In this year’s NFL Draft, the 49ers added two new wide receivers in Dante Pettis (6-foot-1, 186 pounds) and Richie James (5-foot-11, 183 pounds). In addition, Steven Dunbar Jr. out of the University of Houston (6-foot-1 5/8 and 202 pounds) was signed by the team as an undrafted free agent.
With what is expected to be a healthy Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin coming back to the fold, and sophomore year expectations for wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor who quickly developed chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, there looks to be a high level of competition at the position. In the last five games with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, Kendrick Bourne totaled 154 yards in 9 receptions, while Trent Taylor amassed 191 yards in 17 receptions and a touchdown. PFF has reported that Jimmy Garoppolo had a passer rating of 141.0 when targeting Trent Taylor on slant routes in 2017.
As for Kendrick Bourne, reports are coming out that indicate Bourne is picking up where he left off with Garoppolo in organized team activities.
Entertaining #49ers OTAs today. Players who stood out:
– Jimmy Garoppolo (dealt during 7-on-7, 11-on-11 red zone)
– Kendrick Bourne (long catch down right sideline, red zone TD)
– Cassius Marsh (sack in 11-on-11, showed well in 1-on-1s)
– Sheldon Day (int., tipped pass at LOS)
— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) May 30, 2018
Quick thread of Jimmy Garoppolo passes.
This one a dart to Kendrick Bourne. pic.twitter.com/uPyQnNpqac
— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) May 22, 2018
Both Bourne and Taylor are most likely locks for the final roster.
It is safe to say that wide receiver will be a position to keep an eye out on as the 49ers are going into Kyle Shanahan’s second season with a number of possible options and resultantly a significant amount of competition for roster spots after the top guys. According to 49ers.com the team will be entering training camp with eleven wide receivers total (Dunbar Jr., James, Pettis, Robinson, McCaffrey, Taylor, Burbridge, Bourne, Bolden Jr., Goodwin, and Garçon).
In this article I will be breaking down why the University of Houston’s Steven Dunbar Jr. has a particular skill set that may enable him to secure a spot on the roster. However, this will not be an easy task and I will also point out some factors Dunbar needs to work on to be a successful wide receiver in the National Football League.
One key positive that may enable Dunbar to stand out is his height.
But really now, Steven Dunbar Jr. is listed right now as the 49ers tallest wide receiver coming in at 6-foot-3, 202 pounds. HOWEVER, Dunbar Jr. actually measured 6-foot-1 and 5/8, 202 pounds for his official Pro Day measurement.
If true this would actually make Dunbar Jr. the second tallest wide receiver on the team with 49ers.com listing Max McCaffrey at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. But keep in mind; height doesn’t always factor much into securing a spot on a roster. However Dunbar’s height and 34 ½ -inch arm span may have contributed to his signing as an UDFA.
Most importantly, Dunbar Jr. uses his height and vertical leaping ability to catch balls outside of his frame and win at the catch point. His hand-eye coordination, focus, and athleticism allow him to attack and make the catch here at the highest point possible.
Here Dunbar Jr. displays great hand-eye coordination and shows his ability to use his frame and arm length to catch balls away from his body.
Dunbar Jr. also shows great focus as you can see he has a natural knack for tracking the ball with his eyes.
Here he displays this talent so well he is able to look off his defender at the last second to shake him off for an easy touchdown.
From my analysis of Dunbar Jr.’s film, he does not shy away from contact after the catch. Dunbar uses his big frame to punish defenders and is a physical possession receiver that will not hesitate to run you over.
When on the field, Dunbar always seems eager to give his all every chance he gets the ball. Here he moves the chains driving with force and sheer tenacity pushing tacklers forward for extra yardage to move the chains.
Dunbar Jr. also is sharp out of breaks, contributing to a solid route running ability despite his size. Furthermore, according to reports, Dunbar Jr. spent an off season focusing on his hands and it paid off with a career 2017 season. This confirms multiple scouting reports that Dunbar’s commitment to the game is exceptional with some saying he would most times be the last person off the field. An NFL Source informed me that on Memorial Day, Dunbar Jr. was at SAP Performance Facility getting in extra work as well on his own free time.
Steven Dunbar Jr. reminds me of former 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin the way he uses his body to gain aggressive yards after catch. Here he just flat out runs through his defenders to break off a good chunk of YAC for a touchdown.
If Dunbar Jr. can secure himself a spot on the final roster, he definitely has the advantage to become a bigger bodied red-zone factor.
However upsides are always accompanied by downsides. According to NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein, Dunbar Jr. lacks long speed to separate down the field, with his Pro Day 40-yard dash time coming in at close to 4.8 seconds. Although Dunbar Jr. is said to be a good route runner and his acceleration off the line is above average, he lacks the speed to get the separation he needs to give an NFL secondary problems. Because of this, cornerbacks can play him soft, he rarely forces them into an aggressive backpedal and they have few problems transitioning, allowing defenders to keep up with Dunbar Jr. stride-for-stride.
It is also worth noting that Steven Dunbar Jr. did have a significant amount of dropped balls that could’ve been avoided.
While Dunbar Jr. did spend the off season before his final collegiate season working on his hands, he did not record a season over 700 yards until his final season but some could argue it may have been attributed to inconsistent play at the Quarterback position and having four position coaches during his time at Houston.
Dunbar Jr. wrapped up his career as one of the Cougars’ top receivers, ranking tenth in receptions (180) and receiving yards (2,430). He had 100-yard performances in three of the final four games, including a career-high 10 catch, 197 yard performance against Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. Here’s hoping this young man can translate his last few stellar performances into fuel for motivation in what will most likely be a battle royale for the wide receiver position in training camp.
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