San Francisco 49ers: Stacking up the wide receiver groups in the NFC West

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Pierre Garcon /
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San Francisco 49ers
GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 24: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals breaks from the line during the first half of the NFL game against the New York Giants at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Giants 23-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Arizona Cardinals

Key Contributors: Larry Fitzgerald, Chad Williams, Christian Kirk, Brice Butler

Last season, Cardinals quarterbacks – whether it be Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert, or Drew Stanton – didn’t have a whole lot to work with. When it came to the wide receivers in Arizona’s passing game, it was pretty much Larry Fitzgerald or bust.

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It’s a fact born out by noting Fitzgerald’s 109 receptions and 1,156 yards – the second leading wide receiver was Jaron Brown with 31 catches for 477 yards.

That dropoff though, wasn’t limited to just the wide receivers. Arizona’s second-leading receiver overall, last season, was running back Andre Ellington, who had 33 catches for 297 yards, which tied with tight end Jermaine Gresham, who notched 322 yards on his 33 receptions.

The Cardinals realize they’re going to need some help for new quarterback Sam Bradford – who will very likely find himself replaced by tenth-overall pick Josh Rosen at some point this year. Running back David Johnson and Fitzgerald aren’t going to be able to carry the offensive load entirely on their own – not of the Cardinals hope to compete.

To that end, Arizona is returning last year’s third-round draft pick Chad Williams, who did next to nothing in his rookie year – he appeared in six games (one start), and had 31 receiving yards on three receptions.

They’ve also brought in free agent Brice Butler, who to date, hasn’t done a whole lot more than Williams – his career high is 21 receptions, back in 2014. But, in Arizona, he has a chance to carve out a bigger role for himself.

In an effort to improve their passing attack, the Cardinals drafted former Texas A&M receiver, Christian Kirk, who should bring a little bit of electricity to their receiving group.

Aside from Fitzgerald, it’s a very unproven and undistinguished group of receivers. But, with a solid back in Johnson, and if they can get decent quarterback play out of Bradford and/or Rosen, they could be quietly interesting to watch.

If nothing else, at least they’re not the worst receiving group in the NFC West.