The 49ers have a need for a big wide receiver, but few NFL teams are not in the market for player that fits that description.
Coach Kyle Shanahan made it known recently that size matters – but only if a receiver has a lot more in his tool box.
“If his only elite trait is size, you can only put him in at the 5 yard line to throw a jump ball,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We need good receivers, and they come in all shapes and sizes.”
The 49ers had a visit in Santa Clara this week with Florida State receiver Auden Tate, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area. He is one of the biggest receivers available in the draft. Tate showed an ability to go up and get the ball, as he accounted for 10 touchdowns last season.
Shanahan wants receivers who can get open. That could mean the ability to separate with speed and route-running ability. Tate can get open by simply going up higher or using his catch radius to grab passes beyond the reach of smaller defensive backs.
The 49ers apparently do not view wide receiver as an urgent need.
The team did not make a play for any receivers on the free-agent market. Pierre Garçon was on pace for 1,000 yards before sustaining a neck injury in the eighth game of the season. Marquise Goodwin fell just short of 1,000 yards, as his game reached another level after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starter.
Trent Taylor had a promising rookie season as the slot receiver. Kendrick Bourne and Aldrick Robinson are slated as reserves.
“If we can bring in guys who beat out our starters, that means we’re bringing in some pretty good guys,” Shanahan said. “I also know I’m happy with our guys. I think they did a good job and got better throughout the year. And I expect Pierre to come back healthy.”
The 49ers are likely to draft a wide receiver, then take the time to develop a player who will not be needed to make a major contribution as a rookie. And there are plenty of options in the upcoming draft for the 49ers if they are looking for a player 6-foot-3 or taller after their scheduled pick in the first round.
Courtland Sutton could be the first big target selected – at some point late in the first round or early in the second. He averaged 16.5 yards per reception with 31 touchdowns over his final three seasons. Sutton has worked with former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin to refine his route-running.
“You want all your routes to look exactly the same,” Sutton said at the combine on what Boldin stressed to him.
“That means the DB never should be able to pick what you’re supposed to run. Other than alignment, he should never be able to tell where you’re supposed to run. That’s really huge and for a bigger guy all people think I can do is just go over the top, so I need to be able to be deceiving in my routes and making sure all my routes look exactly the same.”
Here’s a look at some of the draft-eligible big receivers with draft projection from NFL.com:
Courtland Sutton, SMU (6-3, 218). Round projection: 2
D.J. Chark, LSU (6-3, 199). Round projection: 2
Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame (6-5, 214). Round projection: 3-4
J’Mon Moore, Missouri (6-3, 207). Round projection: 3-4
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State (6-4, 216). Round projection: 4-5
Auden Tate, Florida State (6-5, 228). Round projection: 4-5
Allen Lazard, Iowa State (6-5, 227). Round projection: 4-5
Simmie Cobbs, Indiana (6-3, 220). Round projection: 5