Profiling 49ers 2018 draft options: Auden Tate, WR, Florida State

Auden Tate - Jr, Florida State

Ht/wt: 6-foot-5, 225 lbs.

2017: 40 receptions, 548 receiving yards, 10 TD, 13.7 YPC

The feeling among the 49ers fan base and beat writers is the team needs a big receiving target to help with those red-zone woes. In 2017, they ranked 27th in efficiency. I’ve been a firm believer that you don’t need big targets, you need good targets. I also wouldn’t draft a receiver just to be a red-zone target. So, if I were building a team and approaching a draft looking at larger receivers, I want a big receiver that brings more to the table than just catching jump balls.

Ideally you want someone who can get separation, run the full route tree, make contested catches and have the mental capacity to adjust their route according to the coverage on the fly. Luckily for receivers who can’t do it all, the 49ers have a mastermind head coach in Kyle Shanahan, who is great at maximizing receivers’ abilities. Before last season, Marquise Goodwin had a combined 780 receiving yards on 49 catches over four seasons. He was known as a receiver that could only run in a straight line. In 2017 under Shanahan—along with the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo—Goodwin set career highs in yards with 962 and catches with 57.

Kyle Shanahan saw a skillset and maximized that talent.

[CROCKER: Film Room: Why Bourne is not to be overlooked at 49ers seek WR help] When it comes to red-zone targets in the 2018 NFL Draft, a name that often comes up is Auden Tate. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Tate has the size to be that great red-zone threat. He’s able to jump and out physical smaller defensives backs. That was on display often at Florida State University where he scored 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

But, can Tate be more than just a red-zone threat?

Separation is a staple in Shanahan’s offense. Tate ran a 4.68 40 at the combine, so he lacks deep separation — but separation for a 5’10” receiver is much different for 6’5” receiver. Does Tate have enough sudden quickness to excel at the next level? After watching the film, my initial reaction is, if Tate struggles in the NFL it won’t be because of ability, it will be because of effort. When Tate ran his routes full speed, he was effective. He will never be a burner, but he showed the ability to attack defensive backs’ leverage and make plays on the ball with great body control, which was on display a lot.

Let’s get into the film.

Here is a perfect example of what I mean by “lack of effort on routes”. Two examples of whip routes. In the first, he runs extremely lazy. Never really attacks inside defender before breaking. Even if you aren’t getting the ball. In the second one, he runs his route a lot more crisp and with urgency. Getting in and out of his break.

When he attacks defensive backs in off coverage, it looks good. Here on a 6-yard stop route, he attacks the corner, sits down, makes the catch and turns up field falling forward with his big body gaining another three yards.

Against Southern Mississippi he ran the same route against a similar coverage. Basically Tate jogged his route and never threatened the cornerback. He didn’t get the ball and the cornerback hesitated to drive the hitch, but he must learn to run every route at a speed that is most effective.

Here against Boston College, we see another lazy route. This is something he'll need to work on to be better at the next level.

When he runs feel speed and attacks the corner, he’s able to create separation but he’s just inconsistent with this.

Hitches and whip routes weren’t the only time this showed up.

Tate is not a speedster, so he will have to be consistent with working the small details in route running. Against Boston College he did a great job of using foot fire at the line of scrimmage, exploding out and stacking the defensive back before displaying his great body control to catch the back-shoulder throw.

However, as previously mentioned, a lot of times he gets lazy with route running. On different occasions against Florida, he just ran to the sideline making it easy for the defensive back to squeeze him to the sideline. No foot fire, stacking or urgency.

Another little nuance of his route running that he can improve on his working back to the ball. He’s typically not going to get a ton of separation when running routes against a press defender but the good thing when you are 6-foot-5, 225 pounds is, you don’t need much separation but you do want to do the little things.

Right here he does a good job of being physical at the top of his route but doesn’t work back to the ball or extend his hands to shield the defender off. The result was a bobbled ball and interception for Florida.

He did show some good things.

On this slant, I like how he attacked the cornerback's leverage and then breaks his route off to cross face. At his size this will be difficult for cornerbacks to make a play on this ball.

Where he wins is jump balls and red-zone route running. It’s almost like he got extra excited to run routes in the red zone. Tate’s set-up moves and footwork to create separation was much improved in that area. Attack, attack, attack. Nice stab and cross face. Throw the ball up for an easy touchdown.

Here against Boston College he ran a nice slant to create just enough space to get the ball. Again, at 6-foot-5, he really doesn’t need much separation. All the quarterback has to do is throw it high and away.

FSU came right back to it.

Against Florida’s Duke Dawson, again, high and away.

The smaller Jaire Alexander, an early-round projection out of Louisville, did not have much luck either against the big body receiver in the red zone.

He’s very good at adjusting his body for jump balls and back shoulders. His body control was very impressive.

Fit with 49ers: Auden Tate can take a page out of Devin Funchess’ book. Funchess had a very similar skillset at Michigan and showed some of the same problems.

Funchess’ improvement as a route runner from his rookie year to now has been noticeable each season. Tate has a great skillset that is valued in the NFL, but he must work on being more consistent with the little nuances of route running to take the next step. A coach like Kyle Shanahan who has a background with the receiver position can help develop Tate. Until then, where Tate can win with the 49ers is on RPO slants, back-shoulder fades and the red-zone area where the 49ers look to improve.

Media courtesy Getty Images

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