When it comes to the passing game, the San Francisco 49ers have fallen since their heyday, when they were consistently one of the top passing offenses in football. Over the past three seasons, the 49ers have ranked 30th, 23rd and 29th in total passing yards.
This year, though, they swear things will be different.
They brought in Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington on draft day, signed free agent Brandon Lloyd and should get a full year from Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton. They’ve assembled quite the collection of talent; according to FootballPerspective.com, the 49ers are only the second team ever to assemble five or more receivers with 935-plus-yard seasons in their history.
The 49ers only attempted 417 passes last season, placing them last in the league.
That number is almost definitely going to go up in 2014, if only because there’s really no other direction for it to go; no team has attempted less than 400 passes in a year since the 2009 New York Jets, in Mark Sanchez’s rookie year. It would be a criminal waste of talent to not throw the ball more to the receiving corps they’ve assembled.
Who will come down with the most passes in 2014? Let’s rank the top 10 candidates on the roster, ranging from the least to most likely to come down with large numbers of passes. We’re basing the list on their past performances, their future potential and a good dollop of educated guesses.
Reaching the top 10 in catches for the 49ers last year were Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham, Anthony Dixon and Jonathan Baldwin. None of them will repeat, because they’re not with the team anymore. I also think Bruce Miller will drop out of the top 10, as the team will actually boast a competent set of wide receivers.
Here's your 2014 top 10, starting at the bottom, and working our way up: