The 49ers’ acquisition of Marquise Goodwin in 2017 may turn out to be one of the franchise’s best moves in a long time.
The former University of Texas track standout and wide receiver was largely overlooked in four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Over those four years he had 10 starts and 49 catches. There was little on his resume to indicate he was ready for a breakout last season.
Yet now, as the 49ers prepare to open training camp on July 25, Goodwin at age 27 could be ready to join the ranks of the NFL’s top receivers.
Goodwin had 56 catches in 2017 for 962 yards and two touchdowns, with an average of 17.2 yards per catch. He made catches on short, intermediate and long routes. He wasn’t just a deep-threat sprinter, but a skilled, all-around target who meshed well with new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers were so impressed by his performance – that included a strong work ethic and playing through the pain of the loss of his infant child – that the franchise in March signed him to a three-year extension that could be worth as much as $20.3 million.
Said general manager John Lynch at the time of the signing: “From the minute Marquise joined our team he has shown us everything we want to see in a 49er.”
This week, the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted how steep Goodwin’s rise was with his new team. In 2016 with the Bills, Goodwin was given a 51.6 overall grade by PFF, which ranked 93rd among NFL wideouts. In 2017, his grade was 80.0, which ranked 26th.
As Patrick Holloway of SB Nation wrote Tuesday, Goodwin came close to a 1,000-yard season in just his first year in the offensive scheme of head coach Kyle Shanahan. This coming season, with more familiarity and confidence in the playbook and with Garoppolo, Goodwin could be poised for a monster season. Opposing defenses began focusing late last season on stopping Goodwin, yet he prevailed. Now, veteran Pierre Garcon returns from injury and the receiving corps appears much stronger with second-year man Trent Taylor, second-round pick Dante Pettis and others such as Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson and rookie Richie James.
Goodwin, too, is a deep threat who will stretch the field. In 2017, Goodwin ranked as the No. 4 wideout in the league on deep post routes, with a grade of 123.6, far above the NFL average of 98.6.
Once Garoppolo became the starter, Goodwin became his favorite target. The QB threw nearly 25 percent of his passes to Goodwin and had 25 percent of his completions to him.
Lynch, for one, believes Goodwin is positioned to get better and better and help the 49ers become a winner again.
Said Lynch: “Marquise earned this (contract) extension by coming in every day focused on doing his job and, as a result, he made himself and his teammates better.”