Wide receivers Mario Manning and Randy Moss are in, and Ted Ginn Jr. is back. And with the NFL Draft now less than a week away, there may soon be another wide receiver added to the San Francisco 49ers’ mix, too.
So where does that leave Kyle Williams?
Does Williams, after just two NFL seasons, still have enough growth potential and upside to be in the team’s plans for 2012? Or will the former Arizona State sixth-round pick of 2010 – who so infamously muffed a pair of punts to set up the 49ers’ loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game in January – get another chance?
Niners General Manager Trent Baalke told the Associated Press this week that Williams’ mistakes in the playoff loss to the Giants will have no bearing on his future with the team.
“I’m not down on Kyle Williams, nor is anyone else in this organization,” Baalke said. “It’s done, it’s over with and we’re moving forward. I’m very confident that Kyle will get past the incident of last year and is ready to move on. And he’ll get better because of it.”
But how many receivers will the 49ers carry in 2012?
Starter Michael Crabtree, Manningham, Moss and Ginn – who certainly will make the team because of his punt- and kick-return talents – already account for four spots, and the team could well take another receiver in the draft.
As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com noted, “If the 49ers add another wide receiver, Williams could be the odd man out.”
In his only two seasons, Williams has shown flashes of being a solid contributor.
After playing just five games in 2010 and catching just one pass, Williams in 2011 played in 13 games – including one start – and had 20 catches for 241 yards and three TDs. He also used his speed to pick up 32 yards on two carries (reverses), including a 25-yarder that helped set up a score against the Rams in early December, the same game in which he scored on a 56-yard pass play. He had another solid games against the Cardinals in November, with five catches and a touchdown.
Yet the battle to make the roster as the fifth or sixth receiver for 2012 may prove difficult for Williams.
One thing that seems certain, however, is any decision on Williams will be made without prejudice from the playoff debacle, when Williams – forced to take over returning punts for an injured Ginn – made mistakes that helped set up the Giants overtime victory.
According to a report by Pro Football Weekly’s Dan Arkush, one 49ers insider says the team believes Williams has handled adversity well.
“He has rebounded really well from the muffs,” the insider told Arkush. “Trent Baalke had a good conversation with him and came away thinking Kyle really had it together mentally. …
“The thing is, he is just a real solid kid. He’s not afraid to talk about what happened. He doesn’t shy away from anything and has been very up front.”
That same member of the 49ers organization says the team also is impressed with the way Williams progressed in 2011, saying: “He proved to be a very smart, solid slot (receiver). He knows how to read defenses and he had a real good chemistry with Alex Smith.”