Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will analyze each position group leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad reports on July 30 with the first practice scheduled for July 31.
The 49ers’ most-productive receiver since Terrell Owens will not be back for his fourth season with the club.
“This coming season, I am excited to announce that I have chosen to play for the @Lions and reunite with Coach (Jim) Caldwell for another run,” Anquan Boldin wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The move was expected, as the 49ers did not extend Boldin a contract offer through June. Torrey Smith has experienced the most production of the 49ers’ crop of wide receivers. And it's not even close. Behind Smith, the 49ers have a lot of question marks about their receiving corps.
Why did the 49ers not make a concerted effort to bring back Boldin?
The 49ers do not figure to be a playoff contender this season. But the organization hopes to be competitive and build its young roster for the future.
While Boldin still might have been the best receiver on the 49ers’ roster, the question had to be asked whether he was a long-term solution. Any playing time, any receptions, for Boldin would be eating away at the opportunities for a young player to develop and prove himself.
The 49ers need to see which of their receivers are keepers, and where the group needs to get better for future seasons.
Who is the favorite to be the No. 2 receiver?
The door is wide open for any of the wide receivers on the roster to emerge from a group of candidates that does not look at all imposing.
Simpson had good seasons with Cincinnati (2011) and Minnesota (2013), but off-field issues derailed his career. Last year, he caught just five passes for 54 yards with the 49ers.
The leading candidate to be the No. 2 wideout is Patton, who is the 49ers’ second-leading returning pass-catcher. He had career-highs of 30 receptions for 394 yards a year ago. Now, he enters his contract year.
Ellington, coming off a disappointing second season, and Smelter, White, Rogers and Anderson are worth watching in training camp.
How will Kelly deploy the wideouts?
A year ago as Philadelphia Eagles coach, Kelly’s top two receivers were on the field for at least 65 percent of the snaps during the course of games. The next two wideouts generally got on the field somewhere in the 40- to 55-percent range.
If those play percentages hold true for the 49ers this season, the door will open for some untested guys to produce. If Kelly determines the pieces simply are not available within this position group, he could lean heavily on the tight ends to pick up the slack.