Why 49ers' wide receivers could significantly change for 2020 season

Why 49ers' wide receivers could significantly change for 2020 season

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis did not see the field during the 49ers' final games of the 2019 season, which could be an indication of what is to come for the wide receiver group. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan spent most of the season using a rotation with the receivers, but Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne emerged as the primary targets during the playoffs.

In 2017, Goodwin had a breakout campaign in his first season with San Francisco, nearly hitting the 1,000-yard receiving mark (962). Pettis had a promising 2018 rookie season with an average of 17.3 yards per reception, catching 60 percent of his targets. 

Both Goodwin and Pettis saw a significant drop off in production in 2019. Several factors are in play regarding their futures.  

The wide receiver class in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft could be one of the deepest and most talented groups the league has ever seen, which might influence what general manager John Lynch and his staff will do come April 23-25. 

The 49ers also hope to see both Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd return to the line up after they missed the entire 2019 season with injuries. Shanahan and Lynch will need to make some tough decisions in the near future. 

San Francisco would prefer to gain some trade value for Goodwin, as opposed to releasing the receiver whose speed can take the top off a defense. 

“We don’t want to release Marquise,” Shanahan said on Tuesday. “He’s too valuable. I know he fell out of the rotation last year, then he had an injury that he wanted to go on IR so he could go get it cleaned up, and I think it is right now.

“But Quise is a guy who can play in this league and if he’s on our team, he is going to be competing with that group. And if not, I feel pretty confident that another team would want him.”

Similar to the 49ers' group of running backs, both Lynch and Shanahan would like to “keep the band together,” but they know they can’t keep everyone. Like everything, the roster must change. 

“We like our group, I think we like the core of our group,” Lynch said. “The draft class is incredibly strong, this is my fourth combine and it’s as good as I’ve ever seen. The depth of it, the top-end players, it’s a really good class.” 

[RELATED: 49ers should watch these five receivers during the combine]

Pettis has two remaining seasons on his four-year rookie contract and Shanahan is looking for an increased sense of urgency that was lacking in the receiver's sophomore year. He is hoping to see a significant difference in Pettis when the offseason program begins in April. 

“I just want to see when he comes back that while he has been away, he has been on a mission,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s what some guys go through. I think that Dante did that more his rookie year trying to make the league and stuff. I think he took a documented step back in his second year, which I’ve been around a lot of players who have done that.” 

Shanahan and Lynch would both like to see Sanders return for the 2020 season, but it's questionable if they'll be able to afford him with big extensions looming for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner.

George Kittle jokingly offers up Richard Sherman's phone number online

George Kittle jokingly offers up Richard Sherman's phone number online

Professional athletes notoriously keep an extremely safe guard over their personal cell phone numbers.

With good reason, as their devices likely never would stop ringing if the number was publicly available.

49ers cornerback Richard Sherman turned 32 years old on Monday, and his fellow all-pro and teammate George Kittle offered him an interesting present via social media.

Obviously this is all in good fun, as Kittle always has been known for ribbing his teammates.

[RELATED: Why Lynch likely was scouting Louisville's Becton from home]

Sherman has 114 career passes defenses, but he’d have to swat away a lot more phone calls if Kittle were to blast out his digits.

Celebrate Richard Sherman's 32nd birthday by remembering 2019 rants

Celebrate Richard Sherman's 32nd birthday by remembering 2019 rants

Richard Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but he might be most in his element at a podium.

The 49ers cornerback is one of the league's best speakers, captivating reporters looking to fill notebooks and fans starved to hear something interesting from the players they follow whenever he addresses the media.

Our colleagues in content at NBC Sports Northwest celebrated Sherman's 32nd birthday on Monday by remembering his epic dismissal of then-49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC Championship Game, but the veteran added to his canon of memorable interviews and social-media rants during his second season with the 49ers during the 2019 season. Here are his best in honor of the All-Pro taking another trip around the sun.

The handshake heard -- but not seen -- around the world

Sherman's 49ers stomped on the Cleveland Browns, the darlings of the NFL offseason, in Week 5 on "Monday Night Football." The win established San Francisco as For Real, but Sherman managed to grab the most headlines when he told NFL Media's Mike Silver that Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't shake his hand before the game.

"What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning," Sherman told Silver. "That's some college s--t. It's ridiculous. We're all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent -- that's NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that's disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that's gonna get us fired up."

That's not really what happened, either.

Video revealed that Mayfield did, in fact, shake hands with Sherman before the game, just not a second time. Sherman said he would apologize to Mayfield after the cornerback was caught in a lie, but still managed to turn the fiasco into ... an observation on sports-media priorities in 2019?

"I've said my piece about it," Sherman said in October. "I'm going to have a conversation with him, and then I'm kind of going to be done with it. It’s just funny it got so big. I thought the football game is what they watched for, but I guess it’s the soap opera."

Sherman becomes @OldTakesExposed

Sherman remembered everyone who criticized him signing an incentive-heavy contract with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018.

And I mean everyone.

There's much more nuance to Sherman's contract, as ESPN's Bill Barnwell expertly noted soon after Sherman's dunk session. Yet Sherman showed once again how unsparing he is when vindicated, and it wouldn't be the last time he relished proving people wrong during the 49ers' Super Bowl run.

In his zone

Sherman has long been knocked by critics for being a "zone" cornerback, who have argued that he can't guard the NFL's best receivers 1-on-1. The cornerback lit into those doubters after the 49ers' win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round, when Sherman intercepted Vikes QB Kirk Cousins to set up a San Francisco touchdown.

“People think I’m a zone [cornerback],” he said in January. “[It’s] man! Playoffs! Pick! Gotta have those. You know what I mean?

“But you know what [media] is going to do? They’re going to do what they always do to me. They’re going to make an excuse for why I’m great. They’re going to have an excuse. ‘Oh, it was Kirk Cousins!’ It’s always an excuse. But when somebody does it, it’s like, ‘He’s the best corner.’

“Look, Jalen [Ramsey] was [considered] the greatest corner. But I’m a system corner. We play in the same system! But I’m a system corner. You start to listen and it’s like, ‘Bro, they run the same scheme.’ Like, what are we talking about?”

You will be shocked to learn victory lap continued on Twitter.

[RELATED: 49ers interview Washington prospects for draft]

Corner vs. Corner

There are no two questions more boring than "Is Player X Elite?" and "Is Player Y Better Than Player Z?" Well, unless you happen to be one of Players X, Y or Z.

Longtime NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis sustained hours of sports-talk radio and debate television when he blasted Sherman on Twitter in the aftermath of the 49ers' NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers, drudging up the old criticism of Sherman not being good enough in man-to-man coverage.

Sherman, understandably, wasn't having it.

"You're going to have to get an interview with him and talk to him about it," Sherman said on "The Rich Eisen Show." "I really got nothing for him, but he seems to have too much time on his hands or something. I think it's one of those where a guy who thinks more of himself than the world thinks of him, feels like I'm getting more credit than I deserve or something like that. Obviously, his stats don't match my stats so he's trying to find other ways to make himself relevant in the conversation."

All professional athletes think they can stack up with the best their sport has to offer. Few are as vocal about it as Sherman.