Projecting Receptions by Position: NFC West

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San Francisco 49ers

2017 Totals
Jimmy Garoppolo: 118 completions on 176 attempts (5 starts)
WR Group: 64 Receptions
RB Group: 30 Receptions
TE Group: 23 Receptions

2018 Projections
Jimmy Garoppolo: 375 completions on 550 attempts
WR Group: 200 Receptions
RB Group: 100 Receptions
TE Group: 75 Receptions

For an offense that didn’t change much, there’s an awful lot of unknowns going into this season. The only notable changes are newly drafted Dante Pettis adding to the WR room and newly signed Jerick McKinnon replacing Carlos Hyde. The issue is that while Jimmy Garoppolo’s 5 full games was a nice teaser, it wasn’t much in the way of a guide. Presumptive WR1 Pierre Garcon didn’t help the issue by missing the second half of the season with a neck injury, thereby missing Garoppolo’s barnstorming of the NFL. The biggest difference, however, might very well be the addition of McKinnon. You know the 49ers plan on using him given the contract he was handed. With Matt Breida behind him, I would expect Shanahan to establish a balanced offense, something akin to a 2016 Falcons lite. On the other side of the ball, the defense certainly can’t get much worse than last year, and they sunk a fair amount of draft picks into improving it. Extrapolating Garoppolo’s 5 games from 2017 gives a pace for 563 attempts. With a featured running game and at least some improvement for the defense, I would expect the pace to come down slightly to 550 attempts. Garoppolo should hang around his career 67% accuracy with maybe a small bump for featuring excellent pass catcher McKinnon, which translates to around 375 completions.

The most interesting thing about the size of McKinnon’s new bank account is that he’s being paid like a feature back despite some inconsistency between the tackles through his career. While I have no doubt Shanahan will give McKinnon plenty of opportunities to earn the true bellcow role, I suspect the payday was for what McKinnon does best; catching the ball out of the backfield. Given that Breida is no slouch out of the backfield either, I would expect a lot of RB catches this year for San Fran. As for the WR and TE groups, the return of Pierre Garcon should be offset by George Kittle making it past year 1 as an NFL TE, traditionally a tough year production-wise. The end result is that the WR and TE groups should keep similar target shares relative to each other.

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