with a stopwatch at a private workout then at the NFL combine?

          3. Those numbers are consistent with going from the electronic timing used at the combine to handheld stopwatches.

          4. Focus. The personal mental game is key for every athlete, every competitor. First they have to get they’re head straight to perform. It gets complicated in manoAmano, because one opponent can psych out another, but in individual sports, a guy just has to get himself ready.
            I was a sprinter in HS. In our league we pretty much knew who was who.
            One meet I had a brain fart in the 220 (I’m old), blew my start and finished 3rd. Another meet I was completely off my mental game and didn’t place at all. A third meet I blew my start and stumbled in the 100 but pulled out a win. Other than that nobody all year was close at 100 or 220. It was all about focus; not my strong point at 16-17 years old, what with all those dinosaurs running around..
            Point being: sometimes you pitch a stinker

      1. It’s being underreported but Robinson lost ~13 pounds from the combine to his pro day. That explains the better numbers.

    2. The time for his 3-cone drill is insane for a guy his size – and he plays up to it on the field. If he’s available at #30 he’d be a great pick.

  19. Of the productive WRs Grant listed, Baalke passed on Keenan Allen, Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randall, and Marvin Jones.

    I don’t have much confidence in Baalke finding a productive WR via the draft.

    1. Maybe he should find out the next receiver that will be taken after we pick….and then take that guy

    2. Does he get any credit for passing on the unproductive WRs, too?

      AJJ was one pick.

  20. I’d say speed and separation skills is what the Niners need.

    Not just Lockett, but someone who can set up DBs and get open. A technician of the game. Someone willing to learn and not put himself first.

    I think we need at least two WRs in the first two rounds. Plus two CBs. I would identify the top first round talents and be realistic about getting them… if we can’t let’s trade back and get another top 100 pick I say select 3 effing WRs in the first 3 rounds. Plus 2 CBs. Assume you need to replace the entire WRs core and that Patton may be suspect or a third option at best 3 years from now.

  21. I think Matthews should be our target he’s the most pro ready and has the intangibles that Harbaugh likes

  22. I say get three receivers..A big target..Mike Evans,Martavious Bryant or Kelvin Benjamin..

    Then second .A future Crab/Boldin replacement..Matthews,Robinson,Adams

    The third should be a project.a speedster return specialist who will work his way into the offense

  23. Where would Quinton Patton rank among this years list of draft eligible WR’s? The kid is 6’0 and 205. He runs a 4.49 and was amazingly productive in college. We seem to be discounting this kid but I think he’s a player. Let’s not forget what we already have on the roster.

      1. And the saga of wr retreads for 49ers needs to fire the wr scout,and wr coach..

        1. If u rather having aging veterans over young talent..something is wrong..Somebody doesnt really know how to evaluate the position..

  24. Apparently the 49ers are talking with Brandon Lloyd. Sounds about right for a TBT.

    1. I fully believe the niners are purposely being linked to every WR on the market….they may as well call up TO and “show interest”

      Why? I guess this goes back to Grant’s theory.

    2. Seems like they really are intent on using more 3 WR formations if the interest this offseason is any indication.

  25. Heres my mock to add speed and playmakers to the offense:
    LMJ plus a 7th to move up in the 2nd.
    1st, 3rd, and a 7th to move up in the 1st


    First round: Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State
    Second round: Donte Moncrief WR Ole Miss
    Second round: Weston Richburg C Colorado ST
    Third round: Bashaud Breeland, CB Clemson
    Third round: traded to move up in the 1st
    Third round Comp: Dri Archer RB/WR Kent State
    Fourth round: David Fales QB San Jose State
    Fifth round: Brandon Thomas G Clemson
    Seventh round: Jestin Love S Central Arkansas’
    Seventh round: traded to move up in the 1st
    Seventh round: traded to move up in the 2nd

      1. Is this the same outfit that reported Aaron Rodgers was gay? I don’t believe it, but if it turns out to be the truth, I’ll disown him and burn every Kaepernick jersey in the house….

            1. Why would I want a jersey of a player no longer on the team? I appreciate your sincere offer of compensation for our loss….

              1. Jerry Rice is no longer on the team, would you turn down one of his jerseys too?

              2. I have his jersey, but have moved on emotionally from it and am fully vested in the current active duty roster. Thanks again for respecting our privacy during this time of trepidation…..

              3. For what it’s worth, the first and only jersey I’ve ever purchase was the white #11. I learned my lesson.

              4. I’m less worried about the jerseys then how my daughter will react when I tell her the news…Thanks for your time.

  26. Do the 49ers really want a 32 year old WR that spent last year on his couch?

      1. They made the bad decision of believing that Moss had something besides fumes left in the tank, and it looks like they’re about to do it again, only this with an overrated whine bag in Lloyd.

      2. Hmmm Randy Moss and his body of work coming off the couch vs Brandon Lloyd’s.

        Wasn’t one time around with Ducky enough?

        1. I’ll never forget the 49ers faithful souring on Lloyd after he alligator-armed a would-be completed pass over the middle. Lloyd reminds me of some slam-dunk contestants during the NBA all-star weekend who can make the spectacular dunk in the contest but do very little in a real game.
          Well, Lloyd has had a couple of respectable seasons – but you get the gist.

          If T.O. was a couple of years younger I would actually prefer him over Lloyd. Heck, Randy “Freaking” Moss could possibly be better than Lloyd for that matter.

          We may be ok not drafting a WR with our 1st pick. The team did pretty good last season with Crabtree out for most of the year and CK trying to become a pocket passer.
          We can wait until the 2nd – 3rd rd to find our WR.

  27. I feel like the mocks are becoming more and more need based picks. Certainly addressing holes should always be a consideration, but we have a lot of picks and few holes, which gives us the luxury to take best available in the early rounds. If either of the ND lineman are there at our pick, I’d be happy to see the niners go in that direction.

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