All summer, the 49ers have been looking for help at wide receiver.
First, they hoped A.J. Jenkins would blossom. When he didn’t, they traded him for Jonathan Baldwin. Over the course of training camp they’ve been pleased with Marlon Moore, and taken a long look at other free agents such as Austin Collie, Latrell Hawkins and Chuck Jacobs.
But Sunday night, in his first appearance in an exhibition game after overcome an early training camp injury to a finger, fourth-round draft pick Quinton Patton provided a ray of sunshine.
Patton caught four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 34-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, cementing himself as a viable option for quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season.
On a first-quarter third-and-10 play, Kaepernick connected with Patton on a 19-yard gain. Later, Patton pulled in a 5-yard TD strike.
After one of Patton’s catches, Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar tweeted: “There’s my guy Quinton Patton. Loved him at the Senior Bowl. ” Tweeted Matt Miller, an NFL analyst for Bleacher Report: “Quinton Patton was my No. 6 rated WR this year. He’s capable of becoming a starter for the 49ers long term.” The San Francisco Chronicle’s Kevin Lynch labeled Patton the “star of the drive” on the 49ers’ first touchdown drive.
If Patton – from Louisiana Tech (where he caught 104 passes in 2012 for 1,392 yards and 13 TDs -- produces the way he did in his debut game, that would give the 49ers a receiving top five of Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore, Patton and Baldwin – who caught two passes in his 49ers debut for 23 yards.
If the 49ers were to keep six receivers, perhaps Kassim Osgood might be the leader. But the team may not be able to afford to carry six, especially with Mario Manningham eventually due back from injury.
Though the Niners are still to sort out the backup quarterback situation Sunday night, the wide receiver picture became a little brighter with Patton's performance.