In 2017, wide receiver Pierre Garcon brought some stability to a 49ers receiving corps that needed it, catching 40 passes in his first eight games, for 500 yards.
The veteran, a steady contributor for years in Indianapolis and Washington, was on pace for his third 1,000-yard season at age 31.
But Garcon’s season came to an abrupt end in Week 8 when he suffered a neck injury in a game against Philadelphia. He spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. Still, the Niners are excited by his return in 2018, with the chance Garcon can become a terrific receiver for new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In fact, Garcon is signed through four more seasons, having signed a five-year deal with the franchise that could be worth as much as $47.5 million.
Even though some young receivers emerged last season, such as Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor — and second-round pick Dante Pettis is an exciting prospect — Garcon could become Garoppolo’s favorite target, for his ability to run precise routes, his experience, leadership — and fine hands.
Recently, in fact, the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted Garcon has some of the most reliable hands among wide receivers in the NFL. His drop rate since 2015, according to PFF, is just 3.05 percent, which ranks him in the top five of NFL players at No. 3, behind Doug Baldwin (2.76) and Michael Thomas (2.9) and ahead of Larry Fitzgerald (3.27) and Antonio Brown (3.38).
Garcon is expected to be fully healthy to play in 2018, and is excited to start catching passes from Garoppolo. He knows that as the senior member of the Niners wide receiving corps, he can set a tone and a good example, and recalled how that worked in Washington when he had young quarterbacks with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins and some young wideouts.
“I knew I had to do my part, catch the ball, get more yards than I was supposed to get on any play, because that shows effort, it shows passion,” he said in 2017. “Everyone sees that on film and says, ‘Hey, this is how it’s supposed to be done.’ ”
Until 2017, Garcon had missed just two games over his previous four seasons. He led the NFL in catches with 113 in 2013 for 1,346 yards and caught 79 passes in 2016 and 72 in 2015.