How Will Stevie Johnson Help the San Francisco 49ers?

By Brian Cox
Stevie Johnson Buffalo Bills
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers went into the 2014 NFL draft in need of a wide receiver that could take the proverbial top off of defenses. They already had their slot-possession wide receiver with Anquan Boldin and their strong-handed, yards-after-the-catch receiver in Michael Crabtree. Quinton Patton is going into his second year and still unproven. So wide receiver was a logical choice in the draft since it is such a deep position this year, right?

Wrong. The first round came and went and the 49ers didn’t trade up to get the wide receiver they coveted like everybody thought they would. They stayed put and took possibly the best safety in the draft that slipped to them in Jimmie Ward. Then on Friday before the second and third rounds started, the 49ers made a trade with the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers gave up a 2015 conditional fourth-round pick that could turn into a third-round pick and in return they received wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

So what exactly does Johnson offer the 49ers? He is a burner. What he will force defenses to do is keep a safety high on his side of the field because there is always a good possibility he will run right past the cornerback. With Vernon Davis in the game as well, the safety will have to decide which deep threat they will cover. It will also prevent the safeties from sitting low on Boldin and Crabtree on their intermediate routes. Johnson adds a dynamic at the wide receiver position the 49ers haven’t had in a long time.

A secondary effect this trade has is that it allows San Francisco to concentrate their myriad of picks on their other positions of needs. Instead of worrying about drafting a wide receiver with an early pick, they can take another defensive back or offensive lineman. Also, it takes the pressure off of General Manager Trent Baalke, so he doesn’t have to worry about whiffing on another wide receiver early in the draft.

However, the biggest knock on him is how small he is. With the 49ers playing in the NFC West, easily the hardest-hitting division in all of football, this could mean more injuries to an already injury-prone player. If he stays healthy though, this could be an extremely dangerous offense in the 2014 season.

Brian Cox is a San Francisco 49ers writer for Follow him on Twitter @bacox87, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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