As running back friendly the San Francisco 49ers are, is the wide receiving core considered deeper and higher rated by analysts?
Fans know the 49ers have pivoted more toward a hard-nosed, run-first identity in the era of Kyle Shanahan — gashing opponents with their outside zone attack and inside blast runs. However, Pro Football Focus listed the 49ers’ RB unit at No. 27 heading into the season.
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Yet, as deep and loaded the Los Angeles Rams have been at wide receiver, especially heading into the 2022 season with new $110 million wideout Cooper Kupp and free agent acquisition Allen Robinson, not everyone believes they’re a top five unit. Especially by Pro Football Focus standards.
And that’s where the 49ers’ WR unit comes in.
Where PFF Ranks the 49ers WR Group
Pro Football Focus released their top receiving corps rankings on Thursday, June 9 and slotted the 49ers over the Rams — placing S.F. at No. 6 overall.
But PFF writer Ben Linsey explained how this status comes “under the assumption” things can work out between the ‘Niners and their All-Pro wideout from last season:
“This No. 6 ranking is under the assumption that the offseason rumors surrounding Deebo Samuel end up being water under the bridge. Before Samuel took on his “wide back” role toward the tail end of the 2021 season, he was one of the most efficient wide receivers in the league. His 86.9 PFF receiving grade through Week 10 ranked third, behind only Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp.”
There is this sign in 49ers land: Samuel showed up to mandatory minicamp on June 7.
Linsey then added how three wideouts — one a resigned veteran, the other who delivered a high passer rating through his targets and the other a speedy, intriguing rookie — help make this version of the 49ers’ receiving core complete for Trey Lance behind center:
“George Kittle remains one of the league’s few truly elite tight ends, and Brandon Aiyuk emerged from Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse down the stretch to generate a 119.4 passer rating on his 83 targets. And with potential contributions from less established players like Jauan Jennings and rookie Danny Gray out of SMU, this becomes one of the more well-rounded groups in the league on paper.”
Regarding Jennings, plays like this has left 49er fans in awe — and looking forward to his dynamics this fall:
There’s also this promising update from Shanahan from Tuesday, June 7: Jennings and Aiyuk have delivered impressive offseason work via Matt Barrows of The Athletic.
As for Gray, plays like these from his SMU years fuels excitement for 49er fans:
Why the Rams Rank Lower
Why the seventh ranking for the Rams? Linsey wrote this explanation:
“A potential Odell Beckham Jr. return would bump the Rams into Tier 1, but they stick at the top of Tier 2 for now. How high they rise or how far they fall largely hinges on whether Allen Robinson’s 2021 season was a one-year hiatus from the wide receiver he’s been for much of his career or a sign of things to come. Robinson’s 67.0 PFF receiving grade in 2021 — following two seasons above 80.0 with the Bears — was the lowest of his career. Cooper Kupp still headlines the unit after ranking first among all wide receivers in PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric last season.”
Linsey and PFF are basing this ranking off the status of Beckham. His addition clearly will make the Rams even more expandable and explosive. But he’s still on the free agent market.
Other WR units ranked ahead of the 49ers and Rams were: The Las Vegas Raiders at No. 5, the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 4, the Miami Dolphins at No. 3, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 2 and the Cincinnati Bengals coming in at No. 1.