Which Wide Receiver the 49ers Need to Step up the Most
Panic mode is in full effect.
On Thursday, June 18th a report broke that star wide receiver Deebo Samuel broke his foot. Yes, there is a recovery time table. But, with a Jones Fracture, that time table can be a little tricky. Just ask fellow wide receiver Trent Taylor.
The injury has put the twitter GM’s and national media into full effect. From signing Antonio Brown to taking a flyer on Dez Bryant.
Samuel can miss as little as zero games to possibly one, two, three, and I won’t even dare to say more.
With an optimistic timeline, one would have to figure filling the void of an injured Samuel would come in-house. But who?
During the 2019 regular season while Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both shared the field, they compiled eleven targets per game. Now that Sanders is a Saint, and Samuel could miss at least a game or two (which is likely), there are now eleven targets available for the taking each game.
While All-Pro TE George Kittle can certainly take a fair share of that, whom from the wide-receiver core will the 49ers need the most?
With the countless offseason workout videos, Kendrick Bourne could be the one. Considering Bourne only averaged two fewer targets than Sanders last season, it would be hard to see Shanahan scheme a game plan for a wide receiver who’s known to run the wrong route. Not throwing shade at Bourne, but with that history, why would Shanahan have the confidence to target Bourne six to seven times a game? Bourne’s role is already determined. He is the third-down and red-zone target.
If not Bourne, then maybe first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk? With Aiyuk fitting the mold of getting open quick and creating YAC, yes the 49ers can certainly use his ability.
But, wait, Shanahan has one of the most difficult playbooks to learn for a wide receiver. No rookie camp and no minicamp to be on the field with Shanahan could absolutely hinder Aiyuk’s snap count Week 1. Aiyuk will definitely be in the game plan, but to say he’ll have the second-highest snap count at wide receiver seems a bit much.
What about Taylor? Chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo is there. But, does Taylor fit the mold of a Samuel-like wide receiver? Not really. If Taylor is healthy Week 1, his role may be predetermined like Bourne. Where Taylor only sees the field in three-wide-receiver sets, which is not often enough to get a significant share of the vacant targets.
Finally, someone who is not a rookie and has Samuel-like ability: Second-year wide receiver Jalen Hurd. The 49ers need Hurd much more than any receiver in Samuel’s void. Hurd has had one year to learn the difficult playbook already and is a guy who can run routes through the middle of the defense and, most importantly, poses the threat to take a fly sweep to the house. Both players are tough to tackle and can play any skill position on offense.
Obviously, every fan, player, or staff member would like a healthy Samuel Week 1. But, if not, Hurd must be ready and most importantly healthy.