by Tim Rose

With three games now in the books for the San Francisco 49ers, it’s clear that the jury is still out on this team. With an encouraging win against the Green Bay Packers in week one, and lack-luster (to say the least) efforts against the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, it’s hard to figure out how the rest of 2013 is going to unfold. What is clear is that the 49ers have deficiencies on offense. More specifically, Colin Kaepernick is struggling to find a consistent receiver he trusts, particularly on passes between 11 and 20 yards.

Through the first 3 games, Kaepernick’s stats show some major holes that need to be filled. On throws between 1 and 10 yards, Kaepernick has completed 69.4% of passes (25/36). On passes between 11-20 yards, his completion rate drops dramatically to 50.0% (7/14). Kaepernick also struggles when it comes to crunch time. In the first and third quarters, Kaepernick has a 61.9% completion percentage. In quarters 2 and 4, Kaepernick’s completion percentage is a less-than-inspiring 51.9%. What Kaepernick needs is a sure-handed receiver he can consistently go to help move the chains in pressure situations.

A simple solution to this problem is the 128 th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft: Quinton Patton. The 49ers selected the senior wide-receiver out of Louisiana Tech with their first of two 4 th round picks. Patton recorded 183 catches for 2,592 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2 seasons in college . Patton fell to the fourth round in the draft because he did not have elite speed (4.48s/40-yard dash) and at 6’0” and 204 pounds, he was not the biggest or most physical wide-out in the draft. But what makes him invaluable to the 49ers are his long arms which he uses to consistently catch balls away from his body, his excellent body control, and his ability to run great routes. All of these talents translate into a slot receiver for the 49ers.

While analyzing Patton’s stats, I wanted to see how his stats compared to some of the NFL’s premiere slot receivers like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. Below are Patton, Amendola and Welker’s draft profile and their junior and senior year college stats:

Wes Welker

Danny Amendola

Quinton Patton

Height

5’9”

5’11”

6’0”

Weight

195 lbs

183 lbs

204 lbs

40 time

4.61 sec.

4.68 sec.

4.48 sec.

20 yard shuttle

4.01 sec.

4.25 sec.

4.01 sec.

Vertical Jump

30”

27.5”

33”

Cone

7.09 sec

6.81 sec

6.91 sec

Receptions

183

157

183

Yards

2153

1732

2594

Average

11.8

11.0

14.2

Touchdowns

24

11

16

Although Patton has not caught a pass in the NFL yet, it isn’t hard to imagine how successful he could be given the NFL success of both Welker and Amendola. Patton is bigger and faster than both Welker and Amendola and with an average of 14.2 yards per catch in college, he could provide Kaepernick with the solution of his 11-20 yard passes. With 183 receptions in 2 years, Patton has also showed he can handle a high work load while also staying healthy.

Although it would be nice to see Kaepernick complete more of his passes between 11 and 20 yards, Patton can help the 49ers in another way. While in the opponent’s red zone, Kaepernick is completing only 49% of his passes (18/37). He also only has 7 passing touchdowns in the red zone, which is only one more than how many he has from the opponent’s 49-20 yard line. With 24 touchdowns in 2 years at Louisiana-Tech, Patton is no stranger to the end zone and could provide Kaepernick with a consistent option near the end zone.

With all that Patton would bring to the 49ers, Patton also got high marks on his downfield blocking. His NFL draft profile says he “shows fight as a run blocker, willing to hit… to keep his man at bay and works himself into the correct blocking angle. Hustles downfield to help out fellow ballcarriers. Plays with a feisty attitude.” This is a great quality for a slot receiver to have since they go up against the opponents linebackers often. A feisty Patton would open up space for Frank Gore and Kaepernick to run up the middle. So with the ability to catch passes, find the end zone and help in the running game, why isn’t Jim Harbaugh play Patton all the time?

During the preseason, Patton got an opportunity to show Harbaugh what he was capable of, and he certainly did not disappoint. In the first two preseason games, Patton caught 6 of the 8 passes that came his way for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, in the last two preseason games, Patton did not receive a single target. Through the first three regular season games, Patton has only received a single target. Patton has yet to prove that he is a major contributor to the 49ers offense, but with an above average skill set for a slot receiver, Patton could prove to be a pivotal piece of Kaepernick’s arsenal. With the 49ers’ offense only producing 10 points in the last two games, it’s clear they need someone to step up. Quinton Patton, I’m talking to you.

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