The 49ers have dropped the ball when it comes to drafting wide receivers

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In 1996, the San Francisco 49ers took a chance on a big bodied wide receiver from Tennessee-Chattanooga in the third round of the NFL draft. In eight seasons with the team, that player caught 592 balls for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns. He made four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams while in San Francisco, and was the last wide out drafted by the 49ers to achieve those honors while still wearing red and gold.

The player, obviously, is Terrell Owens, and his selection may have been the last time the organization was truly able to hit on a receiver in the draft.

Since 1997, the 49ers have drafted a total of 18 wide receivers. Out of those 18, only six have gained 1,000 yards with San Francisco in their careers. Not 1,000 yards in a season, but in all of their years with the team.

Looking deeper, only Michael Crabtree has ever eclipsed 1,000 yards in a season and he’s only done it once. That means out of 18 draft picks who have played a total of 50 individual seasons in San Francisco, only once was 1,000 yards achieved.

Nine of the players (excluding Bruce Ellington who was only a rookie in 2014) have seven or less career receptions with the team. Six of those nine didn’t record a single catch. In some cases, those players without receptions were late round picks, but the list also includes Derrick Hamilton and Brandon Williams who were third round selections, and A.J. Jenkins who was a first round pick.

If you add up the statistics for all of the 18 receivers taken since ’97, they have 1,147 receptions for 14,742 yards and 90 touchdowns as 49ers. That’s 134 less catches, 4,505 less yards and 86 less touchdowns than Jerry Rice alone during his time in San Francisco.

It’s possible that one could make an argument that Crabtree was a very good player for the 49ers, but let’s not pretend that he lived up expectations in any way, shape or form. The Niners took Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in 2009. When a player is taken at that point in the first round, the expectation is that he will produce like a number one option for years to come. With the exception of 2012, that didn’t happen.

Crabtree has averaged 4.4 receptions and 54.8 yards during his six-year career with the Niners. That equates to an average season of 70 catches and 877 yards. Those are good numbers but far from elite (especially in today’s NFL). Also, in 79 career games, Crabtree only managed 26 touchdowns.

Is this just bad luck or do the 49ers have some kind of fatal flaw when it comes to drafting receivers?

Considering the picks have been made by different administrations, bad luck may have something to do with it but shouldn’t let the team off the hook for years of poor selections. 

Odds are general manager Trent Baalke will look to buck that trend as the team seems poised the address their need at receiver in the 2015 draft. Only time will tell if he can, or if the next pick will be more of the same.

Here’s a list of the wide receivers drafted by the 49ers and their receiving statistics with the team since 1997:

1997: (no receiver selected)

1998: Ryan Thelwell, 7th round, Minnesota

No stats/Did not make team

1999: Tai Streets, 6th round, Michigan

5 years, 168 receptions, 2,208 yards, 13 touchdowns

 2000: (no receiver selected)

 2001: Cedrick Wilson, 6th round, Tennessee

4 years, 97 receptions, 1,203 yards, 6 touchdowns

 2002: (no receiver selected)

 2003: Brandon Lloyd, 4th round, Illonois

4 years, 119 catches, 1,804 yards, 13 touchdowns

Arnaz Battle, 6th round, Notre Dame

7 years, 178 catches, 2150 yards, 11 touchdowns

 2004: Rashaun Woods, 1st round, Oklahoma State

1 year, 7 catches, 160 yards, 1 touchdown

Derrick Hamilton, 3rd round, Clemson

2 years, no stats

 2005: Rasheed Marshall, 5th round, West Virginia

1 year, 1 catch, -1 yard, 0 touchdowns

Marcus Maxwell, 7th round, Oregon

2 years, no stats

 2006: Brandon Williams, 3rd round, Wisconsin

2 years, no stats

 2007: Jason Hill, 3rd round, Washington

4 years, 40 receptions, 413 yards, 4 touchdowns

 2008: Josh Morgan, 6th round, Virginia Tech

4 years, 131 receptions, 1764 yards, 9 touchdowns

 2009: Michael Crabtree, 1st round, Texas Tech

6 years, 347 receptions, 4,327 yards, 26 touchdowns

 2010: Kyle Williams, 6th round, Arizona State

4 years, 47 receptions, 574 yards, 4 touchdowns

 2011: Ronald Johnson, 6th round, USC

No stats/ Did not make team

 2012: A.J. Jenkins, 1st round, Illonois

1 year, no stats

 2013: Quinton Patton, 4th round, Louisiana Tech

2 years, 6 receptions, 78 yards, 0 touchdowns (still with team)

 2014: Bruce Ellington, 4th round, South Carolina

1 year, 6 receptions, 62 yards, 2 touchdowns (still with team)

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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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