Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers receivers ranked No. 25 in the NFL, last in the NFC West by Pro Football Focus

Jul 14, 2020 at 2:15 PM--

While ESPN ranked the San Francisco 49ers' offensive weapons as the 18th-best in the NFL, Pro Football Focus examined wide receiver groups across the league and ranked the 49ers' unit No. 25. That fell last among the four NFC West squads.

The analytics site notes the departure of Emmanuel Sanders as a reason for the lower ranking, saying the veteran wideout's route-running will be challenging to replace. The team has second-year receiver Deebo Samuel, but he is dealing with a foot injury that will keep him sidelined at least until the start of the regular season.

"You could find Samuel all over the field last year, as he was used in the backfield and on jet sweeps while also threatening the middle of the field on conventional routes," wrote Steve Palazzolo. "This added up to him ranking fifth in the league with 484 yards after the catch during the regular season while ranking third with an average of 8.5 yards after the catch per reception."

San Francisco made Brandon Aiyuk a first-round pick, hoping the rookie can replace some of the production that departed to New Orleans with Sanders.

"Samuel and Aiyuk are perfect fits for Kyle Shanahan's offense, and his deployment of the dangerous receivers will keep defenses in a bind," notes Palazzolo.

After that, you have a battle for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. The 49ers drafted 6-foot-4 receiver Jalen Hurd last year, but a back injury landed him on injured reserve during his rookie campaign. He has yet to take a regular-season snap in the NFL. San Francisco is hoping a healthy Hurd's versatility can make an impact.

Palazzolo identifies Kendrick Bourne as a player who could earn more targets.

"Kendrick Bourne is also in the mix," wrote Palazzolo, "though his last two seasons have been quite the roller-coaster ride — he's caught 10 touchdowns on 78 catches but also dropped nine catchable targets during the time."

Then you have players who might be on the bubble in former second-round pick Dante Pettis and former seventh-round pick Richie James Jr. Not mentioned by Pro Football Focus is the latter's recently broken wrist, which will force the wideout and special-teams contributor to miss some time.

Pettis, on the other hand, has made every effort this offseason to take part in player-organized workouts in hopes of finding his way out of head coach Kyle Shanahan's doghouse. He'll need a strong training camp to prove he can be a trusted target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Palazzolo concludes: "The 49ers don't have the best group on paper, but they've fired draft capital at the position for four consecutive years and have a solid group that fits their offensive system."

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