Not a day goes by in the life of an observant 49ers fan that you don’t hear fans ongoing complaints about the lack of a no.1 receiver on the 49ers roster.
Most teams don’t carry much more than one of the illusive no.1 receiver types. Many don’t have the rare breed at all.
What I want to examine is whether having "a card carrying no.1 receiver" is such an urgent need in the NFL to a degree that success cannot hope to be attained.
Julio Jones was the no.1 receiver of no.1 receivers in 2018. He had the NFL 2016 MVP Matt Ryan serving him up every game the Falcons played in his (1,677 yard) season.
The Falcons still failed to make the playoffs. The team had a record of 7-9 on the season with wall to wall talents on the roster including Jones.
Jones was followed by second place finisher, and household name DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans of whom is another member of "the no.1 receiver club". Hopkins lit p the NFL with (1,572 yards ) on the 2018 season. Houston did indeed win the AFC south, with an (11-5) record which entered the team into the playoffs last season. That division win was the last win of the year. Houston faced Indianapolis in the first round at home. Hopkins was contained due to the Colts smothering defense of Deshaun Watson. The Colts ran the ball on the Texans all day long to win the contest and advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Bucs piled up (1,524) yards in 2018 which was good enough to put him in the elite receivers group, and third on the list of the best of the best receivers of 2018. Tampa Bay finished the season last in the NFC south with a 5-11 record.
Tyreek Hill is an interesting addition to this group of top receivers. Is Hill considered "an no.1 receiver"? Sammy Watkins is also a member of the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver stable. Is Hill no.2 to Watkins or do they share the tittle?
At any rate, no matter what his ranking is on the team he landed fourth on the best of the best list with (1,479 yards) on the 2018 season. The Chiefs had an admirable run to the playoffs in 2018 winning the AFC west tying the Chargers with a 12-4 record. The question here is Tyreek Hill a no.1 receiver or just a very talented receiver? Remember it’s about how he is ranked as a receiver. You can’t put no.1 receiver on your resume if you were just the top yards gainer on a talented group of receivers. Which by the way, did just fine without that no.1 receiver badge, until they ran into Tom Brady and his band of no.2 - 3 and Gronk merry receivers.
Hill amplifies my belief in that there is way to much emphasis put on overpaying, glorifying, pampering, and worshipping a no.1 receiver. Teams do indeed win without having a designated no.1 receiver all the time.
Kyle Shanahan has been quoted saying that he would rather have a room full of "2’s" than a no.1 receiver. Sure he love Julio when he was in Atlanta, but he inherited that group, not select it.
Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster is another example of why the stressing over a no.1 receiver doesn’t lend to logic. Smith-Schuster is on the same team as the living legend Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster finished the season with (1,426 yards) which makes him the fifth top receiver on the 2018 list of the best of the best receivers. Meanwhile a very aggravated Antonio Brown who has "no.1 receiver" written on everything he owns finished a distant six places behind JuJu on the list of the best of 2018 at no.11 with (1,297 yards) That stat comparison along with the Steelers coming in second in the AFC north with a 9-6 record and missing the playoffs again is why Antonio Brown is the angriest man in Pennsylvania.
AB feels that he is being phased out. Brown is now that player that during and interview last season Shanahan describes as one that feels entitlement.
Brown has went to war with his coach, and teammates because he feels the ball is not coming in his direction often enough. His frustration is understandable, but how he has handled it it juvenile.
Brown will be leaving Pittsburg as soon as the Steelers can find a trade partner. The rage and infighting stemming from a no.1 receiver feeling that an injustice has been done is a condition that festers during hard times.
Right now in Browns mind, It’s not about the team it’s about Antonio, and he is making sure that his voice is heard on the matter. Brown is a fantastic talent but from an outside observers position its tough to be sympathetic towards his recent dissatisfaction.
That brings me to this point. Is it because George Kittle who finished the 2018 season ahead of Antonio Brown with (1,377 yards) putting him in position 8 on this same ranking chart, is a tight end that he can’t be considered as a no.1 receiver?
Also, the rest of the 49ers receiver cast is hardly hot garbage. They could add another veteran talent or draft a prospect this year, but I doubt they struggle moving the ball. With Kyle Shanahan coaching the ball is going to move period. This is what he does, and especially with a talented QB like Jimmy Garoppolo. Shanahan wasn’t bad with Nick Mullens, but Mullens made some mistakes that he learned from that will make him a solid backup in Shanhan’s system as well, but the 49ers wide receiver core may be young but they are not a handicapped unit.
In fact I look forward to the "diva-less" 49ers receiving group going into their third year with Shanahan raising hell enough to silence the critics…
The best of the 49ers no.1 receiver/ tight end Kittle 2018 season