WR Prospects and the 49ers

Last season the 49ers drafted Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall pick, at long last filling a hole on the roster as a "#1" wide receiver. Consequently, here is no pressing need at wideout this year, but the team could use someone in the slot, who's ideally a good return man as well.

Top Wide Receiver Prospects

Dez Bryant (JR) • 6-2 • 210 • Oklahoma State

Bryant is a big play threat who has the size/speed combination that teams covet. He beats the jam off the line and is physical throughout his routes. He adjusts well to errant throws is dangerous after the catch and transitions up field. He's not a burner and gains separation with his size, not his quickness. Projection: First Round

Golden Tate (JR) • 5-11 • 195 • Notre Dame

Tate (below) is a multi-dimensional, game-changing offensive threat who displays great awareness and works to make himself available to the quarterback. He's a physical route runner, who sells routes with his shifty disposition. He lacks elite straight-line speed and doesn't have a prototypical frame for a No. 1 receiving threat. Projection: First Round

Demaryius Thomas (JR) • 6-3 • 229 • Georgia Tech

Thomas is built like a smallish tight end and is very big and very physical. He dominates in one-on-one coverage down the field and provides a deep threat. He knows how to hit the home run and is great at fighting for the ball and making it his. Projection: Second Round

Arrelious Benn (JR) • 6-2 • 214 • Illinois

Benn is a strong, physical receiver who has the size/speed combination that creates a difficult matchup for the opposition. He uses his strength to his advantage to separate from defenders and has the body control and vertical to pull in tough receptions. He lacks top end speed and isn't considered a downfield threat. Projection: Second Round

Brandon LaFell • 6-3 • 206 • LSU

Lafell is a big-play threat who possesses a great combination of size and speed. He sells his routes nicely and is a smooth receiver that makes everything look effortless. He has the athleticism to adjust to any ball thrown his way. He tends to lose concentration and will drop catchable passes. Projection: Second Round

Damian Williams (JR) • 6-1 • 195 • USC

Williams is a tough, competitive receiver with good size and athleticism. He shows good awareness as a route runner, is quick in and out of his breaks, and looks to be a solid No. 2 receiver at the next level. Projection: Second Round

Dexter McCluster • 5-9 • 172 • Mississippi

McCluster is small, but a very productive performer who is exceptionally quick and elusive in the open field. He has great vision and cutback ability making him difficult to track down. He's undersized and will be asked to switch from being a running back to a wide receiver. Projection: Second Round

Taylor Price • 6-0 • 198 • Ohio

Price will make someone's roster on his wheels alone. He's an athlete who will have no problems quickness-wise against any NFL corner. He's not a finished product by any stretch and could use time to refine the basics. Projection: Second Round

Mardy Gilyard • 5-11.5 • 179 • Cincinnati

Gilyard demands to make the big play in clutch situations, and he often did. He acts as a No. 1 target, but he'll have major problems getting deep on decent NFL corners. Projection: Third Round

WIDE RECEIVER

49ers Need at Position: 6

Current Players: Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones, Dominique Zeigler

Positional Overwiew: Crabtree showed flashes of his potential in his truncated rookie season, but a full training camp this year should help him improve dramatically. Morgan's a good possession receiver and a tough blocker, but wasn't much of a playmaker in 2009. Jones and Hill both have talent, but neither saw the field very much last season, as the team used three receivers only on third-and-long. Meanwhile Zeigler never got a shot and spent the whole season on the practice squad. No one on the current roster is a true burner and they could use a speedy to stretch the field for Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis.

When to Address: Third round.

Who's There: As with quarterback, there are some strong prospects here, but overall the depth of this group isn't nearly as strong as last year's class, where six wideouts were taken in the first round. Bryant's a stud, but scouts question his maturity. Tate's a playmaker, but I don't get the sense that the 49ers are high on him. Thomas is a big, fast guy who averaged 25.1 yards per reception last year at Georgia Tech and he reminds me a lot of Calvin Johnson, but I doubt he'll be there at the 49th pick in the second round. Gilyard can line up outside or in the slot, he's a polished route runner, and an excellent returner. Andre Roberts of The Citadel and Antonio Brown from Central Michigan are a couple of late round return specialists to keep an eye on.

SFI's Pick: Mardy Gilyard, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati, 5'11½" 179 lbs. He's not the biggest or fastest guy, but Gilyard is more experienced than most of the receiving prospects in this draft and he was a leader on his team who made plays week after week. Furthermore, he's a heady player who will adjust to the pro game a lot faster than the wideouts taken ahead of him while also contributing immediately on special teams.


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