SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers will report for training camp July 27 with the first practice slated for the following day.
As we head toward the start of camp, we're previewing each position and the competitions that could ensue. Today we look at wide receiver, where the Niners made some drastic changes in the offseason and it's possible only one player from last year's team will be retained.
On the roster: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden Jr. Kendrick Bourne, Aaron Burbridge, DeAndre Carter, Bruce Ellington, BJ Johnson III, DeAndre Smelter.
Locked in: Garcon, Goodwin, Kerley, Taylor.
Battles to watch: When it comes to the top of the 49ers' receiver depth chart, there really isn't much drama. Garcon and Goodwin look like the favorites to start on the outside with Kerley serving as the primary slot receiver and intriguing rookie Taylor also capable of helping out inside. Robinson is probably a good bet to win a job as well, but we left him off the lock list if only because the Niners seemed to have some interesting young prospects who could elbow their way into the room as training camp and the preseason roll on.
Without knowing exactly how many receivers coach Kyle Shanahan intends to keep, it's hard to project who is in a good spot and who isn't, but it's fair to assume there will be five or six on the initial incarnation of the roster after the last round of preseason cuts. Assuming that's the case, there's one or two spots up for grabs here.
Robinson would certainly be a favorite to land one of them given his relationship with Shanahan and knowledge of the offense. While the 49ers didn't move quite as quickly to sign Robinson as they did Garcon and Goodwin, he wasn't far behind. Plus, Robinson has the ability to play outside, which makes him a logical candidate to provide depth behind Garcon and Goodwin.
Ellington is another returning body, but his battles with injuries have made him hard to count on. Plus, Ellington is best suited for the slot, and with Kerley and Taylor likely to stick, it's hard to envision the Niners keeping another receiver who is best used inside. Still, he will have a chance to push for a spot if he can stay healthy. If Ellington can offer some return ability, perhaps he could surprise.
Speaking of special teams, Burbridge is one who can't be counted out. He earned raves from the previous staff for his ability to cover kicks and punts and he's only entering his second year. His value on special teams alone could position him to win a spot.
Carter is also an interesting option after a strong spring, and though he doesn't offer much size, he has some playmaking ability. Bourne and Bolden both flashed some of that back in the spring as well, though Bourne will be playing catch-up after missing a chunk of the offseason program.
Smelter, perhaps, is the most intriguing of all. The Niners project to be one of the smallest receiving corps in the league, and while Shanahan & Co. have said that doesn't matter, having at least one big-bodied wideout would offer something different. Smelter has been hanging on with the Niners for a while despite never offering much in the way of production, and this could be his last chance. If he can make plays in the preseason, he could find a way to make the roster.
Whether the 49ers end up keeping five or six receivers, most of the competition at this position figures to come from the bottom portion of the depth chart.