In the span of an offseason, the San Francisco 49ers went from having too few wide receivers to too many. Because of this, it's going to make for an extremely competitive training camp in Santa Clara at that particular position.
In 2011, the Niners fielded a roster with five active receivers; with bigger rosters and considering their shortage by the end of last year, it's possible the 49ers carry six or seven receivers in 2012.
Among the notables--
Randy Moss: The future first ballot Hall of Famer receiver is signed on with the 49ers for 2012, with the hopes that he provides the team with a seasoned deep threat. San Francisco has been in need of a No. 1 to stretch the field, and if the Moss gamble pans out, that's what they've got.
Michael Crabtree: Entering his fourth year in the league, Crabtree will finally have the surrounding cast he needs to be a true impact player his first round status suggested in 2009. Crabtree is going to be battling it out with Manningham in camp, but should claim a starting spot opposite Moss in 2012.
Mario Manningham: Manningham is expected to be one of the top-three receivers for the 49ers in 2012, however the roster plays out. He was the only receiver San Francisco signed to more than a one-year deal this past offseason. Manningham is explosive and still young, and if he performs well, he could find his home in the Bay.
Kyle Williams: If we forget about the one game in the playoffs, Kyle Williams had a solid year when called upon in 2011. Williams will report to camp motivated and eager to prove himself in a more competitive receiving group. I expect Williams to rebound big-time in 2012.
Ted Ginn Jr.: The catch with Ginn is that he has top-three value in the league as a return man, and it's a real asset in San Francisco for a team that values special teams as much as they do. Ginn has little value as a receiver besides taking handoffs on sweeps and reverses; but should still find a spot on the team unless Jenkins, Williams, Owusu or even Chris Culliver or Perrish Cox prove to be solid return men. Also on a one-year deal, Ginn's status with the team could change as training camp progresses.
A.J. Jenkins: San Francisco won't give him more than he can handle in year-one, but they do like his promise for the future. Jenkins will be utilized carefully, but often, in an attempt to build his confidence and allow him to let his physical ability take over. The 2012 first rounder will have a chance to make an impact with the Niners as a rookie.
Brett Swain: Swain understands the system, and he was signed to a one-year deal before the 49ers had their draft, which leads me to believe it was more of a security measure. I think Swain has an uphill battle if he wants to make the team, but could be squeezed out by younger, more athletically gifted receivers with more upside.
Chris Owusu: A lot of folks had a second-round label on the Stanford wide receiver, but he went undrafted and landed right in Jim Harbaugh's lap - reunited. The 49ers have been trying to add speed to the offense, and that could be Owusu's edge to make the team. That and the fact that Harbaugh coached him once before and probably wouldn't have brought him in if he wasn't willing to give Owusu a roster spot if he earns it.
The 49ers also have Joe Hastings, Brian Tyms, John Matthews, Nathan Palmer and Kyle Nelson in camp to compete but it's already a full house in San Francisco. These players should be hoping to make the practice squad with a chance to either get signed by another team or eventually get called up.
At this point, my projections at receiver for the final roster read: Moss, Crabtree, Manningham, Williams, Ginn Jr., Jenkins and Owusu.
It's going to be extremely competitive and highly scrutinized with San Francisco looking to make a title run in 2012. It's a position group they were looking to fix, and they made that clear with how their front office operated in free agency and the draft. I'd like to see San Francisco carry more receivers this year than last to prevent a repeat of last year's slide.
I can see the competition heating up between Crabtree and Manningham, Jenkins and Moss, as well as Ginn and Owusu. Manningham has been a No. 3 before, and is going to push Crabtree in camp for the betterment of the team. Jenkins is going to be learning from Moss, as they have a more similar skillset with their downfield speed and ability to make odd-angle catches.
Ginn and Owusu could be going at it because Owusu has great speed and value as a returner. Owusu also has the potential to be a much better receiver than Ginn, so depending on how many players they carry at the position I could see Owusu edging out Ginn.
It's all speculation and educated guesses at this time, but training camp at this position will surely be a fiery competition.