Wide receiver competition will be fierce

Wide receiver competition will be fierce
May 16, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Mario Manningham's knee won't be ready until the middle of August, leaving the door open for a trio of youngsters. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

A year ago, the 49ers had what looked on paper to be very good depth at wide receiver.

Even with two players rehabilitating serious knee injuries, the depth looks even better this offseason.

There figures to be plenty of competition at the wide receiver positions when "organized team activities" get going next week on the 49ers' Santa Clara practice field.

Previously, we looked at the top four competitions on defense. Now, we shift our focus to the other side of the ball.

Here is a look at four competitions on offense that will be worth watching:

Wide receiver
Michael Crabtree returns as the team's No. 1 receiver. Anquan Boldin, acquired in an offseason trade for a sixth-round draft pick from Baltimore, also appears to be a lock to start.

But after Crabtree and Boldin, it gets mighty interesting.

Mario Manningham is the most accomplished of the remaining receivers on the roster. But he is not expected to be ready until at least the middle of August after sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

Kyle Williams, who was the No. 3 receiver to open last season, will not take part in the OTAs, but he is expected to be ready for the opening of training camp.

The most intriguing competition within the competition will feature the comparison of 2012 first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins against this year's fourth-round selection, Quinton Patton. Jenkins made no impact as a rookie, but he has the best combination of quickness and deep speed on the team. If he can put it together, he should be the favorite to land the No. 3 job.

Ricardo Lockette is a player worth watching after coach Jim Harbaugh gave him an unsolicited endorsement at the NFL owners meetings.

Center
There's nothing wrong with the job veteran Jonathan Goodwin did for the 49ers last season. But he will face extremely difficult competition from two young players who are eager to supplant him in the starting lineup. Goodwin's scheduled $3.7 million salary works against him in this competition.

Joe Looney is a talented player who has a legitimate chance to start this season. The 49ers traded up to select him last year in the fourth round with the full knowledge he would not be a factor due to a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot he sustained at the Senior Bowl.

Daniel Kilgore was the primary backup at center and both guard positions last season. He and Looney are participating daily in the 49ers' offseason program.

Tight end
Delanie Walker, who the 49ers coaches determined was better than any No. 2 wide receiver a year ago, has left for the Tennessee Titans. The 49ers gave a strong indication of what they thought of rookie Vance McDonald when they selected him in the second round.

At 6 foot 4, 267 pounds, McDonald has the strength and long arms to be a good in-line blocker. But he did not do much blocking at Rice, instead lining up mostly as a slot receiver.

McDonald figures as a decisive offseason favorite to serve as Vernon Davis' backup -- and, perhaps, heir apparent -- over second-year player Garrett Celek and veteran offseason pickup Cameron Morrah.

Quarterback
Colin Kaepernick's spot as the starter is certainly not in question. And Colt McCoy is the prohibitive favorite to serve as Kaepernick's backup.

While some NFL teams do not even carry a third quarterback, the 49ers are looking for a little more from their No. 3. That's why they selected B.J. Daniels in the seventh round.

The 49ers envision a multi-purpose third quarterback who can contribute on special teams and, potentially, at running back and wide receiver. Daniels' versatility will create stiff competition for Scott Tolzien to hold onto the No. 3 job.

 

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