In 2013 Anquan Boldin put up numbers that I don’t think anyone expected him to. He caught 85 balls for 1,179 yards. With Michael Crabtree out for most of the season for the San Francisco 49ers, Boldin was asked to be their No. 1 receiver. While Boldin doesn’t have the typical tools of a top receiver, he sure stepped up and did what the 49ers needed him to do. With another year under his belt and a roster deep with talented wide receivers, is he able to repeat what he did last season?
What makes Boldin so special is how physical he is. He’ll cross the middle to make a catch and won’t think twice about, he’ll bully cornerbacks to get in their head, and he’ll make a crack block that’ll lay out just about any linebacker.
While he’s extremely physical, he lacks in the speed department. With Boldin turning 34 this year he is lucky that the first thing to go in a wide receiver’s skill set is his speed because he doesn’t have much speed to lose. The last thing wide receivers tend to lose are their hands and this is an area that Boldin really excels in.
In 2013 Boldin was basically the only starting caliber the 49ers had available for most of the season. Crabtree was hurt for most of the year, as was rookie Quinton Patton. In 2014 the 49ers will have a full compliment of receivers with those two healthy and the addition of Stevie Johnson, Bruce Ellington, and Brandon Lloyd. Also taking away from his catches will be rookie running back Carlos Hyde, who has impressed everyone with his hands and footwork when going out for passes.
With all this being said, it’s safe to say Boldin won’t have another 1,000 yard season in 2014. The biggest difference is, however, that the 49ers won’t need him to. Barring any injuries or arrests, they are set to have all their wide receivers at the start of the season and that receiving corps is much much deeper than it was last season.
Boldin’s numbers will certainly dip, but it won’t be because his skills have diminished. His style is one that can stand the test of time and has a much more gradual decline, rather than a receiver who relies on his speed his whole career. While I believe his numbers will drop, the important thing for the 49ers is that the threat will still be there for their opposition. If teams decide to put single coverage on him, he’ll make them pay. If they decide to put one of their lesser cornerbacks on him, he’ll take what he wants. He’s still a dangerous receiver, but the 49ers just have more options now.