Adding Vertical Receiving Threat Will Enhance 49ers' Offense
Jose Luis Sanchez III
Entering the 2019 season, there was a lot of mystery surrounding the wide receiver position of the San Francisco 49ers.
There wasn't an established true No. 1 option or even a No. 2 option. Someone had to emerge and rise to the occasion. That receiver ended up being Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders once he was acquired mid-season. With these two, along with George Kittle, garnering the attention it allowed Kendrick Bourne to come into his own.
The wide receiver position is much more solidified now than it was this time last year. However, the 49ers still must look for more production out of the position. It isn't a lock that Sanders will be back with the team, which means only Samuel and Bourne are the returning receivers from 2019.
One of the ways that the Niners can cement the receiver position is bringing in a player who can stretch the field. Adding a vertical receiving threat will enhance the 49ers' offense.
Now having someone who excels at running routes over 20-yards isn't vital in Kyle Shanahan's offense. That much was evident last season when the Niners hardly went deep and were still able to be a top offense. Richie James Jr. is a player who can stretch the field, but it seemed like Shanahan didn't trust him enough to roll him out there.
That means the 49ers will need to dip in the draft or find a cheap free agent option. Now I know what you might be thinking. Since the 49ers were a successful offense last season without a vertical threat, then adding one isn't necessary. While it isn't necessary to add one, that doesn't change the fact that offense would benefit from having one.
Just imagine what Shanahan can do with a receiver who can take the top off of a defense. What makes Shanahan such a renowned play-caller isn’t solely due to his designs. He’s phenomenal at it because he can adjust and adapt profusely. That is something that gets lost on a lot of coaches in the league. Some coaches are just too stubborn to go away from what they know and it leads to their downfall.
With Shanahan, if something isn’t working he will not continue to play into the hands of the opposition. He adjusts and adapts on the fly. With a receiver who can stretch the field, it’ll help take the top off a defense. And with receivers like Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne, who excel on all the underneath routes, it’ll make their run after catch yards skyrocket.
A good handful of offenses have a sufficient vertical threat at receiver for the sliver of explosive pass plays in the playbook. The 49ers didn’t have that last season. Instead, they used George Kittle as the lightning rod of the offense. Defensive coverage would almost always swing towards him or even Emmanuel Sanders once he was acquired.
Shanahan's offense has it's own structure, but the overall premise is that it is fluid. The offense is basically like a model made out of raw clay. Only except the model will never get put into the furnace to make it solid. You can continue to add onto it and give it a different look. That is what Shanahan's offense is all about. A vertical receiving threat isn't critical, but it will just add another dynamic to an offense that was already stressful enough to prepare.
Defenses would have to account for someone going deep and they wouldn't be able to cheat by assuming that player will be George Kittle. That added wrinkle into the 49ers' offense could go a long way for sustained success. They cannot be using the same style of attack in their offense, or else they will get way too predictable. The best case scenario for the 49ers is that Richie James Jr. elevates his gameplay, so that they do not have to dip into free agency or the draft.
Remember, the 49ers will be getting Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor back. They are already loaded with young talent at receiver that they need to develop into reliable targets. A vertical receiving threat isn't a critical need for the Niners, but having one in the ranks will enhance the offense.