Sakamoto: 3 reasons why 5th round pick Trent Taylor wins punt return role!

Quick. Elusive. Tough. Those are three words on how I would describe San Francisco 49ers fifth-round pick (No. 177) WR Trent Taylor. A diminutive yet shifty wide receiver at 5-8, 181, Taylor has the knack for finding soft spots in zone coverage– something the 49ers could use from the slot position. 

Sakamoto: 49ers WR Jeremy Kerley Had This To Say About His Blazing Speed

However, the team is already invested in seventh-year veteran WR Jeremy Kerley and deservedly so. The TCU product was a lone bright spot for the second-worst team in the NFL, racking up 64 catches for 667 yards (10.4 avg.) and three touchdowns.

A player who came to the 49ers via trade with the Detroit Lions for underachieving third-round pick OG Brandon Thomas–who later would be cut, I knew it was a steal:

Welcome, sixth-year WR/PR Jeremy Kerley. A steal for the 49ers, as they struck a deal by sending 2014 third-round pick (No. 100) OG Brandon Thomas to the Detroit Lions, the 49ers clearly won this trade.

To think that Taylor would unseat Kerley for the starting slot role would be highly optimistic. Aside from Kerley’s extensive tenure in the NFL, it’s his polished route-running that will eventually win over HC Kyle Shanahan.

But with that being said, the NFL is a three-phase game, and special-teams is no exception–which is why I’m predicting that Taylor will win the primary punt return role. From a business and coaching standpoint it makes sense on so many different levels. 

#BEASTwriter REVIEW🏈 βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž– After watching today's practice I came away very impressed πŸ‘with Rookie WR Trent Taylor. βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž– The way he attacked the soft spots in zone against a Cover-3 and quarters coverage was a thing of beauty. βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž– I asked Coach Shanahan today for his thoughtsπŸ’¬ about his slot WR as he echoed my analysis on being a savvy route runner πŸƒπŸ» verse zone coverage. βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž–βž– #BEASTwriter #49ers #ForeverFaithful #NinerEmpire #Niners #GoNiners #BayAreaRooted #GoBARorGoHome

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For one, by having Kerley fielding punts, it would open the door for a higher probability of injury. Sure, players can get injured on any given play, but why risk your primary third-down receiver for the sake of one play? Doesn’t make sense. Plus this coaching staff will surely get their best players on the field, and Taylor is by far the cream of the crop when it comes to finding open space. 

The return role requires elite vision, lateral agility, and toughness, and Taylor possesses all three traits. A player who is quicker than fast, mark it down, Taylor will be the team’s punt returner in 2017. 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.