The 49ers have kicked off the reconstruction of their wide receiver corps by agreeing to sign veteran Pierre Garcon to a multi-year contract.
Garcon, who turns 31 in August, is coming off what is arguably the best season of his career. That might sound surprising, considering he paced the NFL with 113 receptions in 2013, but Garcon was super efficient during a 79-catch, 1,041-yard 2016 campaign. He caught a career-high 71 percent of his targets and averaged 9.4 yards per target, which is easily his best average during the seven seasons in which he played at least half of his team's snaps.
Garcon brings his sure hands -- he's dropped a grand total of three passes over the past three seasons (320 targets during the span) -- to the Bay Area. Garcon has also shown exceptional durability during his career. Aside from 2012, when he missed five games, Garcon has been on the field for at least 83 percent of his team's pass plays in seven of the past eight years.
As statistical production goes, Garcon's biggest issue has been touchdowns. In nine campaigns, he's yet to score more than six touchdowns in a single season (he's hit that mark three times). He sports a career receiving OTD (opportunity-adjusted touchdowns) of 40.4 and has caught 37 touchdowns, which means that a lack of usage near the goal line has been the primary culprit. Since 2009, he ranks eighth in the NFL in targets (902), but 20th in end-zone targets (65).
Garcon's scoring deficiencies have been the primary reason why he's struggled to get over the hump as a fantasy producer. The aforementioned 176-target 2013 season marks the only season during which he finished better than 23rd among wide receivers in fantasy points (even then, he scored only five touchdowns). Consistently a back-end fantasy starter, however, Garcon has finished a season no better than 23rd and no worse than 36th during five of the past eight seasons.
We should expect similar fantasy production in 2017, but the obvious disclaimer here is that there are still many questions related to the 49ers' offense that need to be answered. Garcon and Jeremy Kerley have been signed, but is the team done adding impact players at the position? How heavily will coach Kyle Shanahan lean on Vance McDonald, who signed a five-year extension late last year? Will the team add a pass-catching running back to pair with early-down enforcer Carlos Hyde? And, of course, the biggest question: Who will be the quarterback come Week 1? As of this moment, the 49ers are the only team in the NFL with zero quarterbacks under contract.
For the time being, Garcon's 2017 16-game projection sits at 120 targets, 79 receptions, 891 yards and 5 TDs. When all is said and done, expect him to land in the weekly WR3 discussion.