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What makes 49ers receivers different than past Shanahan teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
There’s no doubt that Kyle Shanahan is a huge fan of Julio Jones.
The 49ers' head coach would love to have the 6-foot-3, 220-pound All-Pro receiver at his disposal, but compared to what Shanahan had when he first came to Santa Clara, his wideout group has grown -- literally.
The average height of the wide receiving group in 2017 was just under 5-foot-9 — 5-foot-8 and 4/5 to be exact. The roster at the time included Victor Bolden (5-foot-8), Aldrick Robinson (5-foot-10), Trent Taylor (5-foot-8), Pierre Thomas (6 feet), Marquise Goodwin (5-foot-9), and Kendrick Bourne (6-foot-1).
The tallest wideout who played a game for the club in 2017 was Louis Murphy at 6-foot-2, who appeared in seven games and caught eight of his 17 targets for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Goodwin led the team in receiving yards that season, catching 56 of his 105 targets for 962 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2018, the wideout average height was 5-foot-8 and a half. Along with Goodwin, Bourne, Bolden, Taylor and Garcon, the club added Dante Pettis (6-foot-1), Richie James Jr. (5-foot-9). George Kittle led the team in receiving that season and Bourne led the receivers, catching 42 of his 66 targets for 487 yards and four touchdowns.
The wideout roster that appeared in Super Bowl LIV did not add any height but did improve production. Deebo Samuel (6-foot-0) led the group in regular-season receiving yards, snagging 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie season.
Emmanuel Sanders (5-foot-11) came in mid-season and still finished the year with 36 catches on 53 targets for 502 yards and three scores.
Brandon Aiyuk (6-foot-1) added height to the 2020 group while leading the team in receiving yards. As a rookie, he caught 60 of his 96 targets for 748 yards and five touchdowns over 12 games. Kendrick Bourne was not too far behind with 49 receptions on his 74 targets for 667 yards and two touchdowns.
We have yet to see how the 2021 group of wide receivers performs on the field, but as of right now, they are heads and shoulders above Shanahan’s previous groups -- or at least a few inches.
For the first time since being tapped as the head coach of the 49ers, the average height of Shanahan’s receiving group is over six feet. With the addition of Jalen Hurd (6-foot-5), Jauan Jennings (6-foot-3) and Mohamed Sanu (6-foot-2), the average height of the group is now just over 6-foot-1 and a half inches.
Height alone does not guarantee better performance, but since Shanahan arrived on the scene, his shortest group (2018) had the lowest production. Jimmy Garoppolo appearing less three complete games also, clearly, had a significant effect.
With a three-inch difference over the 2018 roster of wideouts, not to mention a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, could the 2021 group be the most productive yet?
Only time will tell.