6 Wide Receivers the San Francisco 49ers Must Consider in the 2015 NFL Draft
The San Francisco 49ers have a new coaching staff and holes to fill at several key positions. This is a critical time for the 49ers, as anything less than a stellar draft will doom this team to a second year out of the playoffs.
The 49ers finished the 2014 season with a record of 8-8, trailing both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals in the NFL West. In addition, with the St. Louis Rams on the upswing, the 49ers could be a lot closer to fourth place than first this coming year.
Arguably, it appears that the biggest hole in the 49ers 2015 roster is at the wide receiver position. The 49ers have no No. 1 receiver or deep threat. Even with the expected emphasis placed on the ground game, in order to keep opposing defenses honest, the 49ers must have someone who can make big plays down the field.
The 49ers do not have that breakaway threat among their current crop of receivers. Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson are solid receivers but can be best classified as No. 2 or No. 3 receivers, not top-flight No. 1 threats.
With Michael Crabtree likely gone via the free-agent market, that leaves Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington as the only other receivers behind Boldin and Johnson. Both Patton and Ellington are unproven and have battled injuries in their brief NFL careers.
Unfortunately, this issue is something that should have been addressed in the 2014 draft, as there were a dozen highly skilled receivers coming out. It was, perhaps, the most highly talented class of receiver talent in history.
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke did not draft a receiver in the first two or even three rounds, which now has the 49ers in a tough predicament. The 2015 receiver class is far below the quality and quantity of 2014. Baalke dropped the ball by neglecting to grab a top young receiver last year.
Drafting in the 15th spot in the 2015 draft, let's take a look at the 49ers' options in Round 1, as well as who might be a fit later in the draft.
All stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.
The top wide receiver in the 2015 class is Amari Cooper, but he will be long gone before the 49ers' selection at No. 15.
In looking at the next group of prospects, Kevin White stands out as the most polished and the surest bet to become a fine NFL player. White had a breakout season in 2014, as a senior at West Virginia.
Last season, White caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had an average of 13.3 yards per catch. At 6'3" and 209 pounds, White has good size, to go along with dependable hands. He is a more polished route-runner than either Cooper or DeVante Parker.
White has very good speed, although not elite-level speed. Still, his combination of speed, strength and good hands makes him the best receiver in the draft, after Cooper.
NFLDraftScout.com, which is a subset of CBSSports.com, had a very positive review of White's skill set.
Tall, slender frame with good muscle definition and functional strength in contested situations. Outstanding leaping ability and reflexes to make adjustments to easily secure balls away from his body and is at his best high-pointing and plucking with his large, reliable hands.
Very good foot quickness to beat press and get vertical in a hurry with his downfield acceleration. Displays above average coordination and footwork in his breaks to create separation at the top of his routes and catch the ball without breaking stride to create after the reception.
Quick feet and good vision to plan after the catch, displaying his ability to create and be more than a chain-mover. Uses his size to overpower defenders on occasion, breaking tackles to gain yardage after the catch.
If he's available when the 49ers make their selection with the 15th overall pick, White should be their choice.
If Amari Cooper and Kevin White are already off the board when the 49ers pick at No. 15, DeVante Parker is the next best option.
Parker missed the first half of the 2014 season at Louisville due to a broken foot. He came on strong and had an outstanding second half of the season. In six games, Parker caught 43 passes for 855 yards and five touchdowns. His 19.9 yards per catch was easily the highest among the top receivers in this draft class.
Parker, who is 6'3" and 208 pounds, has good size and strength. Joe Wedra of NFLMocks.com says that Parker has been moving up draft boards and could come off the board in the first 10 picks.
The only real concern with Parker is his overall speed and quickness. His time at the upcoming scouting combine will make a huge difference in his draft position.
Although I place Parker slightly behind Kevin White, he would be a good pick for the 49ers if both White and Cooper were already gone.
When you look at a risk-reward ratio, the greatest risk in this draft with the highest potential for greatness is wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
Green-Beckham played his first two seasons of college ball at Missouri, but several off-field incidents led to his dismissal following his sophomore campaign. John Taylor of nbcsports.com details the fall of Green-Beckham at Missouri.
Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma for his junior year but sat out the 2014 season due to transfer rules. He then opted to go pro, so he never played for Oklahoma.
In his sophomore season at Missouri, Green-Beckham had 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. His average of 15 yards per catch was also very impressive.
At 6' 6" and 220 pounds, Green-Beckham has outstanding size and a tremendous wingspan. He can go up over smaller defensive backs and because of that, he can also be a deep threat.
There will be two keys for Green-Beckham's draft stock. One is his speed in the 40, and the other is how he answers the tough questions about his off-field drug issues. Green-Beckham could go in the first round or could last until round three.
The enticing thing about Green-Beckham is that he could develop into a true star in the NFL. However, if he continues to have problems, he could also follow the same path as Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns.
The 49ers will likely not be willing to gamble on Green-Beckham with their first-round pick, but if he's available in the second round, they should take the risk. The upside is simply too great to pass up.
If San Francisco GM Trent Baalke waits until the second round to select a wide receiver and Phillip Dorsett is on the board, he is a great pick for the 49ers.
Dorsett played four years of college football at the University of Miami. In his senior year, Dorsett's numbers were adversely affected by mediocre quarterback play. This also caused Miami to be more run-oriented this past season.
Dorsett had only 36 receptions, but he did have 871 yards and 10 touchdowns. His average of 24.2 yards per catch proved he can be a legitimate big-play threat.
Dorsett has excellent speed and should prove that at the scouting combine. He also has the ability to get deep and make plays.
The biggest knock on Dorsett is his lack of size. He is only 5'10" and 185 pounds.
Vince Mayle could ultimately end up as one of the top wide receivers selected in 2015. He has proven his worth in college at Washington State.
In the 2014 season, Mayle caught 106 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. His 14.0 yards-per-catch number is also solid.
Rotoworld indicates that Mayle has been moving up draft boards. If he shows well at the scouting combine, his stock will continue to increase.
Mayle would be an ideal pick in the third round if the 49ers were unable to select any of the other names above him.
After a fine junior year in 2013, Ty Montgomery had a disappointing senior season.
In 2013, Montgomery played in all 14 of Stanford's games. He caught 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 15.7 yards-per-catch average was also very good.
However, Montgomery battled some nagging injuries in 2014 and played in only 11 games. He still had 61 catches, but for only 604 yards and three touchdowns. His 9.9 yards per catch was also down significantly from the year before.
Montgomery is not a player the 49ers should consider in the first round. However, if they aren't able to land White or Parker and they feel the risk for Dorial Green-Beckham is too great, then Montgomery is a very viable pick in the third round.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com reported on Montgomery at the Senior Bowl. He did identify some areas where Montgomery must improve:
2015 Senior Bowl, Tuesday: Sticking with the receiver position, Ty Montgomery entered the season with first round buzz, but he has yet to take the next step in his development as a receiver. During Tuesday's practice, he consistently fought the ball and looked rigid in his routes, showing tendencies that reflect his game film. Montgomery is an exciting return man with home run potential with the ball in his hands, but what position does he play in the NFL? His best NFL comparison might be a slightly better version of Josh Cribbs. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
Montgomery will need to develop his techniques and also improve his hands in order to be a top-quality NFL receiver. In the meantime, as he is learning, the 49ers can also use him as a kick returner.
Montgomery can help immediately on special teams but must show that he can catch the ball more consistently in order to see action in the offense.