On paper, the San Francisco 49ers looked to have a formidable stable of wide receivers entering the 2014 season.
After all, Michael Crabtree, Steve Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd had all eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at least once in their careers. The foursome were established veterans who knew how to get open, and could provide quarterback Colin Kaepernick with a variety of options in the passing game.
Unfortunately, the product on the field wasn’t consistent with what the 49ers had hoped for.
One of the issues was that Crabtree, Johnson and Boldin are all kind of the same player. Each receiver is more a possession, move-the-sticks-type wideout, and defenses weren’t concerned with any of them being able to take the top off of the secondary. Lloyd could still get down field somewhat, but his best days were behind him.
General manager Trent Baalke seems to finally understand that he needs a game-breaker on the outside, and has begun to address the need this offseason.
Enter Torrey Smith, the big play wideout from the Baltimore Ravens.
Smith has agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract with the 49ers, and will immediately provide an upgrade across from Boldin.
During his four years in Baltimore, Smith amassed 213 receptions for 3,591 yards. If you do the math, you will see that equates to 16.9 yards per catch. That big play ability is something the 49ers desperately need. Last season, no 49ers receiver with more than 14 catches was over 12.8.
Smith also has 30 touchdowns in his four-year career, which is four more than Crabtree has scored in six seasons.
At 49.1 percent, Smith’s career catch rate is on the lower side, but you have to consider that out of his 434 career targets, 142 of them have come on throws 20 or more yards down field. He’s recorded 42 receptions and 15 touchdowns on those attempts.
The opportunities down field have also led to Smith drawing pass interference penalties, which can be just as good as a completion. In 2014 (including the playoffs), Smith drew 12 interference calls for 261 yards. That’s an average of 21.7 per penalty.
While Smith looks like an ideal fit in every way, it still remains to be seen if Kaepernick can mesh with him the way Joe Flacco did in Baltimore. Kaepernick has struggled throwing the deep pass, and obviously that’s Smith’s specialty.
Of course, if Kaepernick struggles in 2015, Smith could have an entirely different quarterback throwing his way in the near future, but that’s another story all together.
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
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