The San Francisco 49ers will have to deal with the loss of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Where does his departure leave the team’s receivers?
The San Francisco 49ers were already thin at wide receiver going into the offseason. Now after the departure of veteran Emmanuel Sanders, the state of the team’s receiver core isn’t looking too promising.
The 49ers recognized their need at receiver, which is why they initially traded for Sanders at the deadline in the first place. Giving up their second and third-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft was a steep price to pay, but Sanders proved to be worth every penny.
Or in this case, every draft choice.
Sanders made an immediate impact in San Francisco scoring a touchdown in his very first game before breaking out with a seven-catch, 112-yard day in his second game in a 49ers uniform.
He would finish the year playing in a record-tying 17 regular-season games split between the Denver Broncos and the 49ers. 10 of those games came with the 49ers where he tallied 502 yards and three touchdowns on 36 receptions.
But his value went far beyond the stat sheet.
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Not only that, but his veteran leadership and mentorship proved invaluable in the development of the team’s young wideouts.
But now, Sanders is officially gone as he reportedly signed with the New Orleans Saints to a two-year, $16 million deal on Friday. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the 49ers’ receiving core.
The positional weakness already existed, but now it has reached dire territory.
Outside of Samuel, there isn’t really a player on the roster who could be counted on in a starting role.
Bourne is a very solid, dependable depth receiver but is best as a fourth option. Dante Pettis is still firmly in the doghouse after a tumultuous sophomore NFL season.
Marquise Goodwin has battled injuries and still could be cut. Richie James is best as a special-teamer who’s used sparingly on offense. And both Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor missed all of 2019 and have no experience as starters.
There’s a lot of “maybes” and “could be’s” in that group and no sure-things.
The 2020 NFL Draft will be where the 49ers could really beef-up their receiving core courtesy of the No. 13 overall pick acquired in the DeForest Buckner trade. There, the team could have a shot at drafting one of the top receivers in what is maybe the deepest receivers class of all-time.
Players like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, and Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III — three players no one thought San Francisco would have a chance at landing — could be on the board when the 49ers pick come late April.
Any of those three would give the team a bonafide starter right out of the gate who could take some of the pressure off the unproven players on the roster.
Of course, the team could still look to target a low-profile free agent before the draft but with right around $10 million in cap space, it would have to be on a very cheap deal. A player like Taylor Gabriel makes sense given his experience with head coach Kyle Shanahan.
The 49ers have plenty of depth receivers, but few true starters. They’ll have the opportunity to upgrade the position before the start of the 2020 season.
But the loss of Sanders is a disappointing, albeit expected setback.