On paper, the starting wide receivers look like perfect complements to each other. After all, what else could the San Francisco 49ers ask for rather than a veteran, move the chains type in WR Anquan Boldin and a big play, deep threat opposite him in WR Torrey Smith?
As long as everything goes to plan, the duo should be productive in 2015, however, it’s hard to know what to expect beyond them. WR Quinton Patton and WR Bruce Ellington are promising, but they only have 12 career receptions between the two of them. WR Jerome Simspon didn’t play at all last season and fourth round pick DeAndre Smelter is still on the shelf. Undrafted rookies WR DeAndrew White and WR Dres Anderson are exciting prospects, but in reality any kind of an immediate impact is probably a long shot.
Which brings me back to Boldin and Smith. Both will get their share of looks in the passing game, but Smith isn’t necessarily someone who will be a high volume guy. In four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Smith averaged 3.3 catches a game. Even if he adds another reception to that total, you’re still only talking about 65 catches or so over the course of a season.
So considering all of these factors, it looks like Boldin will be the main guy in terms of targets again in 2015. Can he still be a number one option at nearly 35-years old?
If recent history is any indication, the answer to that question is yes.
Boldin has been outstanding thus far as a 49er, leading the team in both receptions and targets in 2013 (85/130) and 2014 (83/130). He also eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in both of those campaigns, and is the only 49ers’ receiver to do that in consecutive seasons since WR Terrell Owens in 2000-2003. 1,000 yards in itself is a big accomplishment in San Francisco, as they didn’t have one wide out reach that mark from 2004-2011.
The consistent veteran has also been clutch, as 56 of his 83 catches in 2014 gave the 49ers a first down. 27 of those came on third down, which was the second highest total in the NFL behind only WR Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Boldin is also approaching some impressive personal milestones, as he’s 60 receptions away from 1,000 in his career. His 12, 460 yards receiving currently have him in 19th place all-time in that category, and if everything stays status quo he could jump as high as 13th by season’s end.
It’s scary to think where the 49ers would have been without Boldin the past two years, and it could be even more frightening to imagine what will happen if he’s injured or not himself moving forward. While he may or may not be with the team in 2016 and beyond, his presence on the roster in the here and now couldn’t be more vital to the success of the team this season.