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Quinton Patton Injury Will Impact Depth for the San Francisco 49ers

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COMMENTARY | Quinton Patton may have caught just a single pass for zero yards in his first four NFL games, but a fractured foot that will keep him out for an extended time will test the San Francisco 49ers depth at wide receiver.

Patton, a fourth-round pick from Louisiana Tech, was impressive in the couple preseason games that he did play and was quickly climbing the 49ers' depth chart. This injury further depletes a group that has been without Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham for the first four weeks. While Manningham is expected back at some point this month, the injury to Crabtree's Achilles signals a late-season return, at best.

Currently, the 49ers' wide receiver depth chart includes former Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin and a bunch of unknown commodities. Jon Baldwin, who was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs for A.J. Jenkins during the preseason, has also impressed. He put up two catches for 19 yards in his 49ers' debut against the St. Louis Rams last week. Baldwin has been working with quarterback Colin Kaepernick to find some type of a connection between games. He's expected to play a larger role and possibly take over for Kyle Williams as the starter opposite Boldin in the not-so-distant future.

Outside of that, not much to see here. Marlon Moore was inactive last week against St. Louis after being in the starting lineup to open the season. To say that he's been less than impressive would be an understatement. Meanwhile, veteran Kassim Osgood is nothing more than a standout special teams player.

Where San Francisco might run the least amount of four wide receiver sets in the NFL, it still needs more than one reliable receiver on the outside. Four weeks into the season, that simply hasn't been the case. Taking into account Patton's career at Louisiana Tech and the way he has performed behind the scenes in Santa Clara, it's pretty obvious that Jim Harbaugh and Co. were relying on him to be that guy.

There are no plans to place Patton on injured reserve, but this injury just sets him back further in his development and impacts San Francisco's depth a great deal. If the 49ers are forced to go with four-wide sets, it means that either Moore or Osgood will see action. That's not ideal in any situation.

It wouldn't make much sense for me to end this article without mentioning one lingering possibility. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon appears to be on the trade block. The second-year pass catcher is among the most talented at his position in the NFL and would give San Francisco's offense a spark. There are concerns over his off-field issues and it would take a pretty good offer to get a deal done. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported towards the end of September that the Browns are seeking "worthwhile" compensation for Gordon.

San Francisco is in one of the best positions in the league to get a deal done. It already boasts multiple third-round picks and will pick up an addition second rounder in the Alex Smith deal should the Kansas City Chiefs win four more games this season. Taking into account compensatory selections, San Francisco could easily be looking at five day-two picks. This gives general manager Trent Baalke and the flexibility to make a move.

As it is, the 49ers wide receiver situation was impacted a great deal by Patton's injury. It seems that Osgood and Moore were nothing more than placeholders until Patton was ready to crack the lineup and Baldwin created a better relationship with Kaepernick. At this point, one of them might have to play a bigger role than the 49ers would like until Manningham and/or Kaepernick return.

Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.

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