SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have not had a wide receiver produce a 1,000-yard season since 34-year-old Anquan Boldin in 2014.
Their quest for a true No. 1 wide receiver could be over. And it’s possible they now have two players capable of being the top guy on the outside.
Peter King of NBC Sports visited Santa Clara last week on his tour of NFL training camps, and he said receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk made quite an impression.
“There’s not five, six, seven teams in football who are going to be better than Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel outside,” King told NBC Sports Bay Area on 49ers Talk. “I mean, they’re really going to be pretty good.”
The 49ers selected Samuel in the second round of the 2019 draft, and his play helped the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl. He caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie season. Samuel also rushed for three touchdowns.
Samuel’s second season was marred by injuries, as he appeared in only seven games.
Aiyuk, whom the 49ers selected in the first round of the 2020 draft, caught 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games as a rookie.
And Aiyuk did it all without an offseason program and no preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samuel and Aiyuk are clearly the team’s top two wide receivers in training camp. After those two, there’s a significant drop-off. Samuel has 16 receptions during 11-on-11 work through five practices, while Aiyuk has 15 catches.
Mohamed Sanu, Richie James and Trent Sherfield are among those who have shown flashes on the practice field in the competition to fill the role of the 49ers' No. 3 receiver.
Aiyuk mostly concentrated on being a wide receiver as a rookie, but he also has skills in the return game. He had two punt returns last season for 26 yards. He could get more of an opportunity this season.
“He's trying to prove that he's one of our best receivers right now, so he can get out there in that way,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And, hopefully, he can prove he is one of our best punt returners, too.
“We're early in the camp, five practices in, but he's working his butt off. There’s some good, some bad, but if he keeps working like he is, I think he'll be ready for whatever we put at him.”