Competition fierce for 49ers wide receiver roles

Competition fierce for 49ers wide receiver roles
August 21, 2014, 2:15 pm
Share This Post

Ellington could be the 49ers’ fourth receiver – or he could be inactive. In any event, he will be on the team’s 53-man roster.
Matt Maiocco

Programming note: For comprehensive 49ers coverage from Santa Clara, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight immediately following Giants Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Conceivably, there is room on the 49ers’ 53-man roster for both Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd.

But can both be among the 46 players who suit up for games in the regular season?

The 49ers kept five receivers on their active roster for most of last season. Typically, the 49ers suited up only four receivers for games.

[REWIND: 49ers training camp preview: Wide receivers]

The final active spot was devoted to Kassim Osgood, who played only 43 snaps of offense the entire season while taking part in 55-percent of the team’s special-teams plays.

Here’s a look at the competition at wide receiver with two games remaining in the exhibition season:

Michael Crabtree: Although he has been limited by a hamstring strain, Crabtree looks like a No. 1 receiver. The 49ers are targeting him for a contract extension before the start of the regular season, reports the NFL Network.

[MAIOCCO: Why 49ers are making push to lock up Crabtree]

Anquan Boldin: He is coming off the best season from a 49ers wide receiver since Terrell Owens. Boldin is signed for two more seasons, and figures to put up comparable numbers to Crabtree. Together, they are clearly the 49ers' Nos. 1 and 1A receivers.

Stevie Johnson: The 49ers acquired him from the Buffalo Bills for a 2015 fourth-round draft pick, so they’ve already made an investment in him.

Johnson is the front-runner to win the No. 3 job. But if he does not win the No. 3 job, he does not figure to be with the team under his scheduled $3.925 million salary.

Although he is signed through 2016, his salaries for the final two years are more than $6 million -- so it's not certain if he fits into the team's long-term plans.

Johnson is a proven player, but it does not appear as if he and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have yet developed great on-field chemistry.

[49ERS QUICK HITS: Will Johnson, Lloyd both make 53-man roster?]

Brandon Lloyd: All things being equal, Lloyd should make the team. After all, he is one of the team's top-four wideouts.

However, there's a big difference between No. 3 and No. 4. If he’s the No. 3 receiver, then Johnson would have to take a pay cut to remain with the team. If Lloyd is the No. 4 receiver, his $1.1 million salary could be considered too much for a player who won't play much and contribute nothing on special teams.

Bruce Ellington: His clearest path to making it onto the game-day roster is as a return specialist. But he does not look fully comfortable handling punts.

Ellington could be the 49ers’ fourth receiver – or he could be inactive. In any event, he will be on the team’s 53-man roster.

Quinton Patton: He finished last season as the 49ers’ third receiver. He is a better player this summer, but the competition has been greatly improved.

With three years remaining on his contract, Patton will be on the 53-man roster. But it will take a lot of work -- and, perhaps, an injury or two -- to regain the role he held as a rookie.

Kassim Osgood: His hope of winning a roster spot and role is tied entirely to special teams. He can handle the role as an emergency wide recever and core special-teams player.

Last year, the 49ers released the vested veteran at the final cuts so they would not have to guarantee his entire salary. They signed him back the next week. They could do the same thing this year, too.

David Reed: He’s had a strong camp, but he faces an extreme uphill battle. Reed has played 36 career games, mostly with the Baltimore Ravens over the past four seasons. He does not have practice-squad eligibility.

Devon Wylie: He spent the final month on the 49ers’ practice squad last season, and he retains practice squad eligibility this season, too.

L’Damian Washington: At 6 foot 4, 200 pounds, Washington has outstanding size. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is a strong possibility for one of the 49ers’ 10 practice-squad spots.

Lance Lewis: The 49ers signed him after Chuck Jacobs sustained a season-ending knee injury in the exhibition opener. Lewis is battling for one of the two or three spots on the practice squad that will be filled by wide receivers.