Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree are pretty much the only proven receiving options left on the 49ers’ roster. Mario Manningham is not expected to be back for the start of training camp after suffering multiple ligament tears in his knee. Kyle Williams is also coming back from an ACL tear. AJ Jenkins, the first round pick from 2012 is yet to make a single catch as a professional player but he is in Atlanta working out with Colin Kaepernick. Randy Moss has already announced that he will not be back with the 49ers in 2013. Ted Ginn Jr. will surely not be brought back either. That being said, there is a need to take action at the Wide Receiver position. What should the 49ers do in free agency and the draft?
The 49ers not only need depth at receiver, they need a vertical threat and a legitimate red zone threat. Some people will go for the “quick fix” and overpay for Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Others would suggest trading for Percy Harvin. The Percy Harvin deal is attractive but he is injury prone. When healthy, Harvin was one of the best receivers in the NFL last year. However, a trade would probably only be able to be made if they can agree to an extension. Dwayne Bowe just signed for $10 million a year with the Chiefs. Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Percy Harvin will surely want a deal in that range. The 49ers will have their current #1 receiver, Michael Crabtree looking to get a new deal and his agent Eugene Parker showed us back when Crabtree was drafted that they will stick to their guns when it comes to determining their perceived value. Would it be wise to have almost $20 million a year invested in two wide receivers?
There are two more sensible options via free agency. The first target that should be looked at is a local product, Ramses Barden formely of the New York Giants. He is a big receiver that can be a red zone threat. His best game came against the Carolina Panthers last year when he had 9 catches for 138 yards. He can be signed at a very moderate price and at 6’6″ he would fill one of the glaring needs on the 49ers’ roster.
The other option is Donnie Avery. Avery is a pure speed receiver that would be a good option to compete with AJ Jenkins at the X receiver position. He had a decent year with the Colts in 2012 posting 60 catches for 781 yards and three touchdowns. His average per catch was 13 yards. His production tailed off towards the end of the year but his speed makes him a good option to pair with Kaepernik’s big arm. Avery can also be signed to a more moderately sized contract.
There are also a few players that can help bolster the 49ers’ receiving core in the draft. Cordarelle Patterson, Deandre Hopkins, Keenan Allen and Tavon Austin will probably be gone by the time the 49ers pick, however there is a second group of reeivers that would be a good fit. Terrence Williams is an option. Williams has nice size and showed speed on tape that didn’t show up at the combine. He was very productive at Baylor. He and Robert Griffin III connected on a lot of big plays as a result of Griffin’s ability to extend plays with his legs. They also benefited from play action in the read option offense. Both of those variables will be in play with Kaepernick and the 49ers’ read option offense.
Justin Hunter is another option because of his vertical ability. He ran a 4.44 in the forty which is a pretty good time for a guy that is 6’4″. His 39.5 inch vertical makes him a red zone threat as well. He was very productive at Tennessee after he came back from an ACL injury. I think Hunter is the best option for the 49ers to get in the draft.
A few other draft targets for the 49ers include: Markus Wheaton, Quinton Patton and Robert Woods. Don’t forget about a few mid round prospects in Da’Rick Rogers, Aaron Dobson and Tavares King. Free agency is a week away and the NFL Draft is next month. This is an exciting time for all fans of the NFL.
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