Under coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers have been fully committed to rushing over passing. To a large extent, that was a necessity, because they already had a terrific rushing attack but lacked depth of talent in their WR corps. Now that QB Colin Kaepernick is settling in, though, it's fair to wonder whether the Niners will turn him and the passing attack loose in 2014.
An improved WR corps certainly improves the odds that they will.
"At no point last season did the 49ers’ aerial attack look as strong as it has during this training camp. Actually, it’s stunning to see how much better this area is than it was last season," wrote ESPN 49ers reporter Bill Williamson. "Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is surely benefiting.
"A few examples: As a rookie, Quinton Patton was the No. 3 receiver last year. This year, he’s improved, but he might be the sixth and final receiver on the 53-man roster. Jonathan Baldwin was a frontline receiver for a spell in 2013. This year, he was cut 10 days into training camp. The additions of veterans Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and explosive fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington to go with holdover starters Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin make for a pretty special group. It has showed in camp."
In fact, their improvements at wide receiver arguably give them the top WR corps in the NFL.
"On paper the 49ers look set to field the best group of receivers and tight ends in the league this year, which is a far cry from 2013," wrote Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus.
Whether the pass attack truly takes flight in San Francisco this year may largely be up to Kaepernick and his success in the pocket.
"The question mark is quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who struggled under pressure with the fifth-lowest accuracy percentage in the NFL at 55.1 percent," McGuinness added, "but he is at least protected by an offensive line that features Joe Staley, who allowed just 20 total pressures on 471 pass-blocking snaps last year."
With one of the top defenses and what should remain a quality rushing attack, the Niners may not completely turn Kaepernick loose this season as a passer. However, when that day does come, he is sure to be a fantasy monster:
"No. 41: This offseason, the 49ers showed they were committed to improving their receiving corps. Kaepernick had very little at his disposal after losing his favorite target, Michael Crabtree, in 2013. Kaepernick could be poised for a huge season, and San Francisco's offensive line should remain among the league's best for the foreseeable future. Few can accumulate fantasy points with their legs like Kaepernick can, and I fully expect him to continue to progress as a pocket passer. The sky is truly the limit here when looking at the big picture. Kaepernick versus [Robert Griffin III, No. 40] is close to a coin flip to me, but I expect the Redskins to be in many more situations in which they are forced to throw late in games, as opposed to San Francisco's presumed game script situation."
"No. 5: I had to include one of the new breed of athletic quarterbacks on this list, and, to me, Kaepernick is the most dangerous runner of the group. The 49ers might not design as many runs for their soon-to-be-star quarterback in 2014 than in years past as they look to further develop him as a pocket passer. But maybe they should, because no one in the league eats up ground on a per-stride basis like Kaepernick. When you watch him on film, it is remarkable how fast the 5-yard marker lines disappear behind him. Unlike most long striders, though, Kaepernick isn't just a straight-line runner and doesn't take long at all to reach full speed. When he decides to go, he is gone."