It’s no secret that the San Francisco 49ers had major question marks at the wide receiver position entering 2016, and it seems as if things have only gotten worse. WR Bruce Ellington and WR Eric Rogers have both been lost of the year, and WR DeAndre Smelter hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Ellington was being counted on for big production out of the slot, and the development of players like Rogers and Smelter were the main reason the team didn’t want to bring in veterans this past offseason. So now what?
Well, San Francisco still has it’s starters on the outside healthy in WR Torrey Smith and WR Quinton Patton, and they recently traded for WR Jeremy Kerley who can play the slot. Kerley will need time to learn the system and playbook however, which means the 49ers will need someone to step up in that all important slot role. That person is WR DeAndrew White.
White was signed by the Niners as an undrafted free agent prior to 2015. The main reason why teams may have shied away from White in the draft could have had something to do with his injury history. He missed most of 2012 with a knee, and also had to deal with a separated shoulder, fractured toe and pulled hamstring. Some scouting reports said that he may have lost a step since he hurt his knee, but you’d never know it from his pro day showing.
White wowed his teammates by running a 4.34 40-yard dash during the pro day, and may have been the most impressive player during the showcase. His ex-head coach Nick Saban raved about White, saying that he could end up being a special player at the next level.
“He has a lot more ability than maybe what his production maybe has been here,” said Saban. “Whether it’s because of injuries or whatever that he’s battled through. He’s got great speed. He’s got great size. He’s been a great special teams player for us, and if you’re not a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver on a team, you’re going to have to play special teams.
“I think he’s going to be a real value for somebody. They’re going to get a guy who has great ability that probably could really develop into something special.”
Saban’s right when he says the production may have not been on par with his ability, as White’s numbers don’t really jump out at you. In 42 collegiate games, White had 94 receptions for 1,294 yards and 12 touchdowns. He never had more than 40 catches in a season, and never scored more than four times. Obviously, he was also overshadowed by his then teammate, WR Amari Cooper who went number four overall to the Oakland Raiders in the 2015 draft.
White didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie, only registering stats in a Week 2 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He caught his only two targets for 18 yards in that game. The 49ers have to hope that he’s ready to make a jump though, as he’ll certainly see both snaps and targets in Chip Kelly’s three-receiver offense.
Make no mistake about it, White has a golden opportunity in front of him. If he proves reliable, and someone who can make plays, there’s no doubt he could grab hold of the position and never relinquish the role. The 49ers are desperate for a young receiver to establish themselves as a long-term piece, and would love the 24-year old to show can be an integral part of the team moving forward.