The San Francisco 49ers’ additions over the offseason as a whole have received ample attention.
Even though the media machine includes Mario Manningham’s name into the group, I feel that people are underrating his value in the 49ers offense.
(The same could be said about LMJ, but I’ll save that for a future piece.)
Despite having a down year during the regular season in 2011, Giants fans saw him emerge as a top threat in the team’s Super Bowl run.
Manningham hauled in a touchdown catch each of the first three games (including the go-ahead score in the fourth against the Niners). He then made an incredibly memorable fourth-quarter catch deep down the left sideline that set up the Giants’ game-winning TD drive against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
The guy may have only totaled 523 yards and four scores in the first 16 games, but over the next four, he amassed over a quarter of those yards and nearly equaled his TD total. Manningham simply gets it done when it matters most.
Moving forward to his role now with the 49ers, MM will showcase his talents as somewhat of a Randy Moss-Michael Crabtree hybrid for quarterback Alex Smith.
He will contribute as a possession-type receiver akin to Crabtree with his sure-handedness and proficiency as a route-runner. He will also perform in a capacity similar to Moss by operating as a deep threat with his undervalued speed and knack for making the big grab.
Crabs will have a breakout year in terms of catches and yards, while Moss could very well lead the Red and Gold in TDs (either him or Vernon Davis). Manningham, though, will prove his worth with numbers at or around 50 receptions for 700 yards and five TDs.
He will still have to overcome the quickly emerging Kyle Williams when training camp arrives later this month, and I believe he will based on his veteran experience and superior skill set and track record.
And if his statistical output doesn’t reach those aforementioned numbers, it’ll be because Jim Harbaugh continues relying on a run-first scheme the majority of the time. (I don’t believe this will occur—simply too many offensive weapons.)
In any case, my belief is that Moss and Davis will get the TDs, Crabtree the receptions and Manningham a little of both.
But a very much underrated "little of both" at that.