49ers training camp 2014: How will the receiver battles play out?

As the preseason wears on and we get closer to the start of meaningful games, teams will begin to trim their roster and the position battles that were cloudy when camp started will begin to clear up. For the San Francisco 49ers however, there is little drama as to who will take the field, especially when it comes to the starting offense.

Despite the lack of drama with the first team, some questions still linger as to who will step up and play different roles beyond the starters. One of the positions many have kept an eye on in San Francisco is wide receiver, given the amount of depth the team looks to have there.

Here’s a look at the major players, and how things may shake out this season:

 Michael Crabtree/Anquan Boldin

There’s no debating who will line up with the first unit when the 49ers open their season in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Crabtree and Boldin are the unquestioned starters, and will see the majority of the wide out targets from Colin Kaepernick this season. Each is battle tested and has developed a strong rapport with their quarterback. Barring injury they, along with tight end Vernon Davis, will be the focal point of the passing game. 

Quinton Patton

In a move that came as a bit of a surprise, Patton was the team’s third receiver in the Week 3 preseason matchup against the San Diego Chargers. He caught one pass for 10 yards, and also put some doubt in what looked to be a Stevie Johnson/Brandon Lloyd race for the third spot.

Patton, who showed promise towards the end of last season, is assured to be on the team. Maybe the 49ers wanted to see how he would do ahead of Johnson if given an opportunity, or maybe they aren’t completely satisfied with the other alternatives.

Stevie Johnson

It’s still an unknown how Johnson will fit into the pecking order (if at all) once the season begins. He didn’t enter the game against the Chargers until later in the second quarter when the backups were starting to file in, and only managed one catch for five yards.

It’s curious because given his track record and contract, one would think Johnson would be a lock for the 53-man roster. Now, it appears he could be on the bubble, or possibly even trade bait if the 49ers don’t feel he’s a fit.

Brandon Lloyd

Lloyd sat out the Chargers game with an undisclosed injury, so he didn’t do anything to help or hurt his chances of making the squad. He’s a luxury for San Francisco, as they signed him to a non-guaranteed contract.

Lloyd would probably have to win the third receiver position outright to make the team, as he offers very little in the way of special teams.

Bruce Ellington

The 49ers used a fourth round pick on Ellington in the 2014 draft, and the early results have been positive. Ellington is an intriguing option in the passing game, but it’s unlikely he gets much time on the field with the offense this year.

Despite Ellington probably not playing a large role this season, he’s a lock for the roster and could even see time as the team’s primary return man. He’s someone the 49ers have marked as an asset down the road, and they will use 2014 as a learning year.

Kassim Osgood

If Osgood is ever playing meaningful snaps with the first team offense, the 49ers have a problem. He’s on the roster solely for special teams and, given the fact that he’s a standout in that department, has an excellent chance of making the final cuts.


The 49ers will keep six receivers on the roster with Lloyd being the odd man out. Crabtree, Boldin, Patton and Ellington are locks, and Osgood is too much of an asset on special teams to let go. Johnson gets the nod over Lloyd because of his guaranteed contract, and the fact that he can help the team beyond 2014 if Crabtree is not re-signed. 

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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