Anquan Boldin is a lock. So is Jon Baldwin, acquired this week from the Kansas City Chiefs for A.J. Jenkins.
But who else will be among the 49ers receiving corps when the team sets its 53-man roster before the season opener against Green Bay on Sept. 8?
It’s likely that head coach Jim Harbaugh will carry six wide receivers on his roster. If Boldin is one and Baldwin is two, then Kyle Williams – back and healthy from injury – appears to be No. 3 and free-agent pickup Marlon Moore is No. 4. Harbaugh last week indicated Williams and Moore are on target to make the roster.
Moore, the former Dolphin, has been one of the team’s best receivers in camp and also has a history of fine play on special teams.
“Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore have a bit of a head start in that regard,” Harbaugh told reporters, when asked about the likely Game 1 starter opposite Boldin.
That leaves a competition between rookie Quinton Patton, veteran Kassim Osgood (also an outstanding special teams player), former Colts standout Austin Collie, Lavelle Hawkins, Chad Hall, Ricardo Lockette and Chuck Jacobs for the final two jobs.
This week, Harbaugh indicated that he hopes to give those players on the bubble a good quantity of opportunities to prove themselves in the third exhibition of the summer, against the visiting Vikings Sunday night.
“There are a lot of options there,” Harbaugh told 49ers.com. “I have been very impressed with (the) receiving group, the way they practice, the way that they perform. They’re very competitive guys and they want (the reps). … There’s quite a few receivers that are all healthy and champing at the bit to go get ‘em.”
Baldwin is expected to make his 49ers debut Sunday. After trading former No. 1 pick Jenkins to Kansas City for him, the 49ers are committed to seeing what they have in a physically gifted and tall target (6-foot-4) who has had trouble with drops in his first two years as a pro, but has pulled in 41 balls for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s possible that Baldwin could blossom now that he’s paired with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and a proven offensive system. But his track record as a pro is spotty. Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said this summer that “you don’t know what you will get out of” Baldwin when he’s thrown the ball. And Chiefs head coach Andy Reid grew frustrated with his drops.
“We gave him the opportunity this week and you have to catch the football,” Reid said Monday, after Baldwin had dropped a pass in last week’s game against the 49ers. “That’s how it works and he knows that and I know that. When we give you an opportunity, you have to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity. … He needs to keep playing, and (when) given the opportunity, he needs to take advantage of it.”
This Sunday against the Vikings, that advice should be loud and clear for a group of 49ers receivers still fighting a numbers game.